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Some films seem like a bad idea from the start. When Marilyn Monroe announced to the world in 1956 that she was going to star in her first British movie, there were a lot of people who questioned the wisdom of her decision. The movie in question was The Prince and the Showgirl, which united Monroe’s sex appeal with the well mannered Laurence Olivier. Rumoured late arrivals on set and insecurity about starring next to the famous British actor left Monroe a nervous wreck during shooting. Could one of the world’s most famous actresses and Britain’s premiere actor really hit it off on screen, or was the movie doomed before it was even released? Read on to find out.

Prince And The Showgirl, The
Movie
The Prince and the Showgirl is set in the early Twentieth Century. Elsie Marina (Marilyn Monroe) is a simple American actress who works in a London show. One night the cast of the show gets to meet the Regent of Carpathia (Laurence Olivier). The Regent requests to go backstage to meet the cast (although he is only interested in the women), and an unfortunate incident attracts his attention to Miss Marina. Elsie, nervous at meeting the Regent, breaks her dress strap. Being a ladies’ man, the Regent is drawn to Elsie’s mishap, and quickly invites her to have a meal with him. At first Elsie doesn’t know whether to take him seriously, after all she is a commoner! However, she soon receives a letter containing an invite to the Regents house.

Elsie dresses up in her best frock, intent on making the most of an evening with royalty. The evening doesn’t go to plan, as the Regent seems more interested in speaking to people on the phone, rather than enjoying the company of his guest. What also worries Elsie is the fact that the Regent gives the impression that he wants more than her company for the night. At every opportunity he refills her drink so that she gradually begins to feel the effects of the alcohol. The evening progresses and the couple get to know each other better. By the end of the evening it becomes clear that Elsie falls in love easily, in fact so easily that she already appears to have strong feelings for the Regent.

Prince And The Showgirl, The
As the movie progresses the couple spend more time together, but a combination of the Regent’s political background and his grumpy character mean that it is hard for Elsie to get close to him. Thanks to the Regent’s mother-in-law (Sybil Thorndike) the couple start seeing more of each other, and the Regent starts to become less set in his ways.  As the couple get close, they must decide if they are really going to spend the rest of their lives together, or whether it was just never meant to be.

Watching this movie made a nice change. While watching it I realised how delightful and charming it really was. There is something about films made in the 60s & 70s which is sadly lacking in many modern day films. A lot of the humour seems to be innocent and not crude, which is certainly not the case for most of the humour featured in modern day films. The Prince and The Showgirl is a modern day fairytale in many ways. The idea behind it is very closely linked to Cinderella, but there are other moments which also have a surreal and innocent touch. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, there were concerns when the film was announced that the two lead stars would not get along. Well if they didn’t, it certainly was not captured on film. I cannot recall seeing a Marilyn Monroe film before from start to finish, so I was intrigued by her performance in this movie. I had heard lots of opinions about her, and the most common seemed to be that she had good screen presence. I would have to agree on that point. I cannot put my finger on it, but Monroe certainly takes centre stage when she is in a scene. Her bubbly character and perfect figure, combined with her obvious acting skills, make her an all-time great.  Laurence Olivier is also impressive in his role as the Regent. His character is the complete opposite to that played by Monroe, but he does just as good a job. When both actors are on the screen together, there seemed to be onscreen chemistry between them which enhanced my enjoyment of the film.

Prince And The Showgirl, The
The Prince and the Showgirl is a good night’s entertainment. It has something for audiences of all ages. Comedy, romance, family feuds and royalty are just some of the elements which have been packed into two hours.  You wouldn’t necessarily associate this movie with humours moments, but I was left surprised (and impressed!) by the number of amusing moments provided. Comedies these days are generally modelled on sex, so it was a nice change to watch a film with clean, innocent jokes. Good performances combined with an interesting storyline make this film a definite recommendation. If you haven’t seen a Marilyn Monroe movie before, or just want to see a film which typifies the 60s then give this movie a go.  

Video
Warner have produced a reasonable transfer with this movie. It is presented in Full Screen 1.33:1. At times the picture is very good, but it does struggle immensely with outside scenery. The opening sequence looks awful. It is very grainy, but thankfully grain levels are low for the rest of the movie. Clarity is surprisingly good for the age of the movie. Colour levels also exceeded expectations, with good realistic levels throughout the film. Skin tones were also accurate and there appeared to be no visible sign of damage to the print. There was also no sign of edge enhancements. Overall a fine transfer.

Audio
English, French and Italian Dolby 1.0 soundtracks are provided on this disc. On paper that doesn’t sound very impressive, but to be honest they are perfectly adequate. The Prince and the Showgirl is a very much a dialogue driven movie. Thankfully the dialogue is perfectly audible and clear at all times. It is slightly disappointing that more of an effort wasn’t made to enhance the tracks provided, but overall they do the job well. Also supplied with this disc are subtitles in ten different languages.

Prince And The Showgirl, The
Extras
The extras list is not very substantial, but considering the retail price it is not bad. The first feature is a crew and cast section. Here we are given details of six members of the cast. The most exciting extra on this disc is called ‘Announcement Newsreel’. This is a forty second clip from the original press conference, where the movie was announced. We are shown footage from the conference which is quite interesting to watch. Marilyn Monroe is given the key to Warner Studios, and we also get to see some other famous actors. The final extra provided with this disc is the theatrical trailer. I quite enjoyed watching this. The narrator sounds like a fairy story teller, so it fits in well with the nature of the film. What is evident from watching this trailer is how much work has been done with the DVD transfer. The print for the trailer is very badly damaged and emphasises how good the main feature is.

Overall
I had my reservations before watching this movie as I am not the greatest fan of romantic films, however I am pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Some old movies look quite dated these days, but The Prince and The Showgirl is as entertaining now as it has ever been. Monroe and Olivier are a great onscreen couple, who light up the screen whenever they are together. Add to that an impressive transfer, adequate audio and passable extras, all in all that makes this DVD a bargain. Considering it can be bought for £12.99 (probably less online), this is a movie that you simply cannot afford to miss.


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