Title: The Prince and the Showgirl
Country: UK, USA
Language: English, French, German
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Director: Laurence Olivier
Writers: Terence Rattigan
Music: Richard Addinsell
Cinematography: Jack Cardiff
When the behind-the-scene anecdotes are appreciably more stimulating than the film itself, it is not a good sign, so I may address MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) should be a better choice (for contemporary audiences), barring suckers for Ms. Monroe or Sir Olivier. How come Olivier was swept off his feet by Monroe during the shooting of this film? The ignominious scandal cast a fissure on his marriage with Vivien Leigh, which ultimately ended in 1961 and to a great extent prompted Leigh’s untimely demise at the age of 54 in 1967, so the real life is far crueller than this saccharine period-romance between a regent prince from a fictitious country Carpathia and an US showgirl from the Coconut Girl Club, all happens in London during his visit for the coronation of the new British King in 1911.
It is a project tailor-made for Ms. Monroe and she was in her pinnacle at then, while most certainly Sir Laurence Olivier came on board as the leading man to reprise his role from the original play (Leigh was brushed aside due to her age, so Monroe was cast instead, it was is really a man man man’s world), however it is rather an odd choice for him to monopolise the director chair since it is absolutely not his wheelhouse, a romantic comedy must be a tint two-bit for his Shakespearean standard. Maybe his real intent was never on the film but the red-hot sexpot, Marilyn Monroe.
Regarding the personal life, it was not a placid phase for Marilyn either (check MY WEEK WITH MARILYN for a deep look), but she definitely goes to all lengths to invigorate her character, Elsie, she is the breezy messenger, the emblem of foolproof love, with her buxom curves and halfwitted ingénue persona, one might not say she is the one-of-a-kind type of genius, but certainly she is the fortuitous making of her era, an icon can not be emulated in our times. Sir Olivier, wallows in his customary tactics, being deadpan serious in a condescending form, and genteelly articulating the banal dialogue as if he means it, we can endure the mincing and posturing of Monroe, but for him, it totally jars with the overall tonality and the chemistry between these two people with irreconcilable disparities never scintillates on the screen, the old-hat way of acting does double up the running-time.
Anyway, there is still the bright side, Sybil Thorndike as the Queen Dowager, the mother-in-law of the Regent, controls a timely comic effort whenever she is released to preside the scenes, and those moments are golden! A fresh-faced Jeremy Spenser (as King Nicolas, the son of the Regent) is strikingly dashing in the uniform, he is the only surviving cast of the film with us now. After all its regal extravaganza, garish costumes and ornaments, the preposterous post-production and erratic editing hiccups stick out ridiculously, some chuckling could be wrung from the picture in any case.