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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

My Week With Marilyn

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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