The Prince and the Showgirl

The Prince and the Showgirl

Movie poster by Bill Gold
Directed by Laurence Olivier
Produced by Laurence Olivier
Screenplay by Terence Rattigan
Based on The Sleeping Prince
1953 play
by Terence Rattigan
Starring Marilyn Monroe
Laurence Olivier
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography Jack Cardiff
Edited by Jack Harris
Marilyn Monroe Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • 13 June 1957 (1957-06-13) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States[1]
Language English
Box office $4.3 million[2]

The Prince and the Showgirl (originally called The Sleeping Prince) is a 1957 British-American romantic comedy film starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. Olivier also served as director and producer. The screenplay by Terence Rattigan was based on his 1953 stage play The Sleeping Prince.[3] It was filmed in London.


The film is set in London in June 1911. George V will be crowned king on 22 June and in the preceding days many important dignitaries arrive. Among those arriving are the 16-year-old King Nicholas VIII of Carpathia, with his Prince Regent father, Charles (Laurence Olivier), a secondary Prince of Hungary and widower of the Queen of Carpathia.

The British government realises that keeping Balkan country Carpathia in the Triple Entente is critical during the rising tensions in Europe. They find it necessary to pamper the royals during their stay in London, and thus civil servant Northbrook (Richard Wattis), is detached to their service. Northbrook decides to take the Prince Regent out to the musical performance The Coconut Girl. During the intermission the Prince Regent is taken backstage to meet the cast. He is particularly uninterested in engaging with the male actors and extremely interested in the physical charms of Elsie Marina (Marilyn Monroe), one of the performers, and sends a formal written invitation for her to meet him at the Carpathian embassy for supper.

Elsie arrives at the embassy and is soon joined by the Prince Regent, a stiff and pompous man. She expects a large party but quickly realises the Prince's true intentions – to seduce her over a private supper. She is persuaded not to leave early by Northbrook, who promises to provide an excuse for her to escape after supper. The Prince Regent turns his back on her during the supper, taking phone calls and addressing matters of state. He then makes a clumsy pass at her, to which she is accustomed and immediately rebuffs. She pointedly explains how inept he is and that she had hoped the Prince was going to sway her with romance, passion and "gypsy violins". The Prince changes his style and tactics, complete with a violinist. The two eventually kiss and Elsie admits she may be falling in love, rebuffing Northbrook's promised feint to help her leave the embassy. Elsie then passes out from the many drinks she consumed before, during and after her semi-solitary supper. The Prince places her in an adjoining bedroom to stay the night.

The following day, Elsie overhears a conversation concerning the young Nicolas' plotting with the German embassy to overthrow his father. Promising not to tell, Elsie then meets the Dowager Queen (Sybil Thorndike), the Prince's mother-in-law, who decides Elsie should join them for the coronation in place of her sick lady-in-waiting. The ceremony passes and Elsie refuses to tell the Prince Regent details of the treasonous plot. Nicholas then invites her to the Coronation Ball, where she persuades Nicholas to draw up a contract in which he confesses his and the Germans' intent, but only if the Prince agrees to a general election. The Prince is impressed and realises that he has fallen in love with Elsie. The morning after the Coronation Ball, Elsie irons out the differences between father and son. Her honesty and sincerity have inspired the Prince to finally show sincere love to his son.

The next day, the Carpathians must leave to return home. The Prince Regent had planned to have Elsie join them. In eighteen months' time, his regency will be over and he will be a free citizen. She reminds him that that is also the length of her music-hall contract. They both realise that much can happen in eighteen months and say goodbye. The ending is ambiguous, left up to the viewer to decide if they will meet again.



Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier at a press conference announcing their partnership

The film was produced and directed by Laurence Olivier. It was shot in Technicolor at Pinewood Studios. Marilyn Monroe had formed her own company - Marilyn Monroe Productions, through which she purchased the rights to Terence Rattigan's The Sleeping Prince. Olivier and Vivien Leigh had played the lead roles in the original London production of the play.[1]

Production was marred with difficulties between Monroe and her co-stars and the production team. According to Jean Kent, Monroe regularly failed to arrive on set on time and "appeared dirty and dishevelled".[4] She caused her co-star Richard Wattis, who had a lot of scenes with her, to "take to drink because takes had to be done so many times" and had an uneasy relationship with the normally quiet and placid cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who said that Olivier referred to her as a "bitch". "She never arrived on time, never said a line the same way twice, seemed completely unable to hit her marks on the set and couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything at all without consulting her acting coach, Paula Strasberg."[4] Olivier also reportedly showed a strong dislike of Monroe and her acting coach; he ordered Strasberg off the set at one point and Monroe refused to continue shooting until she was restored. The relationship between Olivier and Monroe worsened when Olivier said "try and be sexy" to her and she never forgave him for it.[4] Kent states that the difficulties with filming and Monroe caused Olivier "to age 15 years."[4]

