Marilyn Monroe Tribute: The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) C+
The title of this disappointing melodrama, The Prince and the Showgirl, produced by Marilyn Monroe’s productions, also describe the status of its stars, Laurence Olivier, who also directed, and Monroe, who went to London to shoot the picture.
Based on the Terence Rattigan’s play, “The Sleeping Prince,” the film casts Olivier as Charles, prince regent of Carpathia, who is in London to attend the 1911 coronation of King George V. Typecast, Monroe plays a dizzy American chorus girl named Elsie Marina, who, while performing in a West End revue, catches Charles’ eye.
Opposites attract: The prince arranges for Elsie to attend an “intimate supper” at his hotel suite, and from this point on, the tale switches indoors.
Though Elsie successfully wards off Charles’ advances, she drinks too much and ends up falling asleep. At dawn, and Prince Charles is ready for her to leave, but, it turns out that she has fallen in love with him. In fact, her unanticipated stay upsets a plan to overthrow the Carpathian throne, but also reconcile the feud between Charles and his son Nicholas (Jeremy Spencer).
Olivier directed as well as starred in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” based on one of Rattigan’s weaker plays. Though Olivier knew Monroe was hard to direct and temperamental, reality proved much worse. In the end, Olivier could not do much with the source material and the movie is still a play in all its staginess and artifice.
The film is very much a two-handler, as we used to say in Variety, and the lack of interesting secondary characters is a major flaw, even if one of them is played by Dame Sybil Thorndike, as the Queen Dowager.
Some critics (not me) consider Monroe’s work as a flight showgirl to be a delightfully comic performance, crediting Olivier’s direction of her. There is not much rapport between the stars, who subscribe to different acting methods.
Monroe’s 25th feature was a critical flop and a box-office disappointment, leading many Hollywood insiders to declare her a “washed up” actress, only to be proven wrong a year later, when she made a spectacular comeback in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” (1959), her most commercial picture and was of the biggest hits of the entire decade.
Running Time: 117 Minutes.
Directed By:Laurence Olivier
Screenplay: Terence Rattigan
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