Thursday, 12 January 2012

My Week with Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe.

On August 5th 1962 at 4:25 am a Los Angeles Police Department police sergeant received a call from a psychiatrist proclaiming that American’s greatest female sex symbol and star was found dead at her home. Marilyn Monroe was 36 years old; the recorded cause of death was ‘acute barbiturate poisoning resulting from a probable suicide’. Her demise, similar in respect to James Dean’s fatal car crash, essentially froze her immense stardom and flawless beauty in time as an icon of her era leading to the subsequent cult appreciation of her image as distinct from her films. Monroe was, and still is, part of the Hollywood mythology that was the American dream.

Michelle Williams as Monroe.
Monday nights RBC Film Club showing of My Week with Marilyn (2011) is a fine example of the continuing fascination with this great star. Introduced by Audrey Young who skilfully filled in the background to give us a better understanding of what we were about to see.  In 1956 Marilyn came to the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire England to star in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) an American film co-starring Laurence Olivier who was also the films director and producer. It was written by Terence Rattigan who based the script on his play The Sleeping Prince, which incidentally was the original name of the film. Monroe plays Elsie Marina a young showgirl who captivates the Prince Regent of Carpathia (Olivier). Although the wealthy Prince is a stickler for formality, he is a lonely man so he invites the showgirl to his Embassy for a very late supper. Although it has been stated that Olivier did not get on very well with his Hollywood star because of her unpredictable ways, he praised her as "a brilliant comedienne, which to me means she is also an extremely skilled actress" and that "Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all." Critics hailed Marilyn’s performance and the movie was nominated for five BAFTA Awards including Best Foreign Actress for Monroe.

Kenneth Branagh as Olivier.
That Monroe pose.
My Week with Marilyn is a British drama directed by Simon Curtis, who was responsible for the award winning 2008 TV drama A Short Stay in Switzerland, which starred Julie Walters. Colin Clark, the 23-year-old son of the art historian Sir Kenneth Clark, worked as third assistant director on the original 1957 movie and wrote two books on his experiences the first in 1995 called The Prince, The Showgirl and Me, the second entitled My Week with Marilyn. It was this second memoir written in 2000 that Adrian Hodges adapted to form the basis for Monday night film. It allegedly focuses on Colin Clark’s relationship with Monroe during a week he spent alone with her after her husband Arthur Miller went back to America.

Its difficult to put into words how enjoyable I found this splendidly accurate 1950’s period piece, certainly a credit to Britain’s marvelous acting talent who as good as they were, were impressively over shadowed by the American actress Michelle Williams who may not have Monroe’s voluptuous curves, but convincingly portrays both her child like vulnerability and her star status, a pitch perfect and mesmerising performance that disserves recognition as the awards season approaches. Also it’s difficult to separate Kenneth Branagh from Laurence Olivier obviously a part he was born to play. Eddie Redmayne plays the wide-eyed Clark with youthful enthusiasm and as I said previously we get top class performances from many other well-known actors. It’s an emotional and moving look at one of the cinemas most enduring icons and I would whole-heartedly recommend this film to lovers of good quality cinematic entertainment. If you don’t catch it in your local film theatre the DVD is due for release on the 12th March 2012.

The Prince and the Showgirl.

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