When Marilyn Met The Queen: Marilyn Monroe’s Life In England By Michelle Morgan; Book Review.

Any devoted Marilyn fan will most definitely know the name, Michelle Morgan – for reference, she is generally accepted as the best MM Biographer out there (and there’s a lot.) She published her first Marilyn Book, Marilyn’s Addresses (1995), which followed a unique concept of documenting important places the Movie Star visited and/or lived during her lifetime. Over twenty five years later, Michelle has gone on to release nine (!) books on the world’s most famous Blonde Bombshell.

Which of course, leads me to paraphrase the iconic line spoken by Marilyn as Sugar Kane in Some Like It Hot (1959),

“That’s (just over) a quarter of a century, make’s a girl think.”

Never disappointed by Wilder’s wise words, it really does make a none Marilyn/Hollywood Enthusiast contemplate, “What could possibly need to be written about arguably the most famous woman of the 20th Century that hasn’t already been said?” The short answer – a hell of a lot.

As I unintentionally continue to stick to metaphors involving books, it’s universally regarded you should never judge one by the cover. Sadly, almost sixty years after Marilyn passed, so many still view her as just a pretty cover, therefore neglecting to read the numerous written pages. Thankfully, readers are blessed to have an Author like Michelle, who sees far beyond the image and salaciously fulled, downright slander and delves into the incredible life story of a young woman, that is in reality, largely unknown.

Not only has she managed to do that quite beautifully and in a non-biased way I might add, in the must read, Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed (2012). Michelle has continued to dive even further into the underappreciated and overlooked parts of her life with a plethora of books. Therefore, the beautiful image the world knows and loves, has slowly but surely, been able to restore into a real human being with sensitivity, bravery, talent and emotion.

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1. Marilyn’s Addresses (1995)
2. Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed (2007)
3. Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed: New Edition: Revised and Expanded (2012)
4. Before Marilyn: The Blue Book Modelling Years (2015)
5. The Girl: Marilyn Monroe, The Seven Year Itch, and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist (2018)
6. The Little Book of Marilyn: Inspiration from the Goddess of Glam (2019)
7. Marilyn: Collectible Magnets and Mini Posters (2020)
8. Day by Day with Marilyn: A 12-Month Undated Planner (2020)
9. When Marilyn Met The Queen: Marilyn Monroe’s Life in England (2022)
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If you’re already a fan of Michelle’s work then there’s no doubt you’ve probably read this wonderful archive of books, she has so literally devoted years of her life to creating. However, if you’ve been living under a Marilyn hidden rock, then I shall quote another incredible human – albeit a CGI one at that,

“You’re Welcome.” – Maui.

When Marilyn Met The Queen features 11 Chapters, kicking off right bang in the Summer of 1956. It delves into the huge preparation of setting up Pre-Production of The Prince and The Showgirl (1957) – referred to as The Sleeping Prince throughout as that’s the original title of the Terrance Rattigan Play.

Michelle goes into serious detail within each page, enthralling the reader with numerous anecdotes from witnesses and often unheard accounts of the overall atmosphere that swept England from July to November 1956. Over 65 years have passed since this time period and yet the memories live forever etched in the minds of those fortunate to treasure them, further showing the significance and impact of Marilyn and her worldwide Movie Star status.

Within each section, Michelle recounts Marilyn’s time in England virtually day to day, with every date/event being documented and the overall feeling analysed and delved into for the reader. Sometimes it’s almost as if you’re a bystander yourself jumping into the pages, none more so if you actually happen to live in England like myself!

Often when reading a Biography, you can almost feel a sense of anxiety, as you care deeply enough for the person it’s about, to take the time to read it, yet you can’t always sense the Writer’s motive or overall goal surrounding the subject matter. I find myself wanting the truth and always that, but a respect that is maintained not just for the Star of the book – in this case Marilyn, but for all those involved.

Point in case, if you know anything substantial about Marilyn, then you’ll know her lateness was almost legendary and needless to say, it understandably did not always go down well with Production, especially with Laurence Olivier and in England. However, what you might not know is Marilyn suffered with severe anxiety, crippling self doubt in her artistic ability and agonizing endometriosis, as well as insomnia and prescription pill addiction. Michelle also takes time to point out Marilyn’s apology to the entire cast and crew and shares how she offered each person a farewell gift before departing England.

Michelle manages to expertly share all the huge strains of creating The Prince and The Showgirl (1957) – and it’s very easy to read it was no easy task whatsoever, yet she continues to maintain honesty and empathy for every single person involved – always.

She manages to view the chaos through each individuals eyes and shares all the emotions and thoughts with sincerity, whilst keeping a neutral stance. Furthermore, Michelle continues to dispel rumours that have at times weaved their way into Marilyn’s life, so much so that they are often believed as fact.

She completely disproves Third Assistant Director Colin Clark’s infamous account of his, “relationship” with Marilyn, which was brought to worldwide attention after his book was turned into a movie, My Week With Marilyn (2011) by providing factual evidence of Marilyn’s whereabouts on said specific dates and opinions regarding his, “memories” from witnesses that were actually present during the making of the film.

From Pre-Production of The Prince and The Showgirl, to the exhaustive making and completion of the movie, Michelle continuously maintains hope and a lighthearted warmth within every chapter. It was very rewarding to read so many new anecdotes that, even after having Marilyn in my life for over a decade, I had yet to have heard before! Without spoiling any surprises, my two favourites include a lot of bicycles and a certain newborn fish during Marilyn’s stay, I’ll be sure to keep those two in my Marilyn trivia!

The final chapters detail the highlight of Marilyn’s time in England – meeting Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Command Performance and the release of The Prince and The Showgirl. She also discusses the final meeting between Laurence Olivier and Marilyn in early 1957, which thankfully was a lot less stressful than the actual filming. She also manages a quick, but respectful summary of Marilyn’s last six years and ultimately, her tragic death.

In all honesty I simply dream of Michelle writing a book on each year of Marilyn’s life, that would be an absolute dream and if there’s any writer that could do it, it’s without a doubt her. Thank you as always to Michelle for continuing to amaze me and  gifting both Marilyn fans and Historians another gem of a book.

Marilyn’s time in England may not have been full of roses as she had so deeply hoped, but her beautiful work on The Prince and The Showgirl will forever be there for generations of film lovers to view and appreciate.

I can only hope that would give her some comfort in knowing her performance has continued to gain critical acclaim and respect and that even her Co-Star, arguably England’s greatest Actor was, despite a frayed working relationship able to see this, eventually stating,

”She gave a star performance. Maybe I was tetchy with Marilyn and myself because I felt my Career was in a rut…I was as good as could be, and Marilyn! Marilyn was quite wonderful, the best of all. What do you know?”

When Marilyn Met The Queen is now available to buy worldwide.

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