‘My Week With Marilyn’

Michelle Williams

My Week With Marilyn, Colin Clark‘s 2000 memoir of his stint as a production assistant on The Prince and The Showgirl, the 1957 movie starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, will shortly be filmed with Michelle Williams as Marilyn, Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, James Jagger as Clark and Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, according to press reports.

Clark was the son of art historian Kenneth Clark (Lord Clark of Saltwood), and his better-known brother, Alan Clark, was a Tory MP in the Thatcher government of the 1980s, whose political diaries caused a sensation when they were published in 1993.

Colin Clark’s first memoir about Marilyn, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me (1995) was well-received (Joan Collins called it her favourite book of that year.) It was based on diaries Clark claimed to have kept during filming in 1956.

Five years later, Clark published a sequel, My Week With Marilyn, which he claimed was based on a ‘lost week’ not covered in his diary. He also claimed that he and Marilyn became quite intimate at this time, even (platonically) sharing a bed.

This second volume met with considerable scepticism, not least from Alan Clark who speculated that Colin had fabricated the diaries entirely. Nonetheless, it sold well and the BBC produced a documentary narrated by Colin himself, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me, first aired in 2003, a year after his death.

Though Clark’s books make for quite an enjoyable read, some Monroe researchers have found that dates in his published diaries do not match the original production notes for The Prince and the Showgirl.

Because the source material is contentious, many MM fans are already concerned that this will not be a fair representation of the events of 1956, and in particular the personal and artistic clashes between Monroe and Olivier.

However, it must be granted that the cast and crew appear stellar. Production of My Week With Marilyn is reported to begin in the UK this September, and will allegedly be produced by the Weinstein brothers (former heads of Miramax Films) and directed by Simon Curtis (who recently helmed the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.

Maf the Dog: Call Off the Search

‘My reporter was eager to ask Angelina Jolie about her plans to play Marilyn Monroe when they spoke at Monday’s premiere of Jolie’s new thriller, Salt. According to reports, author Andrew O’Hagan told the Edinburgh Book Festival that the star would fill Marilyn’s shoes in a film version of his novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, opposite George Clooney as Frank Sinatra. But Jolie just looked bewildered. “Where did all these rumours come from?” she asked. “I haven’t heard a thing about it! I don’t even know if I’d be the best person to play her.” As to her rumoured co-star, she added, “I haven’t even talked to George about it.” An embarrassed (or incensed?) O’Hagan – whose book contains the memories of Maf, a Maltese terrier given to Marilyn by Sinatra – went so far as to issue a statement about the confusion: “Despite what was said in the unchecked stories that appeared in the papers… I made no public statement about Ms Jolie or Mr Clooney… Everything about the film has still to be decided.” Scarlett Johansson, anyone?’

The Independent

The Last Glamour Queen

Extract from Glamour: Women, History, Feminism by Carol Dyhouse

“As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, film stars still inspired emulation – especially those stars who seemed to offer a new kind of fresh, youthful sexuality, less worldly than traditional glamour, but more intriguing than a femme-fleur. Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn were the icons of the time.

The most prominent screen glamour girl of the period, Marilyn Monroe, had a childlike, vulnerable quality, described by Diana Vreeland as ‘fluffy zaniness’. But Monroe herself embodied many of the contradictions of the era. In the early days of her career, photographed by Tom Kelley nude and stretched out on red satin, she came close to being labelled as ‘cheesecake’. She appeared to lack the self-possession that had distinguished many of the screen goddesses of the 1930s, and she seemed more innocent than other pin-up girls. Monroe was never the girl next door however, and could be capable of a sharp realism. ‘I guess I’ve always had too much fantasy to be only a housewife,’ she confessed on one occasion, adding, ‘Well, I also had to eat. I was never kept, to be blunt about it. I always kept myself. I have always had a pride in the fact that I was on my own.’

Perhaps one of the last high moments in the classic Hollywood celebration of glamour was when Marilyn Monroe, in a memorable public performance, sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden in May 1962. She wore a gown by Jean Louis in nude marquisette covered with rhinestones, described by Adlai Stevenson as ‘skin and beads’. In 1999 the gown sold at auction by Christie’s for $1.2 million.”

Lives of the Stars

A new French publication…

Explore this issue of the new collection “People”, tracing the path of the biggest stars of the twentieth century. From Madonna to Romy Schneider, Johnny Hallyday to Michael Jackson, Find the personalities that have marked our time and left an indelible imprint in our memories.

This richly illustrated booklet tells you the key moments of Marilyn Monroe’s life through amazing, emotional anecdotes.

A book in small format, convenient to take anywhere with you!

Also available at many newsstands.

