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When Marilyn Met the Queen: Marilyn Monroe's Life in England
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When Marilyn Met the Queen: Marilyn Monroe's Life in England (Hardback)

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'England? It seemed to be raining the whole time . . . Or maybe it was me.'

Marilyn Monroe

'The Queen is very warm-hearted. She radiates sweetness. She asked how I liked living in Windsor, and I said, "What?!" and she said that as I lived in Englefield Green, near to Windsor, we were neighbours. So, I told her that Arthur and I went on bicycle rides in the park. Princess Margaret was nice, too. When she was talking to Anthony Quayle, next to me, I butted in and said she must go and see my husband's play, A View from the Bridge. The Princess laughed and said she might.'

Marilyn Monroe, the Empire Theatre, 29 October, 1956

In July 1956, Marilyn Monroe arrived in London, on honeymoon with her husband Arthur Miller, to make The Sleeping Prince, later released as The Prince and the Showgirl, with Laurence Olivier. This project was the first under her Marilyn Monroe Productions banner, and so Marilyn saw it as an opportunity not only to produce a movie, but to also work with respected actor/director Laurence Olivier.

Marilyn arrived at London Airport with her husband, playwright Arthur Miller. The two were on honeymoon and looking forward to a peaceful stay. The plan was that through the day, Marilyn would work at Pinewood Studios, while Arthur would support her, and work on his own projects. Then in the evening the couple would have time to relax in the private space of their English country cottage. It didn't quite turn out that way.

The first problem was that the 'cottage' was actually a mansion, Parkside House, complete with full staff, including a personal security officer. The owner - Lord Drogheda - was the managing director of the Financial Times, a friend of royals and other dignitaries. He was used to living in a home full of servants and hangers-on, but Marilyn was not. Raised as a waif and used to living in tiny hotel rooms and apartments, Marilyn felt herself being watched. Her discomfort was justified when two servants were found to be selling stories to the press and dismissed.

When filming of The Prince and the Showgirl began, it was a disaster. Olivier had worked on the stage version with his wife, Vivien Leigh, and many of the cast were friends of the couple, who had also acted in the play. Director Joshua Logan wrote to Olivier, offering advice on how to handle Marilyn as an actress (he had worked with her just months before), but for his own reasons, Olivier decided not to listen. Instead, he condescended her in his introduction to the cast, pooh-poohed her views on acting, and dismissed her stage-fright as an inconvenience. Marilyn grew to hate Olivier with a passion; the feeling was mutual.

As time went on, it became clear that the trip would not be a positive one. Marilyn found herself torn between settling into married life, being a curiosity for the frequently hostile British press, and her work on The Prince and the Showgirl. It was a confusing time for the actress, and she took solace in small acts of kindness from members of the public, and a new fascination with Queen Elizabeth.

From early in the trip, Marilyn made a point of adopting some of the Queen's favourite brands: she bought gloves from Cornelia James; spritzed perfume from Floris; announced her intention to wear Yardley's Lavender instead of Chanel No. 5; and requested a manicure and pedicure from Elizabeth Arden's assistant. Rumours abounded that the actress might be invited to a Royal Command Performance, but not wishing to miss out, Marilyn made a point of asking the film's PR manager to add a royal meeting to her schedule. Every day the list would be presented to Olivier, who would tut-tut and scrub the request off. The next morning, Marilyn's demand would reappear, Olivier would delete it, and the circle would continue. Eventually, however, Marilyn received her wish, and she met the Queen during a Royal Command Performance at the Empire Theatre in London.

In When Marilyn Met the Queen, Michelle looks at the England trip in detail, including the weeks before Marilyn's arrival, and the later release of the movie. She explores the making of the film, as well as what Marilyn did in her spare time: the theatre visits; shopping trips; her already-strained relationship with Arthur Miller; friends she made; the ways she influenced British culture; the fans she met; and the personal difficulties she endured throughout her four-month stay.

Michelle's book is also a richly detailed portrait of late-1950s' Britain; the music on the radio; contemporary films and plays; celebrations of Marilyn's arrival and the atmosphere in England in the summer and autumn of 1956.

BiographyBiography: generalBiography: arts & entertainment Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group Publication Date: 13/01/2022 ISBN-13: 9781472145970  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
Availability: Pre-order for despatch on publication. Pre-Order

MICHELLE MORGAN is the author or co-author of nine books about Marilyn Monroe, including Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed. Rights in Michelle's books have sold to Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, South Korea and Macedonia. She has written for magazines and newspapers, including Yours Retro, Sunday Express, The Lady, Big Issue, Emirates Woman, Writing Magazine, Social and Personal and Yoga Magazine. Michelle lives in Northamptonshire.

More books by Michelle Morgan

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