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United Kingdom/USA 1957
Directed by
Laurence Olivier
115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Prince And The Showgirl

The idea of combining the theatrically well-credentialed Laurence Olivier with Hollywood sex-pot Marilyn Monroe could have been a disaster and indeed apparently the production was a difficult one but the result is a delight with Monroe giving one of her best screen performances.

Set in 1911, Monroe plays Elsie Marina, an American working in a London show who catches the eye of the Regent of Carpathia (Olivier). He invites her to supper but things do not go to plan and instead of bedding Elsie, he finds that she is more than a ditzy blonde and their relationship blossoms.

Scripted by Terence Rattigan from his own stage play the dialogue is spirited and Olivier, who played the part on stage opposite his then wife, Vivien Leigh, is not only excellent as the irascible Prince butdoubling  as director does a fine job of transposing the production to the screen, making excellent use of the camera to enhance our enjoyment of the performances.

Monroe, in her only non-American film, who was understandably nervous about playing opposite Olivier, was suffering from weight issues (and had a miscarriage during filming) and apparently their relationship was fractious but if so, it is not apparent from what is on screen. Monroe demonstrates a knowingness that is quite uncharacteristic of her familiar  breathy sex kitten persona and this keeps the film from being a Gentlemen Prefer Blondes retread (apparently it was going to be a musical until Monroe’s then husband Arthur Miller convinced her otherwise).

For a British film of the period (it was made for Monroe’s own production company) it is a lavishly colourful affair with typically stylish photography by Jack Cardiff and familiar character actor Richard Wattis getting one of his best parts as a Foreign Office attaché.  A tad long and with a rather uncertain ending The Prince And The Showgirl is nevertheless an eminently watchable drawing room comedy.




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