Cliff May
In 1957, Marilyn Monroe starred in "The Prince and the Showgirl." In the movie's most memorable scene, Monroe (as Elsie Marina, an understudy in The Coconut Girl in 1911 London who is soon hobnobbing with the royals) overhears a telephone conversation (in German – but Elsie is from Milwaukee so she's bilingual as well as gorgeous) about a plot against the Prince Regent of Carpathia, played by Laurence Olivier.

"It is most unfortunate that you should have heard that," the dastardly Balkan plotter snarls. "It might prove exceedingly dangerous for you!"

"Dangerous?" scoffs Elsie. "Oh, don’t give me that. I'm an American citizen. Nobody can do anything to me!"

This ideal of an America that is strong, unafraid and certainly doesn't let its enemies get away with murder was not just a Hollywood conceit. "The Prince and the Showgirl" was made at London's Pinehurst Studios. It was written by Terrence Rattigan, a distinguished dramatist, a graduate of Harrow and Oxford, who would be knighted by the Queen in 1971. Olivier, in addition to starring, produced and directed.

Fast forward to the 1980s. Journalist Peter Theroux is a guest at a small palace in Riyadh along with Saudi princes and wealthy businessmen from several Middle Eastern countries. After supper, they screen "The Prince and the Showgirl," and, as recounted in Theroux's marvelous travel memoir, "Sandstorm: Days and Nights in Arabia," when Marilyn Monroe delivers the line quoted above, “every Arab in the room” shouts in unison: “Eiri fik, ya gahba!”(F*** you, bitch!”)

Fast forward to the present. Last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Pentagon Press Association: "Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups which are killing our troops. There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there…that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that. …And there’s no reason … for me to believe that they’re going to stop that as our numbers come down."


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.