“The glamour of the 1950s came to White Waltham on Friday as Hollywood actors descended on the airfield.
Dawson’s Creek actress Michelle Williams will play Marilyn Monroe in the film My Week with Marilyn, now in production at Pinewood Studios.
On Friday, White Waltham airfield near Maidenhead was transformed into a 1950s airport, to film Marilyn’s arrival to the UK.
Extras were dressed as 1950s air stewards and stewardesses.
Jim Munro, who is a member of the West London Aero Club at White Waltham, said the airfield had been taken over on Thursday and Friday.
‘There was a huge encampment of marquees and luxury caravans. When I arrived there were a load of extras in 1950s outfits,’ he said.
‘Marilyn walked past me at close range.'”
Sir Norman Wisdom, who Charlie Chaplin once described as ‘my favourite comedian’, has died aged 95.
Marilyn met Wisdom in 1956 while filming The Prince and the Showgirl at Pinewood Studios in England, as he told biographer Michelle Morgan:
“I was making my film A Stitch in Time*, and on several occasions she came in to watch my work. In fact, she quite unintentionally ruined a couple of takes. Obviously, of course, once the director has said ‘Action’, everyone must remain silent, no matter how funny the situation might be, but Marilyn could not help laughing, and on two occasions she was politely escorted off the set. The nicest thing that happened was that we passed each other in the hallway one lunchtime. It was crowded, but she still caught hold of me, kissed and hugged me, and walked away laughing. Everybody in the hall could not believe it, and I remember my director, Bob Asher, shouting out, ‘You lucky little swine’ – I agreed with him.”
*A Stitch in Time was released in 1964. Perhaps Sir Norman was thinking of Up in the World (1956) or Just My Luck (1957)?
Catherine Zeta-Jones has turned down a cameo role as Vivien Leigh in My Week With Marilyn in order to be with her husband, Michael Douglas, who is currently being treated for throat cancer, according to the Daily Mail.
Emma Watson, best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, will play a small role as wardrobe girl Lucy in My Week With Marilyn, writes Baz Bamigboye in today’s Daily Mail. (In his memoir of working on The Prince and the Showgirl, Clark admitted to a brief dalliance with ‘Lucy’. Clark will be played by Eddie Redmayne.)
A photo of Marilyn Monroe taking tea at the Savoy Hotel, London, with Sir Laurence Olivier at a press conference for The Prince and the Showgirl on July 15, 1956, is included in the Love From London: A City of Stars exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery, London, until October 9. (Other subjects include Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Brigitte Bardot.)
My Week With Marilyn (based on Colin Clark’s book about the making of The Prince and the Showgirl) begins shooting in ten days, reports Baz Bamigboye in the Daily Mail.
Bamigboye also states that Eddie Redmayne (who previously starred as Angel Clare alongside Gemma Arterton in the recent BBC adaptation of Hardy’s Tess) has been cast as Clark (James Jagger, son of Rolling Stone Mick, was previously considered.)
Brigitte Bardot, the iconic French ‘sex kitten’ of the 1950s and 60s, is one of the few actresses to come close to Marilyn Monroe’s impact in beauty and charm.
The two women met just once, in the ladies’ room of the Empire cinema, Leicester Square, London, at a Royal Command performance of The Battle of the River Plate on October 29, 1956, moments after Marilyn had been formally introduced to Queen Elizabeth II.
‘I stared at (MM) hungrily,’ Brigitte recalled in her 1995 autobiography, Initiales BB, admitting that she was too nervous to speak, and simply gazed at Marilyn’s reflection in the mirror. ‘I found her sublime. She was always for me what every woman, not only me, must dream to be. She was gorgeous, charming, fragile.’
Monroe, then 30, was filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. Bardot, at 22, was still on the cusp of fame, having appeared in seventeen films. Her big break came almost a year later, with the release of And God Created Woman.
Bardot retired from films in 1973, aged 39. Since then she has largely abandoned her glamorous image, devoting herself to campaigning for animal welfare. (Marilyn also loved animals and nature, and once told a reporter that she wanted ‘to grow old without facelifts’.)
Brigitte turns 76 later this month, and in recent years has come under fire for her uncompromising views on everything from immigration to homosexuality.
‘People reproach (Bardot) for still being alive, for putting out an image that they don’t want to see,’ Dominique Choulant, author of Brigitte Bardot: The Eternal Myth (2009) and CineMarilyn (2006), tells the Los Angeles Times today.
‘People abandon their icons as they get older,’ Choulant adds. ‘Every 10 years, there is an extraordinary actress who has a sexual impact on a new generation, someone who represents a new type of woman sexually.’ (Often, Choulant notes, they are iconic enough to become known by a single name: Marilyn. Bardot. Madonna. Angelina.)
‘I have a lot of things in common with Marilyn,’ Bardot wrote, ‘and she is very dear to my heart. Both of us had childish souls despite our starlet bodies, an intense sensitivity that can’t be hidden, a great need to be protected, a naivete! We stopped our careers at the same age, but, unfortunately, not in the same way.’
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.
Cameraman: The Life and Works of Jack Cardiff is a new documentary about the Englishman who became Marilyn’s favourite cinematographer after they collaborated on The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956.
Cardiff went on to direct his own movies. Had he directed Marilyn instead of Olivier (with whom she famously clashed), filming of Showgirl might have been a very different experience. Nonetheless, Marilyn did some of her finest acting in this gentle period comedy, and she never looked lovelier.
My tribute to Jack Cardiff, who died in 2009 – over here