The up coming film My Week with Marilyn based on a brief encounter by Colin Clark in 1956 made me take a look at the film on which this story is loosely based. I was just 13 when it was made and although I heard about it I never saw it. The only glimpses that I got were all in black and white. At that time I never saw any of Monroe's films as I was just too young and I never really appreciated her either. I thought she was over rated. A silly uneducated woman who traded on her sexual personality. I was definitely under whelmed.
I had heard of the problems Olivier had had with her on the set and how difficult he found to work with her and I was surprised that he actually chose to do so. He was the producer and director but of course I was wrong. It is so nice at my age to able to admit one was mistaken.
In my day the show biz world was small and paths crossed often but the nearest I got to Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier is that I slept in a bedroom occupied the previous week by this illustrious pair. Now do not get the wrong impression this was not a room at the Ritz but an average set of theatrical digs in Bristol. It was clean humble and for me more than adequate but for the Oliviers? Even then I realized a lot of their magic was show.
Thanks to YouTube yesterday I was able to catch up on the film I had missed. To my surprise it was in color! But the biggest surprise was that Monroe stole the whole show. Her stunning performance reduced the great Olivier to second rate status. Her presence radiates off the silver screen and still would today. Here was an intelligent woman playing a bimbo and knowing exactly what she is doing.
At the time the Oliviers held all the cards but now all is different. That old style of acting and direction has past. Marilyn knew exactly what she wanted to achieve and wiped the floor with all the other actors with perhaps the exception of Richard Wattis but then I am biased as he was exactly like a parody of my husband Miles.
Marilyn encapsulated the position of women of that time. Extremely bright but totally uneducated and reduced to bimbo status which was not deserved. The way she tackles her pompous betters and acts them off the screen is a lesson to us all.
Monroe had every right to behave as she did. She knew the power of the Rattigan play and she knew it was a perfect vehicle for her talent. She bought the rights and she produced it with Olivier as her guest producer and director who then treated her as we say like muck. I can vouch for the treatment handed out to women producers/directors, as late as 1986 I had to employ a male director for my TV series as the men refused point blank to take orders from me. I had to beg for every close up and I was paying the bill.
If Monroe wanted to be late she had every right to be late and for Oliver to insist that his wife Vivenne Leigh who was the first Showgirl attend each day of the shoot must have been intimidating to say the least. If you want to put somebody off that is exactly what you do. Again I had this happen to me when taking over a major role at short notice and the experience was horrible.
To tell Monroe to Try and act sexy was a first class insult and Olivier must have realized that with this woman he was way out of his depth in film technique.
Actresses of my day had only one choice and that was to be a bimbo if you wanted to work. We were intelligent but bright women were not required. I am just so pleased I had not seen this performance before I took over the IT girl in The Desert Song which is a similar role that of a sexy intelligent girl overlooked by everyone around who cannot see her worth as I should have lost all confidence in my ability to pull this off immediately. All women can sympathise with her character and all men want to go to bed with her.
Monroe may have had an abused upbringing and no education but she married the foremost playwright of her day Arthur Miller. She knew what she did well and did it.
Bravo Marilyn. Here she is with Richard Wattis when her character realizes she has been set up. I expect many of my friends would have had to cope with this sort of situation on a daily basis. I have found myself here on more than one occasion. I too knew how to get out of such tricky moments.