Marilyn Monroe was already one of Hollywood's biggest sex symbols by 1955. Her performance in "The Seven Year Itch" only furthered her image, especially given the publicity surrounding her most famous scene: her dress rising above her knees due to a draft from a subway vent.
Monroe's range was limited, since she could 'only' play desirable, dim bulb blondes. But her charisma was undeniable. If she was in a scene, it was hers, and studio producers had no problems finding vehicles for her undeniable talents. She would even make another film directed by Billy Wilder, 1959's infamous "Some Like it Hot".
Monroe's ebullient onscreen performance in "The Seven Year Itch" masked her turbulent offscreen problems. She had married baseball legend Joe Dimaggio in 1954, but the union lasted less than a year. While Monroe was a lock for her part, the film's male lead was more problematic. Tom Ewell, who had been the lead in the Broadway play, finally landed the plum role. He played the over-imaginative, lusting, somewhat dorky businessman well enough that he would practically repeat the role the next year, with Monroe clone Jane Mansfield in "The Girl Can't Help It".
"The Seven Year Itch" began as a play, and its limitations in sets and characters shows onscreen. It is another sweltering summer in New York City, and in these days before commonplace air conditioning, successful businessmen send their wife and children North to cooler climates. The husbands then relive their bachelor days with comedic, irresponsible behavior.
Tom Ewell plays one such husband, a pulp fiction writer whose chronic habit of talking to himself has evolved into an almost Walter Mitty styled fantasy life. With the family safely departed, Ewell nervously juggles his fantasies of infidelity with sanctimonious devotion to his wedding vows. It turns out that the upstairs neighbor is a gorgeous, friendly, dimwit model (Monroe) that he amazingly hasn't met until the day his family has conveniently left town. Having installed air conditioning units in every room (his family left anyway?), he is able to lure the willing Monroe to his apartment, to drink champagne and bask in the flow of cool air. In the play, Ewell's character seduces Monroe, but fifties morality would prevent such a conquest in the film.
Ewell's habit of verbalizing his every thought, whether alone or not, takes some getting used to. The film does lag when Monroe is offscreen, and sometimes the silliness goes too far. For example, Ewell decks the much bigger Sonny Tufts with a single punch, and he has to be dragged unconscious from the room. Monroe plays her usual male fantasy, but it has to be admitted that her radiance redeems the eternal stupidity of her characters. Monroe had a great voice too: sexy but naive. She was an underrated comic actress.
"The Seven Year Itch" was the second comedy in a row for director Wilder, who had made "Sabrina" the year before. Wilder was also producer (with Charles Feldman) and writer (adapting George Axelrod's play) for "The Seven Year Itch". (67/100)
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