The Prince, The Showgirl and Me
Colin Clark wrote ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me,’ a collection of extracts from his diaries during the six months he spent working as the third assistant director on the movie ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. The film was shot entirely at Pinewood Studios on the outskirts of London, and Clark had access to all the ups and downs of the production, despite his lowly position.
In 1956, Marilyn Monroe was a sensation in Western film, thanks to her recent success in ‘The Seven Year Itch’ and her iconic photographs standing over a New York subway grate. Meanwhile, Laurence Olivier was considered the greatest actor of the time, with an Oscar for film direction under his belt. The two seemed like a perfect pairing to star in the film, with Olivier also directing.
The movie was based on Terence Rattigan’s play ‘The Sleeping Prince,’ which had previously starred Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh. The play’s plot was described as ‘paper-thin’ and involved the Regent of Carpathia falling in love with a showgirl during his Coronation preparations.
Laurence Olivier Productions joined forces with Marilyn Monroe Productions to produce the film. Shooting had to take place within a narrow window of time to reduce costs, and there was much tension surrounding Monroe’s punctuality, as she was known for being notoriously late.
Clark was a privileged young man, educated at Eton and Christchurch, and the son of renowned art historian Kenneth Clark. His parents knew several people in the entertainment industry, including Olivier and Leigh. When Clark expressed his desire for a career in the film industry, Vivien Leigh persuaded Olivier to give him a job with his production company.
Clark secured a position as the third assistant director on ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ through several weeks of persistence and initiative. Despite his low position, he gained an insider’s perspective of several months of filming on a set that was far from harmonious.
Monroe’s Hollywood icon status led to curiosity about her, and Clark’s diaries provide a close-up perspective of working with her. There was considerable tension between her and Olivier, with Monroe frequently showing up late and requiring several hours of hair and makeup before shooting. Clark suggests that the rest of the cast and crew had to accommodate her difficulties.
Monroe was newly married to playwright Arthur Miller, and their relationship was reportedly rocky, with Miller leaving her mid-shoot to return to the US.
Clark’s diaries also provide insight into the process of shooting a film and the differences between film and theater production. He presents a sympathetic portrayal of Monroe, highlighting her vulnerability, insecurities, and the pressure she faced shooting a film in a foreign country with unsympathetic people. Given her personal troubles, this period must have been challenging for her.
Foxed Quarterly provided a copy of Clark’s diaries for review, and all opinions expressed are the author’s own.