The Prince, The Showgirl and Me

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Author Colin Clark
Publisher St. Martin's Press
Cover Type Hardcover
Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Publish Date 1995
ISBN 0-312-14395-8
Signed No
Number of Pages 219


Over Christmas a very good friend in England was kind enough to tape a documentary on the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl” off the BBC and send it on to me. To be truthful, even though I was overwhelmed that anyone would take the time to tape something for me and then mail it overseas, I really did expect a rather dry documentary with little humor exploring yet another “things went wrong right from the start” commentary on a Marilyn movie. What I found though was a delightful and often hilarious documentary on the diaries of Colin Clark and his “fly on the wall” observations on the filming of one of my favorite movies. In fact, the documentary was SO good I spent the next day searching the internet for a used copy of Mr. Clark’s book, “The Prince, The Showgirl and Me: Six Months on the Set with Marilyn and Olivier”. (The good news is there are lots of used copies to be found-- and not at all expensive-- I found my copy, a used library copy, for $2.95!)

 Well, the book arrived yesterday morning and by last night I had read the entire thing-- it’s just that much fun. After reading though, it would seem that the subtitle to the book should be “How Did the Greatest Actor in the World End Up So Stiff and the Fluff Sexpot End Up So Very, Very Good?”. That’s the basic question of the whole Prince and Showgirl experience. And Colin Clark, bless his heart, was right there and just removed enough to be able to observe without anyone shooing him away. The book, if anything, is even better than the documentary-- and best of all, it is very often laugh out loud hilarious.

 Do you all remember Kenneth Clark and his PBS/BBC series “Civilization”? Colin is his son. It never hurts to have connections and when a big Hollywood Movie Star is coming over to the UK to make a movie with the “greatest living actor in the world” it works out just fine if you pull a few strings to get a lowly “go-fer” job on the set. That’s how Colin ended up being able to watch the unfolding drama/comedy of the making of Prince first hand.

 Clark set out to do whatever needed to be done, running errands, grabbing coffee, and then at night, settling down to fill his diary in on all that had taken place that day. The resulting book, in diary form following the shoot from day one until the wrap, is an absolute hoot. As he was basically writing for himself, the young Clark holds nothing back and as a result we are treated to some uncensored observations and opinions on not only Marilyn and the haughty Olivier but others like Paula Strasberg, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Vivien Leigh and a host of others whose names we may not recognize but surely grow to love as the book continues.

 Now this is going to sound fairly snobbish and “just like a Yank” but there is something about the book as well as the documentary that just delights me-- it’s that “stiff upper lip and oh so British” tone to the whole thing. You can hear the English accent as you read. And what makes it such a delight is to read things that a Yank would swear would never cross the lips of a Brit. Clark’s daily observations as Olivier pulled his hair, while Vivien looked jealously on, Arthur began to wonder what on earth he’d gotten himself into and Thorndike’s not often silent cheerleading of Miss Monroe end up all the richer for this Yank’s preconceived notions.

 And yes, just like the Showgirl herself, Marilyn comes out on top, subtly oblivious of the uproar she had created while putting in one of the best performances of her life. She wins Colin over just as she would everyone who would see the movie, worming her way deep down into our hearts. “The Prince, The Showgirl and Me” is a cheery delight.

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