Heather's Classic Movie Review: The Prince and the Showgirl
Is it possible for two different movie stars to work together without their egos or talents clashing? That's the true test behind the 1957 classic movie The Prince and the Showgirl, which followed a love story of two mismatched individuals. The results were entertaining, but a little too lightweight in the end.
The Prince and the Showgirl followed a chance encounter between Grandduke Charles (Laurence Olivier) who was the Prince Regent of Carpathia while his minor son King Nicholas (Jeremy Spenser) came of age. Sadly, there was a growing tension between father and son with both men vying for control. The men and The Queen Dowager (Sybil Thorndike) came to visit England in 1911 for the coronation of the new British King. During their short stay, the Regent went to visit the Coconut Girl Club and was charmed by an American understudy named Elsie (Marilyn Monroe). The Regent was so charmed by Elsie that he invited her to have dinner at his embassy. Unfortunately, the Regent and Elsie had different expectations in mind for the night. The next morning was supposed to be the last time they were supposed to see each other, but somehow their departure was always interrupted for various reasons. Elsie got to bond with King Nicholas and The Queen Dowager in different ways, which ended up allowing The Regent to see her in a different light. The relationship blossomed rather quickly, but the question still remained whether it should last past this visit. Can two very different people make a romance work or just remember the good times?
In terms of plot, The Prince and the Showgirl's plot was paper thin and would sometimes have worked better in a more Broadway setting. Ironically, the movie was done prior on the London stage with Olivier playing the Regent and his wife Vivien Leigh as Elsie. The plot's primary success came from the comedy of errors that happened whenever the scenes took place at the Embassy. The first dinner date had Elsie drinking way too much and the Regent virtually ignoring her, until she was too far drunk to control her behavior. That initial encounter also seemed to foreshadow Monroe and Olivier's off-screen dynamic as well. Monroe's character zigged one way, while Olivier's went in the opposite direction much to his irritation. Olivier's on-screen annoyance at Monroe's Elsie prepared to reflect on how Monroe didn't fit his expectations and exceeded them at the same time. He was fascinated and beyond disgusted with the challenges of directing, which made him pull away from directing on the big screen until Three Sisters in 1970.
In terms of the performances, Olivier did an admirable job in playing The Regent, but it seemed a little too lightweight than his usual fare. Look at his performance as the tragic romantic in Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca and as the quietly disturbing villain in Marathon Man. This disconnect also made it a little jarring whenever Olivier came onto the screen, because viewers sort of expected him to have a darker purpose in mind which was further from the truth. Olivier's breakthrough moment came towards the end when his character had an emotional turnaround that made him realize it was better to wear his heart on his sleeve than not at all. Monroe's performance seemed to indicate she was destined for greater things, which happened with the comedy classic Some Like It Hot and her last film The Misfits. Both films indicated her comedic timing and the vulnerability that was underneath it. A tragedy that her career was cut short due to circumstances that will never be fully understood no matter how hard biographers tried to. Watch this movie and see how a star was born.
Verdict: A classic look at how two very different actors worked together, which masked the unpleasant nature that went on behind the scenes.
Classic Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: NR
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)