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My Week With Marilyn

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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Bruno: This saint has the honor of having founded a religious order which, as the saying goes, has never had to be reformed because it was never deformed. No doubt both the founder and the members would reject such high praise, but it is an indication of the saint's intense love of a penitential life in solitude. 
<p>Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany, became a famous teacher at Rheims and was appointed chancellor of the archdiocese at the age of 45. He supported Pope Gregory VII in his fight against the decadence of the clergy and took part in the removal of his own scandalous archbishop, Manasses. Bruno suffered the plundering of his house for his pains. </p><p>He had a dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage. After a while he felt the place unsuitable and, through a friend, was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" (from which comes the word Carthusians). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers. </p><p>Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts. </p><p>The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing a bishopric) in the wilderness of Calabria. </p><p>He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians were averse to all occasions of publicity. However Pope Clement X extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.</p> American Catholic Blog The saints in heaven love and care for us, and so it is fitting that we pray to them and ask for their prayers, as we on earth assist one another through prayer.

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