Thursday, 19 November 2015

HOLLYWOOD MEETS THE HOME COUNTIES: MY WEEK WITH MARILYN



In 2014 Eddie Redmayne had his finest hour so far in The Theory of Everything, starring as Stephen Hawking.  However a few years before Redmayne appeared in another excellent film called My Week With Marilyn. The film centres around the visit to the UK in 1956 by Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and her new husband Arthur Miller for the making of The Prince And The Showgirl with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), whose patronising attitude towards Marilyn leads to a prickly relationship. Redmayne plays the part of an aspiring film-maker called Colin Clark who is working on the film,  and who finds himself looking after Marilyn when Arthur departs for Paris.  The real-life Colin Clark chronicled his blissful week with the great star in his diaries ‘My Week With Marilyn’, which followed an earlier account of the wider visit by the star called ‘The Prince, the Showgirl and Me’ – the film is based on both of these accounts.  

Apart from the brilliant cast of the film, which also includes Judi Dench, the film features a wide variety of locations in south-east England, including several in the Home Counties. Marilyn and Arthur flew in to London Airport in 1956 (the precursor to Heathrow), which in the film is represented by White Waltham Airfield, one of the oldest airfields in the country, located 2 miles south-west of Maidenhead.  While in Britain, the couple stayed at Parkside House on the edge of the village of Englefield Green in Surrey, and the makers of My Week With Marilyn managed to do some of the filming there, including the shot of the newly-weds standing in the doorway of the house.  It was Clark who was dispatched to look for a suitable property within easy reach of Pinewood Studios, where The Prince and the Showgirl was being made, and what he found was a large Regency house set in a secluded location adjoining Windsor Great Park and set in 10 acres of grounds, including the rose garden where the newly-weds held a photo call.  Other famous people who have stayed at the house include Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.

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St  Simon and St Jude, Englefield Green

During Marilyn’s week with Clark, he takes her to Windsor Castle.  Some of the interior shots of this episode plus the castle grounds were shot at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.  This Jacobean property has been home to the Cecil family ever since it was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the 1st Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I.  The present-day building is located at the site of an earlier building, the Royal Palace of Hatfield, which was the childhood  home of Queen Elizabeth I.  The building was given to Cecil by Elizabeth's successor James I because he did not like it much, and it was Cecil's fondness for instigating building work that led to its transformation into what is seen today.  The 42 acres of gardens were created in the 17th century by John Tradescant the elder, who introduced plants new to England and added a number of features including a maze, fountains, water parterres and terraces.  One feature of the grounds known as Broad Water is where the skinny dipping scene was filmed.  Fans of Johnny Depp should be familiar with Hatfield House, since several of his films were made there, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow and Mortdecai.  Hatfield House is open to visitors, but is currently closed, although the shops and restaurant are still open along with Hatfield Park Farm and Bloody Hollow.  The house and estate reopen in March.

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Hatfield House. Photo by Pam Fray, via Wikimedia Commons

Clark also takes Marilyn to his old school, Eton College, which was also where one of the interior shots depicting Windsor Castle was filmed, in which Marilyn puts on a show for the Windsor staff.   Coincidentally Eddie Redmayne also attended Eton.   The college was founded by Henry VI as a place of free learning for poor boys who would then go on to King’s College, Cambridge.  Somewhat different to today, as Eton is now a preferred choice of schooling for the likes of royalty and future politicians.  Eton has been used for many films over the years, including Chariots of Fire, The Madness of King George and Shakespeare In Love, to name but a few.
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Eton College Quadrangle. Photo by jtriefen, via Wikimedia Commons


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