Book Review: My Week with Marilyn
Since I wrote my recent book about the making of two Jean Harlow biopics, I was very interested to read Colin Clark’s memoir My Week with Marilyn published in 2000. It has now been turned into an acclaimed motion picture starring Michelle Williams. The Brokeback Mountain co-star has been receiving raves for her portrayal of neurotic Marilyn Monroe during the filming of the movie, The Prince and the Showgirl, which was shot in London and co-starred Sir Laurence Olivier who also directed. No surprise, the two movie stars did not connect or get along in the least. The 23-year-old Clark was a family friend of Olivier’s and was hired to be the 3rd Assistant Director (a glorified gofer) on the movie where he kept a diary of the 3 month shoot.
When I went to download the e-book, I was surprised to read two scathing reviews. Both called the now-deceased Clark (who went on to become a documentary filmmaker) a liar and claimed he fabricated the whole story about this one week he spent with Monroe after her then husband, playwright Arthur Miller, had returned to the States short time. Diehard Monroefans despise Clarkand his tome. I also discovered that in 1995, Clarkhad authored The Prince, the Showgirl and Me using his diary as the basis, but omitting this entire week.
I was more curious now than ever, so I read the book taking it all with a grain of salt. It is very entertaining and a fast read. I believed howClarkstumbled into becoming brief friends with Marilyn and trying to balance her trust in him versus his obligation to a frustrated Olivier who was pumping him for any information on the actress. The anecdotes of the uptight Olivier trying to work with such a diva as Marilyn who was consistently late to the set and also accompanied by Paula Strasberg who envisioned her self as some great mentor of actors, were even more fun to read then Clark’s interactions withMonroe. His insights on how Olivier blundered and kept Marilyn at arms length, even turning the crew against her, and making her feel unwelcomed rang true especially since co-star Dame Sybil Thorndike treated the actress with high respect. When shooting scenes with her, Marilyn was almost on time.
I thought I was finished with the book, which I really liked, when I learned the e-book edition also included The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me. I immediately leapt in and began reading all the discrepancies between what Colin Clark reported here and what he wrote 5 years later. All the barbs railed against My Week with Marilyn now began taking hold and reading this (which was a bit dull and not nearly as fun as the other) made me like My Week with Marilyn a bit less. However, if you take it for the most part as fiction (though all the surrounding chaos with Oliver on the set seems true) it is a highly enjoyable read. Now I need to see the movie. Below is the trailer