My Week With Marilyn | 2011
Fascinating view of the filming of Terence Rattigan’s The Sleeping Prince, which went on to become the ill-fated film The Prince and the Showgirl – though I suspect the romance between Marilyn Monroe and the young Colin Clark might be taken with an industrial-size delivery of salt.
Much of the film was made at Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, in Buckinghamshire, west of London – in the same studio where The Prince and the Showgirl was shot in 1956. And Michelle Williams was given the dressing room Marilyn Monroe used at the time – one of several of the real locations used.
Pinewood grew up around the Victorian estate of Heatherden Hall, bought in 1934 by building tycoon Charles Boot, who turned the mansion into a country club. In partnership with the Methodist millionaire Arthur J Rank, the estate was further developed into a film studio, with the name Pinewood a deliberate nod to the movie-making capital in Los Angeles.
The studio was officially opened on 30 September 1936, and over the years has been the base for two of the most successful and long-running British film franchises, the Carry On... films and the James Bond movies – it’s home to the famous 007 Stage, built in 1976 for The Spy Who Loved Me.
The faux-Tudor gatehouse seen in the film stands on the west side of Pinewood Road, north of Uxbridge Road, and really is the old entrance to the studio, though it’s no longer used as the main access to the lot.
Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, UK film studios tend to be purely work environments and are not able to offer studio tours.
Apart from Pinewood, the film also used Shepperton and Ealing Studios, as well as Twickenham Studios in southwest London, which provided locations for the tiny old-style screening room, where director and cast watch the rushes, and the Wardrobe Department.
Another genuine location used is Saltwood Castle, Castle Road, Hythe, home of the Clark family in Kent, as the young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) announces he’s off to get a job in the movies. The 12th Century castle was bought in 1955 by the real Colin Clark’s father, art historian Lord Clark of Saltwood (Sir Kenneth Clark, who presented the legendary TV series Civilisation). A private home, not open to the public, the story goes that Hermann Goering had set his sights on the castle after Germany’s inevitable triumph in WWII, and ordered the Luftwaffe not to destroy it during air raids on the UK.
The cinema, in which Clark falls for Marilyn’s charms when he watches her perform Heatwave, is the wonderful little Phoenix Cinema, 52 High Road, East Finchley, in north London. Built in 1910 as ‘The East Finchley Picturedrome’, the cinema claims to be the oldest purpose-built cinema in continuous use in the UK, and has already been seen on-screen in two Neil Jordan films, Interview With The Vampire and The End of the Affair.
As Clark makes his way to Laurence Olivier’s production offices on Piccadilly in the heart of London, there’s a brief glimpse of the posh Burlington Arcade on Piccadilly (remember the IRA operating out of here in the marvelously ludicrous Patriot Games? or perhaps Jeff Daniels being dragged through it in 101 Dalmatians?).
Much of Piccadilly has been modernised, and it’s too busy to close down for anything more than establishing shots, so the quieter Shepherds Market in Mayfair stands in for Olivier’s business premises.
The wood-panelled art deco interior, though, in which Clark angles for a job, is over in Bloomsbury. It’s the Grade II-listed Victoria House, which occupies the square bounded by Bloomsbury Square and Southampton Row. Victoria House was recently on screen again, as the retreat of the ailing Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite) in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
White Waltham Airfield, southwest of Maidenhead, Berkshire, was turned into the amazingly low-tech ‘London Heathrow Airport’ of the 1950s, for the moment when Monroe and then-husband playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) are overwhelmed by the press on their arrival in Britain. One of the oldest airfields in the country, and reputedly the largest grass airfield in Britain, White Waltham, set in 200 acres on the edge of a picturesque countryside estate, is home to the West London Aero Club (WLAC).
It’s clearly a sterling job by the Location manager as Monroe and Miller stay at Parkside House, Wick Lane, Egham, in Surrey – which is again the real deal. Just to the west of Staines, this is where the couple stayed during there time in England but is, again, a private house.
Clark takes wardrobe girl Lucy (Emma Watson) to south London on a date at the Rivoli Ballroom, 350 Brockley Road, Crofton Park, SE4. Built originally as a cinema in 1915, the red-and-gilt venue claims to be the only remaining 1950s ballroom in the UK, and has inevitably graced countless music promos and TV ads, as well as being seen on the big screen as a nightclub in Brian Helgeland's Legend, with Tom Hardy as both Ron and Reggie Kray, a 40s dancehall in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, as well as the excellent (if little seen) romcom This Year’s Love and in David A Stewart’s turkey Honest. Its bar became the ‘East Berlin’ club where Brad Pitt stops off in Tony Scott’s Spy Game..
Marilyn attempts to go shopping at posh jeweller Asprey, 165-169 New Bond Street, in the West End, but is soon terrifyingly mobbed by fans. Back in the 60s, this is where Ringo Starr tries unsuccessfully to get the sacrificial ring removed in the Beatles’ second feature, Help!. More recently, Jonathan Rhys Meyers shops for luxury trinkets here in Woody Allen’s Match Point.
When Marilyn wants to take a quiet day off, Colin takes her to Windsor Castle. The entrance, in Windsor, is real enough, but as one of the official homes of Her Maj, the estate is not generally used as a film location. The long shot of the castle’s drive was created digitally, while the familiar Hatfield House, Hatfield in Hertfordshire, provides the interior and library, as well as the castle grounds.
Hatfield was seen as ‘Wayne Manor’ in Tim Burtons Batman, and featured in the same director’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; it was the home of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider; and of Lord Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan, Lord Of The Apes; as well as providing the backdrop for period pieces such as Shakespeare in Love, Henry VIII And His Six Wives and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.
The staircase, where Marilyn puts on a bit of a show for the Windsor staff, is much closer to the real Castle. It’s at Eton School which, conveniently, is the pair’s next stop. Eton’s Quad is a screen regular – though it’s usually representing somewhere else – ‘Cambridge University’ in Chariots of Fire, the ‘Palace of Westminster’ in The Madness Of King George, and ‘Hampton Court’ in Henry VIII And His Six Wives.
Eton was not only the old school of the real Colin Clark, it was also that of Eddie Redmayne – the actor playing him on screen.