Size 15×19 96 pages Fully quad

€ 4.50

Postage and France: € 1.90
Postage Europe € 3.50

Journaux du Midi

Thanks to Chris at Club Passion Marilyn

Jolie, Clooney Tipped for ‘Maf the Dog’

Photo by Douglas Kirkland

Andrew O’Hagan’s comic novel, The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe, is set for Hollywood, according to today’s Guardian.

A few years ago, Douglas Kirkland recreated his 1961 Monroe photo shoot with Angelina Jolie, to stunning effect. While I do wonder if Jolie can recapture Marilyn’s fragile charm, she is a gifted actress and Hollywood’s biggest star right now. (Her performance in Life Or Something Like It, back in 2002, drew comparisons to Monroe in some quarters.)

Screen adaptations of two other Marilyn-related books, My Week With Marilyn and Blonde, are also rumoured to be in the pipeline.

Lois Banner on Marilyn’s American Beauty

Richard Avedon, 1957

From American Beauty by Lois W. Banner (1983)

“The most important film representative of the 1950s voluptuous woman was Marilyn Monroe, who differed from the others by combining with sensuality strains of childishness reminiscent of the adolescent stars. She thereby created a powerful combination that encompassed the era. Technically unschooled and often intellectually vacuous in her film characterisations, she nevertheless possessed both the shrewdness of the classic chorus girl (a character she often portrayed in film roles) and the intuitive genius of a child, able to see more clearly to the heart of a matter than others more sophisticated around her. As a down-and-out member of a seedy female band in ‘Some Like it Hot’, she taught fleeing mobsters Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon the meaning of friendship and love; as a chorus girl in ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, she taught the same lesson to Laurence Olivier, the head of a fictional kingdom. Most of the other voluptuous film stars had dark hair, but Monroe’s was peroxided a light blonde – a colour that invoked traditional images of angels and virtuous women, reflected the light locks of the era’s adolescent film stars, and both legitimised and heightened her sensuality.

Previous exemplars of female sensuality had also had blonde hair: one thinks of the British Blondes in the 1860s and Jean Harlow in the 1930s. But Monroe differed strikingly from the Lydia Thompson troupe and from Harlow. They were tough, wisecracking, even masculine in type. With a slight, lisping voice, a soft curvaceous body, and a seriousness about life, Monroe projected an intense femininity and an inner vulnerability. Her sensual posturings were reminiscent of Mae West, although with no hint of the parody that West intended. Monroe regarded her body with dead seriousness. Long before she was acclaimed as movie actress and sex queen, she had posed for the first nude centrefold in ‘Playboy’ magazine, destined to become a trendsetter in liberalised sexuality and a showcase for the bodies of beautiful women. [Actually, Monroe had posed for a trade calendar – the shots were acquired by Hugh Hefner four years later, after her rise to fame.]

Monroe’s popularity ensured the triumph of the vogue of dyed blonde hair, which cosmetics companies had been promoting. Sales of hair colouring soared; platinum blondes seemed everywhere. The widespread dying of hair to be light blonde indicated women’s acceptance of a model of looks and behaviour that had them be feminine, sensual, and unintellectual. Women were to seem like children, expressing their adulthood primarily through their sexuality. The ‘dumb blonde’ who ‘had more fun’ now became the dominant image of beauty for American women.”

Dr Banner is currently working on two new books about Marilyn.

Read my comparison of Monroe and Harlow, ‘American Bombshells’.

Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?

Try this fun quiz at Vanity Fair

Inspired by Mad Men, Pamela Clarke Keogh‘s Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn: Timeless Lessons on Love, Power and Style will be published by Gotham Books on October 28.


“The hit TV show Mad Men recently featured an ad campaign with two images of a model in her underwear. As a brunette, she sips from a china teacup. As a blonde, she swirls a cocktail. Debutante or bombshell? Sometimes women want to be both. On the surface, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe could not be more different, but they had more in common than just JFK. Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? is a fun way to explore the classic madonna/ whore conundrum while becoming fabulous in all aspects of life.

Readers start by taking the definitive quiz to determine where they fall on the Jackie/ Marilyn spectrum, and then it’s on to customized advice on beauty and style, sex and marriage, power and career, decorating and entertaining, and more. Any woman who has aspired to Marilyn’s sultry allure or Jackie’s unstoppable elegance (or who wants to balance sexy and serious) will love these entertaining lessons on channeling your inner Jackie or Marilyn in any situation, from throwing a dinner party to penning a love note. Sidebars compare Jackie’s and Marilyn’s dating tips, lists of favorite books and music, diet plans, and even makeup know-how. Packed with charming two-color illustrations, this is the book that gives every woman her own star power.”