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The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

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An American showgirl becomes entangled in political intrigue when the Prince Regent of a foreign country attempts to seduce her.

Director:

Laurence Olivier

Writers:

Terence Rattigan (by), Terence Rattigan (screenplay)
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Nominated for 5 BAFTA Film Awards. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Wattis ... Northbrook
David Horne ... The Foreign Office
Jeremy Spenser ... King Nicolas
Sybil Thorndike ... The Queen Dowager
Laurence Olivier ... The Regent
Harold Goodwin ... Call Boy
Gladys Henson Gladys Henson ... Dresser
Marilyn Monroe ... Elsie
Jean Kent ... Maisie Springfield
Charles Victor Charles Victor ... Theatre Manager
Daphne Anderson ... Fanny
Vera Day ... Betty
Gillian Owen Gillian Owen ... Maggie
Esmond Knight ... Hoffman
Paul Hardwick ... Major Domo
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Storyline

June, 1911. Among the dignitaries from the Balkan State of Carpathia in London for the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary is the Regent, His Serene Highness the Grand Duke Charles. The London foreign office places great importance on Carpathia because of an unstable geopolitical situation with Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany set to overthrow its monarchy government if allowed. The Regent, a Prince originally from Hungary, and the most recent and now deceased Queen married for convenience. As such, the Regent has spent time with a series of lady friends while on his travels in his somewhat "free" state. In meeting one of those London women, music hall actress Maisie Springfield, and the company of her current production "The Coconut Girl", the Regent instead has his eyes set on one of the minor players in the show, American actress Elsie Marina. When seemingly simpleminded Elsie receives a party invitation from the Regent for that evening, Elsie is not so simpleminded to understand ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Some countries have a medal for Everything.

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | German | French

Release Date:

13 June 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sleeping Prince See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first non-Shakespearean movie directed by Sir Laurence Olivier. See more »

Goofs

In the shot overlooking the Carpathian Embassy, the rear of Buckingham Palace is shown. The Palace has a small lake and a wooded area at the far end of the vast expanse of the lawn. Both are missing in the shot. See more »

Quotes

Charles, the Prince Regent: What has chiefly disturbed Sir Edward, is the fact that these stupid Americans have protested. Some nonsense about political freedom and democratic rights. You know what children Americans are in matters of this kind. Their diplomacy makes me think of the Minotaur legend reversed, you know. The bull chasing Theseus through the labyrinth.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Marilyn Monroe: Beyond the Legend (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

The British Grenadiers
(uncredited)
Traditional
Arranged by Cecil H. Jaeger
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Lightweight Wins by a Knockout
25 June 2004 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

It is interesting that a number of films set during the 1900s and early 1910s, both comedies such as 'The Assassination Bureau' and serious dramas such as 'The Riddle of the Sands' and the Robert Powell version of 'The 39 Steps', focus on diplomatic attempts to prevent the outbreak of a European war, even though we know that in real life such attempts were to end in failure. Perhaps this reflects a view that 1914 was the year that witnessed the modern age's loss of innocence and that the history of the twentieth century would have been immeasurably happier if the First World War had indeed been averted.

'The Prince and the Showgirl' is another comedy that looks back to the pre-1914 era as a lost golden age. It centers upon Grand Duke Charles, the Prince Regent of the Balkan state of Carpathia, who, while in London for the coronation of King George V, meets, and has a brief romance with, Elsie Marina, an American-born showgirl working in a London music-hall. Their association is encouraged by officials of the British Foreign Office, who are seeking to encourage the pro-British policies of the Carpathian government and to prevent a shift towards a pro-German stance which could threaten the peace of Europe.

Laurence Olivier is today- rightly- regarded as one of Britain's greatest heavyweight actors of the twentieth century, a man who (unlike some of his fellow theatrical knights) was at home in film roles as he was in the classical Shakespearean dramas in which he made his name. Marilyn Monroe is- perhaps wrongly- widely regarded as a lightweight Hollywood starlet whose main talent was looking decorative in a series of undemanding parts. When the two went head-to-head together, however, there was an unexpected result, with the lightweight beating the heavyweight by a knockout.

The above boxing metaphor was suggested by the numerous stories about the strained relations between Olivier and Monroe during the making of the film, supposedly caused by what he saw as the inadequacy of her performance. If those stories are true, I think that Lord Olivier should perhaps have looked more closely at the beam in his own eye than at the mote in hers. Although this is not Monroe's best film, there is nothing particularly wrong with her portrayal of Elsie, who comes across as a typical Monroe character- empty-headed and flirtatious, but basically decent. It was Olivier's Grand Duke who struck me as the main problem with the film.

Although Charles is supposedly the Hungarian-born ruler of a Balkan kingdom, he speaks English with the heavily guttural pseudo-Germanic accent normally associated with British actors playing Nazis of the 've haff vays und means' school. To strengthen the impression, he occasionally barks German interjections such as 'Himmel!', 'Dummkopf!' 'Schweinehund!' and even 'Donnerwetter!', an imprecation I have never heard a real German use. (The few extended examples of German dialogue in the film suggest that the Carpathians not only speak English with a German accent, but also speak German with an English one. To judge from Sybil Thorndyke's efforts, their French is even worse).

Given that his persona is uncomfortably close to the standard cinematic version of an SS officer (an association that must have seemed even more apparent in 1957 than it does today) and that his preferred method of solving the political problems of Carpathia is to imprison without trial as many opposition politicians as possible, Charles is not exactly love's young dream. His emotional coldness and obsession with formality and protocol suggest a caricature more than a real person. Caricature may be appropriate in certain types of comedy, especially satire, but in romantic comedy it seems misplaced, as the romances of real, or real-seeming, individuals are more interesting than those of cartoon characters. Moreover, for romantic comedy to work we need to be able to believe in both parties to the romance, not just one. While Monroe tries to make Elsie a real and likable person, Olivier seems content to draw upon a combination of two stock comic characters, the 'funny foreigner' and the 'stuffy aristocrat'. Although older man/younger woman love-stories were as common in the cinema of the fifties as they are today, this one seems particularly incongruous. Monroe was already in her thirties when the film was made, but the naïve and innocent Elsie seems much younger, whereas the middle-aged Charles seems a man old before his time, an impression created as much by his stiffness of manner and bearing as by his grey hair. The gap in the ages of Charles and Elsie seems considerably greater than the nineteen-year gap in the ages of the actors.

Halliwell's Film Guide praises the film for its 'good production values', that publication's normal shorthand for 'expensive sets and costumes'. Certainly, those elements are impressive, although Elsie's hairstyle and figure-hugging dress seem to reflect the fashions of 1957 more than they do those of 1911. There is, however, little else in the film that impresses. Perhaps Olivier himself was less than impressed by the film, as it was his first experience of directing other than his three famous Shakespeare adaptations, and it was to be his last until he directed a version of Chekhov's 'The Three Sisters' thirteen years later. My lasting impression will be of an unconvincing romance between two ill-matched characters and of an uncharacteristically poor performance from a great actor. 4/10


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