Diamonds entered popular culture in a big way in the years following World War II. There were a number of reasons for this development, which saw a surge in the number of custom engagement rings and other pieces of jewellery featuring the stone. In 1947 De Beers ran an enormously successful advertising campaign based on the phrase ‘A Diamond is Forever’ – voted the best advertising slogan of the century in 2000. Two years later, the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes featured the song ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.’
The magic of Monroe
In 1953, Marilyn Monroe would famously bring this song to audiences across the world with the film version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The movie tapped into a spirit of female independence fostered by the war years and changing social roles. In the film, Monroe sings the song in a nightclub, surrounded by wealthy men – the implication being that she is taking advantage of them for their money. Monroe actually sang the song herself, although one phrase, ‘These rocks don’t lose their shape’, caused her problems and had to be provided by a professional soprano.
The sincerest compliment
Marilyn’s performance of ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ sparked a slew of imitations as later singers sought to emulate what had become an iconic moment in cinematic history. Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman are three famous examples.
Kidman’s cover of the song was employed in the film Moulin Rouge, directed by Baz Luhrmann. Again, the setting is a nightclub and the exploitation of wealthy men by the female singer. In keeping with the style and themes of the film, a number of changes were made to the lyrics, including the list of jewellers in the original, which now included the name of the Moulin Rouge’s founder, Harry Zidler. Country, Rock and Jazz versions of the song have also been recorded, indicating the song and its sentiment’s enduring popularity and resonance in the public consciousness.