Thoroughly enjoying Radio 4s serialisation of Colin Clark’s My Week with Marilyn. I read the book years ago when it was first published and find it incredible that nobody thought to film it until now. Michelle Williams is simply mmmmarvellous as Marilyn. When Clark met Monroe, he was a runner on the set of her only UK-made movie The Prince and the Showgirl co-starring Laurence Olivier. Much has been made of Marilyn’s insecurities, her unprofessionalism on set and her tardiness not to mention the drugs, chronic insomnia and insecurities. But as with most things in life, that was only half the story.
When MM was making The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956, it was the second film co-produced by Marilyn Monroe Productions. Marilyn had fought 20th Century Fox for better parts and won a terrific deal for herself. The first movie she’d made as her own boss was Bus Stop: arguably her best dramatic role as saloon ‘chantoose’ Cherie. Working with Olivier was the second step in her strategy to be seen as a serious actress. Olivier patronised her on set, telling her to ‘just be sexy’ and she found her third husband Arthur Miller’s diary in which he appeared to side with Olivier and intimate that the marriage was a mistake.
I don’t think people appreciate the guts it takes to stand in front of a camera and perform; particularly when one feels undermined, isolated and the butt of collective jokes. No wonder Marilyn made a friend of Colin Clark and escaped for a week in the company of a young man who clearly enamoured of her. I think the most charming scene in My Week with Marilyn is the escapade when Colin and MM visit Eton College and she basks in the adulation of the schoolboys. You leave the cinema hoping Marilyn had a little more fun in her life than one suspects she did.
Well, since we last spoke I’ve been practically in purdah banging out chapters of The Perfect Gentleman for Thames & Hudson and actually really rather enjoying a historic romp through London’s luxury landscape from 1666 to the present. My readers have as always been invaluable: Mrs T, Stephen Pulvirent, Keith Levett, Patricia Carruthers and Helen Ball are the dream team. They each make very strong comments about the text from very different points of view. This is all one can ask as an author who is so deeply immersed in the subject that he has admittedly become snow-blind.
I sense a collective need on Savile Row to get back out on the road and show the world that they do what they do better than anyone else out there. The answer is not, I think, to relight the fire that was the London Cut exhibition. It’s been done and done beautifully at the Palazzo Pitti and the Ambassador’s Residences in Tokyo and Paris. What I have in mind is a living London Cut to be shown at London Fashion Week in September 2012 or January 2013 with each of the pure bespoke houses cutting a brace of immaculate day and evening suits to be shown somewhere spectacular such as Spencer House.
Don’t you think it would be utterly chic to curate an archive display in the Spencer House ante rooms to get the fashion press in the mood then run a single row of gilt chairs through the state drawing room so everyone would have a front row seat to witness the magic that is Savile Row bespoke tailoring? It will need funding from the outside so I would have editorial immunity to allow the best of British bespoke to show rather than a limited number of houses. But imagine what a punch the Row would collectively pack if all the greats showed in the same forum.
I’d recommend that each house cuts for two chaps who are already customers rather than vapid models because we want to see the clothes as worn by the men in the market to buy them. I would also recommend classical to early 20th century music and no lighting rigs or nonsense to detract from the beauty of Spencer House and the suits. The more I think of it the more I think Savile Row: The Best of British would be one heck of a show. If we included all the gentlemen’s requisites houses featured in The Perfect Gentleman then we would produce a showcase for all the craftsmen and women who are still actually making in Mayfair, Piccadilly and St James’s.
Funny isn’t it that a brief coffee and catch-up with Richard Anderson on the Row could light such a flame of an idea. I need another 3D project and I think Savile Row deserves the spotlight back on bespoke. Speaking of 3D projects, after a hiatus of a few months I’m going back to the Savoy with Mrs T in early December to curate a new museum display and hopefully lift the standard once again. I’ve missed the Savoy and it is a happy finish to 2011 to be working with them again.
Do you like the snapshots I took around Mayfair and St James’s one crisp Sunday morning? They were reference shots for The Perfect Gentleman but I think could be print quality if I get a good enough camera. On that note, I rang my Fashion at Royal Ascot partner in crime Suzi Perry who is as you know the doyenne of The Gadget Show. I’m escorting her to an awards dinner at the end of the month and Suzi has offered to lend me a fool proof camera. I will test that theory to the limits.
Well, off to see Agent Geraldine – my very own M – this afternoon to discuss ideas for an NBC mini series of docs about British heritage brands. If we can get that one off for the new year then 2012 will look a whole lot rosier than January 2011 did. Until next time…