Donald Sinden, then a contract star for the Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios, had a permanent dressing room four doors from Monroe's during the filming, although working on different movies. He said "She was still suffering from the effects of The Method school of acting, so one day I had the props department make up a notice that I fixed to my door saying: "Office of the Nazak (Kazan, backwards) Academy. You too can be inaudible. New egos superimposed. Motivations immobilised. Imaginary stone-kicking eradicated. Um's & Er's rendered obsolete. Motto: 'Though 'Tis Method Yet There's Madness In It'." I waited inside and presently heard the usual footsteps of her and her entourage. They paused outside and from the entire group I only heard one laugh—that of Monroe. The door burst open and in she came, slamming the door in the faces of her livid retainers. From that moment on, whenever the poor girl could not face the problems of her hybrid existence—which was frequently—she popped in for a natter and a giggle. Of course as a sex symbol she was stunning, but sadly, she must be one of the silliest women I have ever met."[5]


The Prince and the Showgirl originally received mixed reviews from critics, although it grew over time to become more positive. It was said that the pairing of Monroe and Olivier together in a movie was the "most diverting piece of casting in many a year," but most other reviews were not as positive. Terence Rattigan's screenplay in itself was not well-received; many critics agreed that it was not a good representation of the stage play, The Sleeping Prince, on which his story had been based. A review in The New York Times stated that the film lacked originality and that Rattigan's characterizations were "too limiting" and "dull" to allow Monroe and Olivier to be showcased to their fullest potential. Many critics agreed that the two main characters were "essentially dull", and there was considerable criticism for the film's long running time and "slow-moving" plot.

On the general basis, Monroe and Olivier did receive particular praise for their performances; however, not all reviews were kind to their work. One review stated that "Sir Laurence is kept pretty much a stuffed-shirt, wearing a monocle and speaking in Teutonic accents that are unpleasant and hard to understand. And Miss Monroe mainly has to giggle, wiggle, breathe deeply and flirt. She does not make the showgirl a person, simply another of her pretty oddities." Other critics noted Monroe and Olivier's lack of on-screen chemistry, while other reviews praised it. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a "fresh" rating of 86%.

The Prince and the Showgirl was not a major box office success, faring poorly in comparison to Monroe's earlier releases, such as The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop. Particularly popular in England, it failed to find the same success in America but managed to earn a substantial profit.[6]

Awards and nominations

Date of ceremony Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
December 1957[7][8] National Board of Review Awards Best Supporting Actress Sybil Thorndike Won
1958[9] British Academy Film Awards Best British Actor Laurence Olivier Nominated
Best British Screenplay Terence Rattigan Nominated
Best British Film The Prince and the ShowgirlNominated
Best Film from any Source The Prince and the ShowgirlNominated
Best Foreign Actress Marilyn MonroeNominated
July 29, 1958[10] David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Marilyn MonroeWon
September 10, 1958[11] Laurel Awards Top Female Comedy Performance Marilyn Monroe (4th place)Nominated
February 26, 1959[12] Crystal Star Awards Best Foreign Actress Marilyn MonroeWon

Associated works

The 2011 film My Week with Marilyn depicts the week in which Monroe spent being escorted around London by personal assistant Colin Clark, during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. The movie is largely based upon two books by Clark recounting his experiences during the production: My Week with Marilyn (2000) and The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me: Six Months on the Set With Marilyn and Olivier (1996). Both books and the film depict Monroe striking up a friendship and alleged semi-romantic relationship with Clark for a brief time during production.[13]

See also


  1. 1 2
  2. "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  3. Bosley Crowther (1957). "The Prince and the Showgirl". The New York Times.
  4. 1 2 3 4 "'Grubby' Marilyn Monroe made Laurence Olivier 'age 15 years' during filming". The Daily Telegraph. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  5. A Touch Of The Memoirs Donald Sinden. Hodder & Stoughton 1982. pages 238-9
  6. Pat Ryan (11 November 2011). "The Prince, the Showgirl, and the Stray Strap". The New York Times.
  7. "National Board of Review, USA: Awards for 1957". IMDb. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  8. "National Board of Review: 1957 Award Winners". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  9. "BAFTA Awards Search: 1958". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  10. "David di Donatello Awards: Awards for 1958". IMDb. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  11. "Laurel Awards: Awards for 1958". IMDb. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  12. "Photos: 1959 Crystal Star Award". Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  13. Steven Kurutz (16 November 2011). "At Home With Marilyn in England". The New York Times.
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