The Prince and the Showgirl
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.
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 the (fictional) Balkan country of Carpathia, with his father the widower Prince Regent, Charles (Laurence Olivier) and his maternal grandmother the widower Queen of Carpathia, considered to be inspired by King Michael of Romania, Carol II of Romania, and Queen Marie of Romania.
The British government decide that keeping 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 not particularly interested in engaging with the male actors but extremely interested in the physical charms of Elsie Marina (Marilyn Monroe), one of the performers, and he sends a formal 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, which she 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.
- Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina
- Laurence Olivier as Charles, the Prince Regent of Carpathia
- Sybil Thorndike as the Dowager Queen
- Richard Wattis as Northbrook
- Jeremy Spenser as King Nicolas
- Paul Hardwick as Major Domo
- Esmond Knight as Colonel Hoffman
- Rosamund Greenwood as Maud
- Aubrey Dexter as The Ambassador
- Maxine Audley as Lady Sunningdale
- Harold Goodwin as Call Boy
- Jean Kent as Maisie Springfield
- Daphne Anderson as Fanny
- Gillian Owen as Maggie
- Vera Day as Betty
- Margot Lister as Lottie
- Charles Victor as Theatre Manager
- David Horne as The Foreign Office
- Gladys Henson as Dresser