Customer Review

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MY FAVORITE MM FILM, April 6, 2002
This review is from: The Prince and the Showgirl (DVD)
I've seen this film perhaps twenty times since it came out in 1957 and find the glowing DVD version perfection, much better than the laserdisk.When I first saw it, I believe it was projected through a lens masked for widescreen. So I was disappointed through the years when the videocassette and laserdisk versions weren't in widescreen. Now I'm delighted that the DVD isn't in widescreen, since the show was shot in standard format and we get almost the whole negative image on screen, with only a shot or two faintly cramped or with a figure not quite as fully seen as it was meant to be. No such worry about MM though, no image of her gets trimmed: the magnificent ballgown she's poured into becomes a character in itself. For me, this is MM's greatest performance just as "Camille" is Garbo's. In "Camille" you never catch Garbo acting, every line feels tossed off or thrown away except the big ones, which get the full heartcry the script calls for. In MM's film her every line flows from her with an assurance she matched only in "Bus Stop" and never feels acted. Inge's "Bus Stop", aside frin MM's scenes, strikes me as far less interesting than Rattigan's neatly built comedy, whose scenes without MM retain strong interest both because of the script and of Olivier's hand for detail and grip on staging. Also, Jack Cardiff fills the screen with glowing color to match the decor and costumes and much of my delight lies in having the full screen aglow, wall to wall and top to bottom with luscious light--light focused often on MM's sheer glory. Olivier's line readings are great fun, a grotesque joy, but MM reads like an angel and steals the show with her heartfelt method realism. What can one say about her that isn't less than she deserves here?
For the horrors behind the filming, you might turn to Colin Clark's "The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me: Six Months on the Set with Marilyn and Olivier" (St. Martin's Press, $20.95) where this angel's neuroses are revealed in full. And yet Sybil Thordyke, her costar here as the Queen Mother, said of MM during the shooting that MM was the only one on the set who knew how to act on film and be natural. The crew often thought she wasn't acting--until the rushes starte showing up. Colin Clark himself (he's the son of art historian Kenneth Clark, was Olivier's gofer on the set, and later helped establish NYC's PBS station Channel 13) said that when the film was done, despite the endless agony everyone had working with her, MM was "a force of nature" onscreen, although the whole crew threw her wrap party's gifts into the garbage. Yes, one must admit that MM had more serious flaws than we the still living. But do we take issue with the model for Velazquez's gorgeous Venus in "The Toilet of Venus" (who may have been a waitress he hired) whose long bare body and glorious behind have the same pale rosiness as MM's skin under Cardiff's lighting, while Cardiff treats her hair and eyes and mouth, her bottom and her bitty little belly, with all the care of Velazquez. We no longer remember Velazquez's model but that painting of her captures the eternal feminine. And someday MM's Elsie Marina in this film will rise in the heavens of art and be remembered while MM becomes a receding historical figure, like Pola Negri the Vamp whose dark eyes once spilled their eroticism over the planet, and just as Garbo the unread rather brainless woman fades farther from view every year while her Marguerite Gautier in "Camille" remains a serene image of artistic divinity.
As a footnote, let me add that all the actors are superb, as is the score. I was so delighted by the score (not to mention MM's sweet singing) in 1957 that I wrote a fan letter to Richard Addinsell, the composer (best-known for his "Warsaw Concerto") and he wrote back about his thankfulness to Olivier for his not asking him for "music by the yard," as was the custom when Addinsell wrote film music for others, but rather allowed him to let go and write every note from the heart. That music adds no little lift of pleasure to the images--and to MM and Olivier's big waltz scene at the ball. May I live to see this wonderful movie many more times.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 28, 2012 12:11:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2012 12:12:54 PM PDT
deejay says:
I had seen "My Week with Marilyn" and now I want to see the movie they were working on in the film. So I think I will get a copy of "The Prince and the Show Girl".

Posted on Mar 30, 2012 1:55:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 30, 2012 2:38:08 AM PDT

I just finished Colin CLARK"s book again this afternoon after the initial read many years back (it was originally released in 1995) and I first saw The Prince and the Showgirl at a cinema in Sydney during the Seventies despite a number of Televison screenings before and after that - and many times since on Video and DVD. Colin's daily on-the-set diary was the basis for the new film MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (which I received from AMAZON and watched two days ago with much approval).

Mr Cook, who was only in his early twenties when he was working on the 1956 film, wrote with incredible detail and fascinating insight, with some very funny comments and personal reactions. His published daily diary is a classic and a perfect read after viewing the current movie.

One of the short comments in the diary which was filmed is only on the screen a split second but is quite original - a flash of a Norman Wisdom lookalike in the distance jumping out from the doorway of a Sound Stage with that well known toothy grin - blink and you will miss it.

In the new movie, which took or seemed to take liberties regarding Mr Clark and MM's "personal relationship" - no doubt to spice up the movie, there is no such detail in Colin's originally published diary. But it certainly adds to the personal aspect of the story.

However, many of the events and pertinent items in the diary were included into the screenplay and Michelle Williams certainly gave an Oscar Nominated performance of incredible depth. In many scenes she seemed to be chanelling MM instead of simply acting - not a simple feat! She deserved to win the Acadamy Award!

When Michelle recreated the little dance segment, the similarity to the original from THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL brought shameless tears. Brilliant scene of many.

Like Donald A. Newlove noted, and although I have all of MM's feature films as well of dozens of other video programs and countless books etc., and a number of original stills and posters, The Prince and the Showgirl has always remained my favourite - Marilyn is, unusually, more beautifully irresistible in the 1956 film. How she managed this from the history of the film's production is a credit to her uniqueness. Sadly, Mr Olivier is too severe and comes across as disconnected but who are we only watching on the screen when she is present? MM radiates and surely a BluRay is warranted as well as a CD of Mr Addinsall's lovely music score.

Yes, I have noted that AMAZON are lisiting a DVD reissue of The Prince and the Showgirl - but a BluRay would be very welcome too.

Eric Glasby AUSTRALIA 30th March, 2012

Posted on Apr 7, 2013 6:54:37 PM PDT
Hi Donald, great review. The big question is when the heck is Warner Brothers going to release a really good Bluray edition of TPATSG? instead what do they do after "My Week With Marilyn" is released on bluray? they rerelease the dvd again. Lame.

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 11:01:02 PM PDT
plaintiger says:
thank you, Donald - this is a delightful and informative review. like deejay, i've seen "My Week with Marilyn" and want to see this as a result. i'm only hoping the sound quality is significantly better than that of the trailer i just watched here - my hearing's dodgy to begin with, and warbly, uneven sound quality can make dialogue almost impossible for me to understand. what are your thoughts on the sound quality?

thank you again for your lush, evocative review.
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