Monday, 5 September 2011

A great read for Monroe and Olivier fans

I'm currently reading Colin Clark's book "The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me: Six Months on the Set with Marilyn and Olivier".

It's a fascinating account from Clark, who served as 3rd Assistant Director during the making of the infamous "The Prince and the Showgirl", and kept a daily diary during filming. He published the diary in essentially its complete form, and provides some fabulous insight into the behind the scenes atmosphere of the movie that brought together two very unlikely stars in Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.

Clark confirms in the book what I could almost sense while watching the film. Monroe gives what appears to be one of her most natural, charming, and adorable performances, while director/leading man Olivier seems unable to hide his distaste with the project through his onscreen character. Clark states that the real-life atmosphere was similar: Olivier was disgusted with Monroe's tardiness and inability to remember lines, and this was reflected in a wooden, unfeeling performance. And, once the rushes were viewed, it was Monroe's performance that always seemed effortless and scene-stealing, despite sometimes requiring upwards of 30 takes to get the scene in the can.

Clark's account is also fascinating in his discussion of the "supporting players" associated with the film: Monroe's new husband, famous playwright Arthur Miller, and Olivier's legendary actress wife Vivien Leigh. Clark's observation of Miller is very low: an egotistical intellectual who viewed Monroe as his beautiful trophy wife, and therefore, showed her little respect. Clark views Leigh as charming and the most beautiful woman in the world, with a wit that seemed sugar-sweet even if she was blatantly insulting someone (in one particular case, Monroe).

Overall, there is much for the Monroe fan to eat up through Clark's account of a few months with the world's biggest film star. Clark sees her in many different lights throughout the course of the book: as both breathtakingly beautiful and shockingly ghastly in physical appearance, surprisingly observant and intelligent, charming, terrified, depressed, unfocussed, irritating, needing to be loved and assured, and above all, magical on screen.


  1. Fascinating how an old pro like Olivier didn't quite mask his frustration from showing in the performance. Thank you for the interesting review.

  2. It genuinely is fascinating! I find discussions around the film almost more interesting than the film itself. Thanks so much for commenting!