Friday night I went to see the new movie, My Week With Marilyn, directed by Simon Curtis, about a young assistant's infatuation with Marilyn Monroe during the shoot in England of The Prince and the Showgirl, written by Terence Rattigan, based on his play The Sleeping Prince. Though the story is slight, I really enjoyed the movie, both for Michelle Williams' mermerizing performance, the atmospheric soundtrack, and for the wonderful cast of British theatrical royalty that peppers the film. Kenneth Branagh has a large and juicy part as Laurence Olivier (and wouldn't it be ironic if this was the part that won him an Oscar?) and the great Judi Dench plays Sybil Thorndike. But in one delightful cameo appearance after another, up pop Michael Kitchen, Dougray Scott (excellent as Arthur Miller), Simon Russell Beale and Derek Jacobi. Tiny roles, but they kept me thoroughly engrossed. Dominic Cooper and Emma Watson round out the cast.
By coincidence, I had stopped off at Bay Street Video en route to the cinema - always a dangerous detour as I am a hopeless DVD addict. And yes, I had to control myself and put back several new releases. But there was one I couldn't resist - The Terence Rattigan Collection, recently released by the BBC. Terence Davies' new adaptation of Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea was my favourite film at TIFF and so I HAD to buy this five disc collection of television adaptations of several of his plays from the last few decades. Ensconced on the sofa with a pot of tea and my knitting, I watched five of them this weekend, one after the other. I just couldn't stop myself - the casts were just superb.
I started with my favourite Rattigan play, After the Dance, one of the most moving plays I've ever experienced about the inter-war generation. Gemma Jones was excellent as Joan, the party-going wife who has to watch her husband succumb to a younger and idealistic Imogen Stubbs. Then it was on to Ian Holm, Judi Dench (wonderfully acid and bitchy) and a young Michael Kitchen in The Browning Version. Penelope Wilton gave every bit as good and poignant a performance as Rachel Weisz, in The Deep Blue Sea with Colin Firth here as her younger lover. By this time I was quite emotionally drained, so thank god for the fun and farce of French Without Tears with a fetching Anthony Andrews (not far off his Brideshead Revisited days) and the lovely and flirtatious Nicola Paget (remember Elizabeth from Upstairs Downstairs?). And you'll barely recognize a slim and dashing Michael Gambon as a befuddled sea captain. This was followed by Geraldine McEwan and Eric Porter in Separate Tables. I have the 1958 Deborah Kerr and David Niven movie version in my collection, but the play was originally designed to have the same actors play the main characters in both story lines, and this is what occurs in the BBC version with McEwan and Porter also taking on the roles played by Rita Hayworth and Burt Lancaster. Terrific stuff - I still have 2 discs to go, including Sean Connery taking on Alexander the Great in Adventure Story. Honestly, this would make a great Christmas gift for any theatre buff on your list or a fan of any of the above actors. I'm so thrilled the BBC is going through their archives and releasing this gems - the picture quality of everything I've seen so far in this collection has been as excellent as the acting.
Now I suppose I should round out my Rattigan revivial and rent The Prince and the Showgirl, a film I've never seen. Actually I'm thinking a Marilyn Monroe marathon might soon be in the works.