The film stars Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall as three gold diggers, along with William Powell, David Wayne, Rory Calhoun, and Cameron Mitchell. Betty Grable received top billing in the screen credits but Marilyn Monroe’s name was first in all advertising, including the trailer.
Resourceful Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), spunky Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), and ditzy Pola DeBevoise (Marilyn Monroe) rent a luxurious Sutton Place penthouse in New York City from Freddie Denmark (David Wayne), who is avoiding the IRS by living in Europe. The women plan to use the apartment to attract rich men and marry them. When money is tight, Schatze pawns some of Freddie's furniture, without his knowledge. To their dismay, as winter approaches, the furnishings continue to be sold off as they have no luck.
One day, Loco carries in some groceries, assisted by Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell). Tom is very interested in Schatze, but she dismisses him, thinking he is poor. She tries repeatedly to brush him off as she sets her sights on the charming, classy widower J.D. Hanley (William Powell) whose worth is irreproachably large. All the while she's stalking the older J.D., Tom, who is actually very wealthy, keeps after her. After every one of their dates, she tells him she never wants to see him again as she refuses to marry a poor man again.
Meanwhile, Loco becomes acquainted with a grumpy businessman (Fred Clark). He is married, but she agrees to go with him to his lodge in Maine, mistakenly thinking she's going to meet a bunch of Elks Club members. When they arrive, Loco is disappointed to find that the businessman was hoping to have an affair with her and set them up in a dingy lodge instead of the glamorous one she was expecting. She attempts to leave but unfortunately has to stay due to the trains not able to come till the next day. Waldo (Clark) comes down with the measles and has to stay in the lodge until cured. He is nursed back to health with the help of Loco, Loco meets Eben (Rory Calhoun) whom she thinks owns most of the surrounding land. She has no trouble transferring her affections to the handsome outdoorsman and they become engaged. When she finds out that he's just a forest ranger, she is very disappointed, but Loco realizes that she loves him and is willing to overlook his financial shortcomings.
The third member of the group, Pola (Monroe), is extremely nearsighted, but hates to wear her glasses where any man might see her. As she puts it, "Men aren't attentive to girls who wear glasses." (a takeoff of Dorothy Parker's "Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.") She falls for a phony Arab oil tycoon, not knowing he's really a crooked speculator. Luckily, when she takes a plane from La Guardia airport to meet him, she misreads Kansas City for Atlantic City on an airport sign and ends up on the wrong plane. She sits next to a man, also wearing glasses, who thinks she's "quite a strudel" and encourages her to put hers on. It turns out that he is the mysterious Freddie Denmark on his way to Kansas City to find the crooked accountant who got him into trouble with the IRS. He doesn't have much luck when he tracks the man down, but he and Pola become enamored with each other and eventually marry.
Loco and Pola are reunited with Schatze just before her wedding to J.D. Schatze finds herself unable to go through with the wedding and confesses to J.D. that she is in love with Tom. He graciously understands and agrees to call off the wedding. Tom is among the wedding attendees and the two reconcile and marry, with Schatze still not knowing that he is rich.
Afterwards, the three happy couples end up at a greasy spoon, dining on hamburgers. Schatze jokingly asks Eben and Freddie about their financial prospects—which are slim. When she finally gets around to Tom, he casually admits a net worth around $200 million, and lists an array of holdings, which none of the others appear to take seriously. He then calls for the check, pulls out an enormous wad of money, and pays with a $1,000 bill, telling the chef to keep the change. The three astonished women faint dead away onto the floor. Tom then proposes the men drink a toast to their unconscious wives.Betty Grable as Loco Dempsey
Marilyn Monroe as Pola Debevoise
Lauren Bacall as Schatze Page
David Wayne as Freddie Denmark
Rory Calhoun as Eben
Cameron Mitchell as Tom Brookman
Alex D'Arcy as J. Stewart Merrill
Fred Clark as Waldo Brewster
William Powell as J.D. Hanley
How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever to be photographed in the new CinemaScope wide-screen process, but it was the second Cinemascope film released by Fox, after the biblical epic film The Robe.
Twentieth-Century Fox started production on The Robe before it began production on How to Marry a Millionaire, although production on the latter was completed first. The studio chose to present The Robe as its first CinemaScope production in late September or early October 1953 because it saw this film as being more family-friendly and attracting a larger audience to introduce its widescreen process.
The film's cinematography was by Joseph MacDonald. The costume design was by Travilla.
Between scenes, the cinematography has some iconic views of New York City. Views include: Rockefeller Center; Central Park; the United Nations Building; and Brooklyn Bridge in the opening sequence. Other iconic views include the Empire State Building, the lights of Times Square at night and the George Washington Bridge.
The score for How To Marry a Millionaire was composed and directed by Alfred Newman, with incidental music by Cyril Mockridge. The album was released on CD by Film Score Monthly on March 15, 2001, as part of Film Score Monthly's series Golden Age Classics.
How to Marry a Millionaire premiered at the Fox Wilshire Theatre (now the Saban Theatre), in Beverly Hills, California, on November 4, 1953. The film was a box office success earning $8 million worldwide and $7.5 million domestically, making it Fox's second highest grossing film of that year (with The Robe being the first), and was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1953, whereas Monroe's previous feature Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was the ninth.
In 1957, the film was adapted into a sitcom of the same name. The series stars Barbara Eden (as Loco Jones), Merry Anders (Michelle "Mike" Page), Lori Nelson (Greta Lindquist) and as Nelson's later replacement, Lisa Gaye as Gwen Kirby. How to Marry a Millionaire aired in syndication for a total of two seasons.
In 2000, the 20th Century Fox Television produced a made-for-TV remake called How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale. But instead of three women looking to marry a millionaire man, the film shows three men looking to marry a millionaire woman. The film was starred by John Stamos, Joshua Malina and Shemar Moore.
In 2007, Nicole Kidman bought the rights to How to Marry a Millionaire under her production company Blossom Films, and is set to produce and possibly star in a remake.