After seeing last year’s “My Week With Marilyn,” I wanted to screen the “The Prince and the Showgirl,” made in 1957 and starring Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier. My Week With Marilyn makes it seem like Monroe sabotaged The Prince and the Showgirl, but the movie is actually quite charming and enjoyable. Monroe delivers a good performance, enjoys a wonderful chemistry with Olivier, and stays adorable throughout the film.
A regent from Carpathia (Olivier) — visiting London for King George’s coronation in 1911 — sees the Monroe character (Elsie) in a play. He invites Elsie to a party at the embassy, but when she arrives she discovers she’s the only guest. The Regent wants to treat her to a midnight dinner and then make love to her. The seemingly naive Monroe figures out the ploy early and then emphatically turns down the Regent’s advances. But the stiff and formal regal atmosphere eventually wins her approval as she’s invited to King George’s coronation and the royal ball. Later, Elsie becomes involved in an abdication plot involving the Regent’s son.
Sybil Thorndike does a wonderful turn as the Queen Dowager, a daffy, hard-of- hearing eccentric who takes Elsie under her wing. Eventually, as expected, Elsie and the Regent make amends, but the force of their personalities remain strong throughout the picture, and the ending does not seem forced or trivial. Olivier directed the movie from a script (and play) by Terrance Rattigan. The color scheme, especially the purples, gold, and yellows, makes the marble columned embassy seem like a castle.