The renowned portrait photographer, Terry O’Neill, tells the Daily Mailwhy he turned down the chance to photograph Marilyn – he was dating her publicist, Pat Newcomb, at the time. (Given the close relationship between the two women, he probably made the right choice personally, if not professionally.)
Furthermore, O’Neill’s first marriage – in 1957 – was to actress Vera Day, who had played Marilyn’s friend Betty in The Prince and the Showgirl a year before. They had two sons.
Early in her career, Ms Day was touted as the ‘British Marilyn Monroe’. Now 86, she was interviewed recently about her memories of the film’s production.
Judi Dench, who plays another dame – Sybil Thorndike – in My Week With Marilyn, told the Radio Timesof her own meeting the revered actress in 1958:
‘Her latest role sees her portraying august actress Dame Sybil Thorndike in My Week with Marilyn, which tells the story of the making of The Prince and the Showgirl, the 1957 movie in which Laurence Olivier directed and co-starred opposite Marilyn Monroe. The production was plagued with problems, with Olivier and Monroe at loggerheads throughout. “Marilyn wasn’t an easy person to cope with – certainly not for Sir Laurence – but Dame Sybil felt genuine sympathy for her and stood up for her,” says Dench. “I know that to be true.”
Dench recalls meeting Dame Sybil several times. The first was in 1958, when Dench, in one of her first roles after leaving London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, was in Romeo and Juliet at the Old Vic. “She came round to see us afterwards and was so charming. We were young actors and she was lovely to us and strongly encouraging and gentle.” Which is exactly how she comes across in My Week with Marilyn. “I think they got very, very close to how Dame Sybil was in the script,” continues Dench, who also praises Michelle Williams for her role of Monroe: “She is just wonderful,” she coos. “She has that same fragile quality.” ‘
Elisa Jordan looks back at the tensions on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl:
“Because of all the turmoil on the set, history has often overlooked the positive aspects of the picture. First and foremost, let’s remember that Marilyn Monroe, who had been written off as a dumb sex symbol by so many, actually produced a movie with her own production company. And because she was an independent contractor, as opposed to under contract to a studio, she netted 10 percent of the movie’s profits. All this was practically non-existent in the 1950s. It was a huge leap for all actors in Hollywood—but especially for women.
Finally, let’s remember that this woman had the courage to hire the century’s most renowned and respected actor—Laurence Olivier. Not many in her shoes would have done the same. For all the attention that Marilyn’s behavior on the set gets, let’s not forget that Olivier wasn’t always a pleasant person to be around, either. To her credit, Marilyn stood up to him. And it’s also important to point out that while Olivier didn’t always treat Marilyn with respect, it wasn’t just a matter of two actors. Olivier seems to forget that this woman, whom he spoke so ill of, was also his boss.”
Another in-depth review, this time from Monroe fan and biographer Michelle Morgan, including her own insights into what really happened:
“I was very concerned with the way Marilyn would be played, and how she would come across, but I didn’t have many problems with that side, apart from her being portrayed as rather more naive than she ever was in real life. But putting that and the ‘romance’ aside, I would say the film is still worth seeing. Just take the cornier parts of the script with a big pinch of salt and make your own mind up.”
Marilyn was featured on last night’s ‘The One Show’, with appearances by biographer Michelle Morgan and actress Zoe Wanamaker, who plays Paula Strasberg in My Week With Marilyn. You can watch the whole programme on BBC i-Player.
Michelle comments further on the movie in her blog:
“Incidentally, while I did say ‘we’ll never know’, in regards Colin and Marilyn’s friendship, I didn’t mean we’ll never know if they had an affair, because I whole-heartedly believe they did not. I don’t even think they had a flirtation, based on the research I’ve done. What I did mean was that we’ll never know the extent of the relationship – i.e. if they were friends; if they ever spoke in great detail to each other; etc. etc. I do believe that comes across in my answer; and thankfully have had some very positive comments from viewers in this regard.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, so will reserve my judgement on that until I have. In the meantime, I would like to say that I did offer my research to the producers of the movie before it went into production, but never received a reply….”
Joan Copeland, the actress sister of Arthur Miller, claims that Marilyn’s breathless rendition of ‘Happy Birthday Mr President’ was not intentional, but due to her late arrival, reports the Daily Mail.
This is a funny story, but Marilyn was not late. She was backstage for the entire concert. Peter Lawford introduced her as ‘the late Marilyn Monroe’ as a joke. And the sexiness of her vocal was entirely deliberate!
Copeland says she attended the gala. Now 89, she recently performed a one-woman show in New York. But Arthur Miller’s father, Isadore, was Monroe’s escort, and he accompanied her to a party afterwards.
Colin Clark’s two memoirs have been reissued in a single volume to tie in with today’s movie release. In a review for the Daily Mail, Tom Cox says that the first part (The Prince, the Showgirl and Me) as ‘delightfully gossipy’, but argues that My Week With Marilyn ‘has none of the same charm, and reads like a childish dream sequence about the Monroe legend in its most reductive form.’
If you prefer the listening cure, My Week With Marilyn has also been serialised on BBC Radio 4 this week.
Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week With Marilyn inspired Flavorwire to compile a list of ten outstanding movie roles by actors playing other actors, including Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford and Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer.
“My overall impressions of MWWM are mixed. There are parts of the film I really loved, yet parts that in my opinion are truly dreadful and questionable. With that said, I encourage all Marilyn Monroe fans to check out the film and come to their own conclusions. I will say that I think acting by Williams, Branagh and Dench is quite spectacular (even though I still don’t know who exactly Williams was portraying in most scenes) and I won’t be at all surprised if the lot of them are nominated for Oscars.”
The press dubbed Marilyn’s romance with Arthur Miller ‘The Egghead and the Hourglass’. However, Esquiremagazine argues that Arthur was, in fact, a style icon for men.
“If you’re at all like me — which is to say a man who’s worn glasses every day of his life since age 16, when the quiet man at the D.M.V mandated them — then you might notice something else. His name is Arthur Miller, the playwright and one-time husband of Ms. Monroe, who never tired of his excellent specs: flat across the top, round in the frame, the sort that would cut across most faces (okay, not if your face is too round) with distinction, especially in that nice, dark tortoise shell. I want these glasses…Check out the real Arthur Miller and you’ll see a portrait of a man who would look great in any decade. No timestamp necessary.”