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Laurence Olivier directed this 1957 movie, and starred in it alongside Marilyn Monroe. These two screen icons may seem mis-matched, and indeed in the film they play a mis-matched couple.  However, while it may not be one of the more popular films of either of the main stars, it does have a charm all of its own.

Olivier plays the Prince Regent of Carpathia, a fictional Balkan nation, who has come to London in 1911 with his young son the King, for the coronation of King George V. The night prior to the coronation he meets showgirl Elsie Mariner (Monroe), and invites her to dinner.  However, their romancing hits a few obstacles – the Regent Prince’s preoccupation with political business, Elsie’s lack of knowledge of regal etiquette, and of course, the coronation itself.

The filming of this movie also hit a few obstacles – Olivier did not get on at all with Marilyn, and grew impatient with her moods and her tardiness.  For Marilyn’s part, she suffered a miscarriage during filming.  She also had a number of health problems, and the medication she took for them caused her weight to fluctuate (for much of the film, she wears a stunning white dress – at least three copies of the dress in differing sizes were used, in order to accommodate her weight fluctuation).  However, despite all this, the film is actually rather lovely.  Olivier is fine in his role – he hams it up somewhat, but that seems entirely appropriate for a romantic comedy such as this; but the acting honours really have to go to Marilyn Monroe.  It’s a shame that this is one of her less well-regarded films, because she really is on top form here.  Whether Elsie is telling the Prince Regent off for being unromantic, or whether she’s practising a dance while believing that she is alone in the room, or whether she is trying unsuccessfully to manoeuvre her way around various waiters after realising that she is the Prince Regent’s only dinner guest, she simply sparkles.  She looks beautiful (like always), her acting is superb and while Marilyn’s comedic skills are often justly celebrated, she displays more depth in certain scenes, and I found it impossible not to love her character.

If you are a fan of either of the stars of this film and have not yet seen this film, I recommend that you seek it out – you might be pleasantly surprised!

(This was the only film that Marilyn made outside of America, and her time in England is the subject of the upcoming film ‘My Week With Marilyn’ starring Michelle Williams as Monroe, and Kenneth Branagh as Olivier.)

Year of release: 1957

Director: Laurence Olivier

Writers: Terrence Rattigan (play and screenplay)

Main cast: Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Spenser, Sybil Thorndike

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Click here for my review of My Week With Marilyn.

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