Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

My Week With Marilyn


Marilyn Monroe has always been something of a puzzle for me. I know she was beautiful, in a brassy, cheap sort of way, but I was never the least bit attracted to her. Just not my type, I guess, like Joan Crawford is not my type. She has never figured in a single one of my fantasies. It seems clear that she was a contender for Neediest Person of the Twentieth Century, and this movie gives you chapter and verse on that. Men couldn’t seem to help falling in love with her, and she was happy to accommodate a lot of them, from the early days on the casting couch right up to the Kennedy White House. I myself think that much if not all of her legend came from dying young. Can you imagine her acting in movies today, as Bette Davis did until almost the end of her life? I can’t. She would be 86 today. But by dying young she gets to sit next to Humphrey Bogart, across from James Dean, being served by Elvis in that famous Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” knock-off.

This is a swell little movie that has a lot of fun recreating a few frantic months in England at the Pinewood Studios as Sir Laurence Olivier struggles to get Marilyn to show up on time—or show up at all, many days—to make that little trifle of a film The Prince and the Showgirl. What a lot of blood, toil, tears, and sweat wasted on something that might better have not been made at all. Still, if you are a movie buff like me, I highly recommend that you see it before viewing this movie, like I did. It will greatly enhance your pleasure in seeing My Week With Marilyn, to see how uncannily accurate Michelle Williams is in recreating Monroe’s best bits from the original. She richly deserved her Oscar nomination for this performance, and it was only her bad luck (and that of Glenn Close and Viola Davis—and not, god help us, of that awful Rooney Mara) that Iron Lady Meryl Streep had it wrapped up that year. It’s a lot of fun to see these historical characters making a film in England where, if this is accurate, even the crew was on a first-name basis with most of the talent. Dougray Scott doesn’t have a lot to do as Arthur Miller, but Julie Ormond is great in a few small scenes as Vivien Leigh, Derek Jacobi is good as the Royal Librarian, and most of all, Judi Dench is great as Dame Sybil Thorndike, who does her best to help the pathetically insecure American star. Kenneth Branagh is perfect in the role of Sir Larry. They both have tight, thin lips and Branagh doesn’t so much mimic as suggest Olivier’s manners and speech patterns.

You have to ask yourself, how much of this “true” story is true? There’s no way to find out, as it is based on two books by the central character, Colin Clark. He is played by Eddie Redmayne, who is overpowered by all the other talent around him … which, I guess, is as it should be, as he was a callow youth thrust into the role of 3rd Asst. Dir. (read: gofer) to Olivier. He is the one that things happen to, like Stingo in Sophie’s Choice, very little of it his own doing. Clark was the son of Sir Kenneth Clark, famous for his Civilization series on PBS in America. He could have been making it all up, or at least most of it, though I’m sure it could be verified that he was spending time with Marilyn, and that she seemed to trust him. Who knows? It’s not really important. Even if it’s all made up, it’s a good story.