A 'double feature' or 'double bill' is a classic cinema format where theaters would run two films back-to-back. Sometimes, these films would be related and sometimes they would be polar opposites... but still somehow a perfect match!
During the Golden Age of film cinema, the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were the antithesis of fellow icons such as Sophia Loren, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis. Monroe and Mansfield paved the way and constructed the archetype of "the blonde bombshell," an archetype that became a character trope in hundreds of films that followed in the aftermath of both beauties' tragic and untimely deaths. For this "double bill," we pair up two films - classics in their own right and in their own respective genres - as a send-up to the Hollywood blonde bombshell... with a twist.
Here, we pair one film depicting a "bad bombshell," a girl - like Mansfield - who wasn't afraid to have a wardrobe malfunction and had very little qualms with showing off her body for all the world to see... eventually receiving negative backlash for all her publicity. In the second film, we have "the good bombshell," a Marilyn-type with a fascination for pink and a sweet and charming demeanor that you can't help but fall in love with.
While you would never expect these two films to go hand-in-hand, you may be surprised to see just how much in common they both have!
THE BAD BOMBSHELL - SHOWGIRLS (1995)
Yes, as you probably guessed from the cover photo, the Elizabeth Berkley-driven "erotic-thriller" known as Showgirls is our "bad bombshell" flick. In the film, Berkley plays Nomi Malone, a former prostitute who hitchhikes to Vegas in order to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. In a matter of a couple of weeks, she moves in with a costume designer that she gets into a scuffle with during her first night in Sin City, seduces an annoying bouncer with horrible hair who can't hold down a job, and goes from stripping to the tunes of The Artist Formerly Known as Prince at a seedy club to eventually becoming the headliner of a major casino show... essentially becoming a prostitute again in a metaphorical sense before finally breaking free and breaking a rapist's face with her stiletto boots.
Berkley attempted to shed her "good girl" image as Jessie Spano on Saved By the Bell by baring it all and going full frontal... and succeeded in playing a bad girl who had no qualms whipping out a switchblade on complete strangers or shoving her enemies down a flight of stairs. Sadly, the film (and Berkley and Co.) received huge backlash and were panned by audiences, winning seven Razzie Awards including Worst Picture, Worst Actress, and Worst Director (the film holds the record for thirteen Razzie nominations in total). In the years that followed though, the film became a cult classic and became one of the highest-grossing films in rental and retail history despite all the negativity swirling it. Most recently, Berkley herself owned up to the film and embraced the cult status of her memorable character at a screening in Hollywood.
THE GOOD BOMBSHELL - LEGALLY BLONDE (2001)
The second film on our double-bill, Legally Blonde, was the film that made Reese Witherspoon America's Sweetheart. Her portrayal as the charming underdog Elle Woods - who beats the odds to get into Harvard Law in order to win back her pretentious boyfriend Warner - immediately endeared her to fans. If Nomi Malone was the Jayne Mansfield, Elle Woods was most certainly the Marilyn Monroe... given her fascination with the color pink and the fact that Warner tells Elle during their break-up that he wants a woman who is "less of a Marilyn, more of a Jackie."
When looking on the surface, the idea of pairing up the squeaky-clean, light-hearted romantic-comedy with a torrid film such as Showgirls is absolutely ridiculous; until you actually dissect the films and realize how much they have in common. Both films depict a main blonde female with seemingly impossible (but ultimately achievable) dreams, brunette female antagonists, superficial male love interests who turn out to be complete dogs, best friends who work in a profession involving physical appearances (Molly the seamstress in Showgirls and Paulette the manicurist in Legally Blonde), some memorably tacky wardrobe selections rocked by the lead females, and a shared moral that involves both Elle and Nomi embracing who they are - flaws and all - for their own betterment... despite the fact that one blonde learns to defend the law while another breaks it at every turn. Both films are also hilarious, with Legally Blonde being an actual romantic comedy while Showgirls is unintentionally hilarious in a "so-bad-it's-good" kind of way.
And while on the subject, as you watch the ending of Showgirls, which takes place six years before Legally Blonde, you'll notice that as Nomi rides off into the sunset that she heads for sunny California.
Who knows, maybe Elle and Nomi eventually did cross paths prior to Warner's heart-wrenching break-up and became illegally blonde? Who else could have taught Elle the Bend & Snap?