Olivier does 24 with Marilyn
"The Prince and the Showgirl" is a very well known movie and in Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe it has two of cinema's biggest icons but it doesn't actually mean it's very good. In fact "The Prince and the Showgirl" whilst an entertaining romantic comedy which doesn't just follow the rule book ends up quite ordinary with a few moments which really work and plenty which don't. But then it seems to me that "The Prince and the Showgirl" is popular not because of the actual movie but because of the well documented issues behind the scenes as Laurence Olivier found Marilyn Monroe intolerable.
Whilst on a visit to London, Grandduke Charles (Laurence Olivier), the Prince Regent of Carpathia, decides that he would like to entertain Elsie (Mariln Monroe - The Seven Year Itch), a young actress who caught his eye when she suffered a wardrobe malfunction. But whilst the Prince Regent has plans of getting his leg over, Elsie soon wises up and puts pay to the Regent's attempt to seduce her. And when the next day the Prince Regent discovers that Elsie is still at his residence he is less than happy, even more so when The Queen Dowager (Sybil Thorndike) asks her to be lady in waiting for the day and she also becomes friendly with the Prince Regent's son Nicolas (Jeremy Spenser) who she discovers plans to over throw his own father.
"The Prince and the Showgirl" is a surprisingly simple movie as it revolves around the Prince Regent of Carpathia trying to get his leg over with Elsie but becoming exasperated when things don't go as he planned and even more exasperated when the next day she is still around and can't seem to get rid of her. There is a subplot surrounding the Prince Regent's son planning to over throw his father but really everything revolves around the relationship between Elsie and the Prince Regent.
Now it is quite good fun from the initial wardrobe malfunction which causes the Prince Regent to notice Elsie to her being invited to his London home where she quickly discovers that the invitation to a dinner is really just her being lined up as a conquest. And watching the Prince's desperate attempts to get his leg over and then to get rid of her when it fails is also fun. And it is also charming as we watch a real bond grown between them as Elsie brings out the best in the Prince whilst also cleverly trying to stop the Prince's son from starting a war. But it just feels drawn out with scenes going on much longer than needed contributing to its almost 2 hour running length and that is really why it does end up ordinary because it becomes a bit of a slog, lacking punchiness and energy.
What is for the certain is that even if you are one of cinema's greatest actors you are always going to play second fiddle to Marilyn Monroe. In every single scene they share it is Marilyn Monroe as Elsie who grabs your attention, with her cutesy comedy even though Laurence Olivier creates an interesting character in the Prince Regent. And it is not just the great Laurence Olivier who is over shadowed as all the cast be it Sybil Thorndike as the over the top The Queen Dowager or Richard Wattis as the equally over the top Northwood, no one steals a scene from Marilyn. Maybe that and along with various back stage issues is why Laurence Olivier found making this movie such a trying experience. But it does mean one thing, when the Prince Regent is exasperated by Elsie you certainly have Olivier delivering exasperation.
What this all boils down to is that "The Prince and the Showgirl" is entertaining but it is not that special, in fact it is rather ordinary and over long with just the fact it doesn't play out exactly as you expect making it interesting. But it is one of those movies which have become legendary more for what went on behind the scenes than in front of them.