Summary: The Prince and the Showgirl doesn’t live up to its title; the prince does not show enough regalia and the showgirl doesn’t entertain enough
Forgive me for sounding prurient but the only memorable moment in The Prince and the Showgirl is Marilyn in her lovely white dress, her cone-shaped bosom sticking out as Laurence pins the batch on her. The dress also highlights her ballooned derrière that is especially arresting when she rehearses her dance alone in the prince’s room. Otherwise, The Prince and the Showgirl, a movie starring Laurence Olivier, a legendary classical actor and Marilyn Monroe, an iconic sex symbol (and a mediocre method actor) remains effete, not only because of the backstage issues that I would elaborate later on, but also because of the plot being more suitable for the stage than the film.
Set within a political backdrop is the romantic comedy between Grand duke Charles (Olivier), the regent to the throne of fictional Carpathia and the showgirl, Elsie. Elsie is invited by the regent to spend the night with him but she overstays her welcome by involving herself in an ongoing friction between the regent and his son, who is to accede to the throne in eighteen months, and tries to patch the cracks between father and son.
Script: Blending politics with romance can be tricky especially when comedy is added to the amalgam. The three genres have to be inter-fused in a manner than none becomes overwrought. In The Prince and the Showgirl, it is the comedy that almost crushes any believability in the romance and politics. Part of the blame goes to Laurence Olivier whose regent is so eccentric and loony as Dr. Strangelove that one cannot get feel any humanness within his character. Another problem is that the scenes take ages to shift, particularly the first encounter between the regent and Elsie. The dialogs are more apt for a play; in a film, they seem heavy-handed, mundane and artificial. I can vision a good play here because of the long duration of the scenes which is the characteristic of most plays, but not a good film.
Acting: A chaotic shoot between Marilyn and Olivier, both from different acting schools, with Strasberg‘s wife and Thorndike in the muddle has etched its effects on the final product. The ephemeral passion between the two dries much of the romance and it is only Thorndike who comes to the rescue with her portrayal of the partly deaf, stinging Queen. Both Marilyn and Olivier have their individual moments, Marilyn nailing her dialogs during her exchange with the regent’s son in the garden while Olivier succeeding in the later scenes, but as a whole, both look like the archetypes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And Marilyn is prettier here than she was in The Bus Stop, but I yet haven’t been particularly bewitched by her. Also, I have to mention that her acting can be very clumsy at times. For example, in the scene where she presses the buzzer to show her approval, Marilyn seems as if she had got the idea at the time of acting the scene. Thinking that the instinctive move of pressing the buzzer would showcase her method training, she looks at the buzzer, presses it once but not properly and then presses it again so that it would ring; this moment ends up looking extremely clumsy and immature.
The Prince and the Showgirl doesn’t live up to its title; the prince does not show enough regalia and the showgirl doesn’t entertain enough.