BBC Radio 4, 21-25 November 2011
Timed to coincide with the release of Simon Curtis' film of the same
name starring Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn recalls the experiences of Colin Clark,
younger brother of the late Tory MP Alan Clark, who worked as a gofer on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The experience of filming was not a happy one: the two stars Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe seldom saw eye to eye, while
Monroe spent much of her time being advised by her acting coach Paula Strasberg. Clark happened to be in the right
place at the right time; as a result he spent a week with Monroe acting as her confidante (as well as trying to persuade
her to come to the set each day), and learning a lot about the pressures of stardom. The two of them indulged in a series
of sweetly innocent adventures, even though Clark took a considerable risk by doing so.
Read by Samuel Barnett, My Week with Marilyn told a fascinating story, that
revealed as much about the author as Monroe herself. On the one hand Clark was well aware of the patriarchy - represented
in The Prince and the Showgirl by Olivier - that continually forced Monroe into doing what she did not really want
to. In her earlier career she had been forced to sleep with so-called 'influential' figures - studio heads, producers and
the like; now she was being forced to work with Britain's leading classical actor. Monroe continually rebelled against
such oppression, by staying in her dressing-room, turning up late, or going AWOL for a day or so - much to Olivier's frustration.
Clark enjoyed the experience of colluding with Monroe; by doing so he felt that was also challenging the patriarchal
world, as well as learning something about the actress' 'true' nature.
On the other hand Clark was as guilty of objectifying Monroe as all the other men
in her life; film people and husbands alike. His memoir was full of lovingly recreated descriptions of her breasts, backside,
and her lips that puckered invitingly as she kissed him. She might have been friendly, but to Clark she was also a sex-object.
In truth My Week with Marilyn was not really about Monroe at all, but rather
about Clark himself, as he experienced a rite-of-passage progress from adolescence into maturity. He began as a young man,
just down from Eton and Oxford; a little wet behind the ears, and ready to carry out Olivier's wishes to the hilt. By the
end of the memoir, his experiences with Monroe had transformed him; now he had sufficient self-possession to be able to boss
other people around, so that Monroe could have the kind of peace and quiet she craved after.
The book contained some rather banal judgments: Clark concluded that, despite everything,
Monroe fundamentally "didn't know where she was going." On the contrary, Monroe knew precisely where she was going, but often
did not anticipate the consequences of her actions. Nonetheless My Week with Marilyn was a fascinating piece, lovingly
recounted by someone whose life changed through association with her. The producer was Kirsteen Cameron.