Marilyn Monroe may have been the original superstar, from the era when such mega-stardom was invented. Her public and private persona remains infinitely fascinating, even when she is portrayed as pouting, petulant, and persuasive by the actress Michelle Williams. On Sunday, the movie My Week With Marilyn, directed by Simon Curtis, premiered at the New York Film Festival, its centerpiece, and it is a gem.
Based upon two best-selling memoirs by Colin Clark, a young man who wanted to break into the business at the time that Monroe, with husband Arthur Miller in tow, arrived in London to film The Prince and the Showgirl, co-starring and directed by Sir Laurence Olivier, the story deftly centers upon that critical week in 1956, and yet manages to convey so much of Marilyn, particularly her child-like vulnerability, her insecurity as an actress, her natural charm and talents. While we have seen Michelle Williams tap dance and heard her sing before -- she was superb in last year's Blue Valentine -- her moves and voice as Marilyn evoke the subject's understated, magnetic performances.
Especially good are everyone in Marilyn's orbit: Eddie Redmayne as Colin, the narrator and Marilyn's knight in shining armor for that week, Dame Judi Dench, a wise, sensitive, and formidable older actress, Sybil Thorndike, Kenneth Branagh as the frustrated Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Dominic Cooper as Marilyn's agent, Milton Greene, and Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, her indispensable acting coach.
Michelle Williams occupied an alcove table at the Hudson Hotel pre-party hosted by Dior, hidden, smoking in the dark, outdoor garden on the warm night, while Eddie Redmayne gamely worked the roof. Simon Curtis spoke about the eight-year effort making the film, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth McGovern, so wonderful in the PBS mini-series, Downton Abbey.
Photographer Brigitte Lacombe said she photographed Williams as Monroe in the dressing room Marilyn used in London at the time of making The Prince and the Showgirl. I was immediately struck by the differences between stars then and now, reminded of the famed pictures taken by photographer Eve Arnold during that pivotal time in the mid-fifties, some private moments like Marilyn snapped from the rear in an airport ladies' room in Chicago, her skirt innocently hiked up, panties in view.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.