Remembering Britain’s ‘Marilyn Mania’ in the Daily Mail

Marilyn in London with Sir Laurence Olivier

British fans may want to buy a copy of today’s Daily Mail, which includes a two-page spread on Michelle Morgan’s new book, When Marilyn Met the Queen – all about Marilyn’s visit to England in 1956, including filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, and her stormy relationship with director and co-star  Sir Laurence Olivier. Due out in the UK next Thursday, February 17, When Marilyn Met the Queen will be published in the US on May 3rd. (You can read the article in full here.)

“Not since the Coronation had Britain experienced such a fever-pitch of excitement. Marilyn was coming! For four months in 1956, the sexiest of all Hollywood stars would be ours — and the prospect seemed to drive people slightly crazy.

Across the country, voice coaches were teaching women how to imitate Marilyn Monroe’s breathy delivery, while lookalike contests took place in every conceivable venue.

In Airdrie, police had to be called to a Marilyn wiggle competition when hundreds rioted outside the North Lanarkshire town hall after failing to get in. At piers and other seaside venues, thousands queued to squeeze into wooden cut-outs of the star — to see if they shared the same curves as their idol.

As the actress’s plane touched down at Heathrow on July 14, 1956, Sir Laurence Olivier was waiting for her in the terminal with his wife Vivien Leigh … With up to 400 jostling writers and photographers, there was barely any room to breathe. One newspaper compared it to the VE Day celebrations.

What did she want to do in England? Buy a bicycle to tootle down country lanes, she replied. And ‘see many things in London, including the little fellow with the bow and arrow in Piccadilly Circus — I’ve always wanted to meet him.’

On days off, she’d put on a floppy hat, drop her famous wiggle and escape with Alan the piano player to see the sights.

In Trafalgar Square, a little old lady poked her in the ribs. ‘’Ere, you’re that Marilyn Monroe tart, ain’t ya?’ she said.

Alan recalled: ‘Marilyn looked down and in her “Queen” voice said, “Oh thank you, you’re so kind. I’m often being compared to her.”’

‘Snotty cow,’ said the old woman and stormed off. Marilyn was in hysterics, laughing.’ In fact, Marilyn — who was a talented mimic — was soon to meet the Queen herself at a celebrity line-up for a Royal Command Performance.

‘The Queen is very warm-hearted,’ Marilyn said afterwards. ‘She radiates sweetness. She asked how I liked living in Windsor, and I said, “What?!” And she said that as I was staying in Englefield Green, near to Windsor, we were neighbours. So, I told her that my husband and I went on bicycle rides in the park.’

In 1961, an unnamed ‘friend’ of the Queen said that after the 1956 Royal Command Performance, Her Majesty had become fascinated with Marilyn and watched every one of her movies. She apparently told the friend: ‘I thought Miss Monroe was a very sweet person. But I felt sorry for her, because she was so nervous that she had licked all her lipstick off.’”

Thanks to A Passion for Marilyn