My Week With Marilyn
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
A few years ago
I was at a lecture by film critic, academic and historian Richard A. Blake, SJ,
at the University of Dayton. (In 2000 he published “Afterimage: The Indelible Catholic Imagination of Six American Film
Makers”, a book every film student would do well to read. Blake also reviews
films for “America” magazine.)
During the Q & A that followed his lecture
about the great male film directors throughout history, I asked Fr. Blake if
there was at least one female director that had made a significant contribution
to the history of Hollywood. He thought for a moment and then said, “Well, if
there is one woman who has done so it would be Marilyn Monroe.” He did not
elaborate. All I could think of is that if Marilyn were alive today, she and
Blake would be about the same age. Tragically, Marilyn died of a suspected
overdose in 1962. I was ten years old and I remember her death well, though I
was much more impressed and saddened by the death of my hero Superman, i.e.,
George Reeves in 1959. Maybe it’s an age thing.
I ran into the same adulation for Monroe when I
took a History of Film course at the University of London while studying for my
master’s degree. The instructor seemed besotted by Marilyn Monroe, and frankly
none of us students, co-ed from twelve countries, between the ages of 23 and
63) could understand it.
But if Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams’
performance as Marilyn Monroe is to be believed, then perhaps Richard Blake’s
opinion, as well as that of my instructor, has some substance in terms of the
unattainable dream that Marilyn represented and filmmakers created.
“My Week with Marilyn” is based on a true story as
told in two books by Colin Clark, the third assistant to director/actor Sir Laurence
Olivier in the making of the 1956 film “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Marilyn
would have been 30 years old at the time, on her third marriage, and Colin, 24,
a young, likeable, single filmmaker wannabe. Colin was kind to her and they
spent some free time together (one skinny dipping scene) and a comforting
non-sexual night. Marilyn lacked confidence and was joined at the hip to an
acting coach as well as assistants who gave her pills for everything.
Michelle Williams’ performance was spot on, but so
was that of Judy Dench as the mother of the prince, though she seemed to have
most of the dialogue throughout the film.
This film, directed by Simon Curtis, seemed to
really be about capturing the aura and pathos of the life of two gifted and
beautiful actresses: Marilyn and Michelle. I think Michelle has already learned
enough lessons from the film business to last a lifetime. (Michelle Williams
has a daughter with Heath Ledger, who died in 2008 of an accidental overdose.)
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