Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Prince and the Showgirl: a 1957 review

There seems to be an impression that THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL was a damp squib back in 1957 and did not get very good reviews and the general view was that the combination of Olivier and Monroe just did not work, it was of course a troubled production - as all Marilyn's later films were.  

"Films and Filming" though gave it an upbeat review, by one Rupert Butler. It is rather nice:
"The coupling of of Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL represents one of the shrewdest gimmicks in show-business: the film was guaranteed maximum curiosity value before one foot of it was shot. I found the combination of these two stars irresistible and salute a brave attempt to inject Ruritanian dash into the rather dreary provincialism of much of British Cinema. 
Terence Rattigan's smoothly carpeted THE SLEEPING PRINCE used one of the oldest themes extant in light romantic comedy - the mildly libertine Royalty who falls in love with a commoner. To the coronation of George V comes the Grand Duke Charles, Regent of Carpathia, a near middle-age stuffshirt whose idea of light relaxation from protocol is a a deux caviare supper with a ravishing George Edwardes showgirl, Elsie Marina. The devastating and indestructible naivety of his victim, however, is something new to the Regent. Getting rid of this embarrassing encumbrance proves harder than he imagines. 
Elsie stays around long enough to melt his heart, ride to the Coronation practically by accident, and patch up a quarrel between the Regent and his young son (Jeremy Spenser).When the couple eventually part they promise to meet again - somewhere, sometime ...
One has become accustomed over the years to a certain amount of filmed theatre - characters' entrances and exits, perfectly natural in a theatre, can appear on screen as artificial  ... and eventually become a trifle monotonous. 
Nothing though can quite affect the quality of the leading performances. Olivier, looking like an upper-crust Heathcliff armed with a monacle, makes the Regent a figure of considerable charm. Only in moments of straight comedy does the character come dangerously near burlesque. The baby-faced Elsie, who knows all the answer and can stride through any situation with a marvellous wide-eyed innocence is tackled with all the customary Monroe zest. Nor is the performance without its moments of pathos. 
In recommending this gay and inconsequential charade I would put in a word for the superb jewel-bedizened Queen Dowager of Sybil Thorndike and about all for Richard Wattis, a perfect personification of affronted Foreign Office dignity,"

Yes, it was good to see Richard Wattis in a strong role for once - he usually popped up for a moment or two in most British films - and it all makes one want to see it once again.  There are other comments on it here, Monroe label - is also fun seeing MM interacting with those British stalwarts like Gladys Henson, Jean Kent, Maxine Audley, Vera Day - as Olivier as the Regent demands that Elsie be taken back to Brixton ! I was too young to enjoy it when it opened, but we like seeing it over the years as Jack Cardiff makes Marilyn look her most beautiful here, in that iconic white dress, and Olivier's sly performance is a lot of fun too, and he was directing it as well! 

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