Pros:Marilyn Monroe at her best, comedy
Cons:Dated 50s morality
The Bottom Line: The Seven Year Itch is a great performance by Marilyn Monroe in a satisfying sex farce by master director Billy Wilder.
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Recommend this product?
It sort of cools the ankles, doesn't it? Richard Sherman
Billy Wilder made successful films in more genres than most other directors, including war, drama, film noir, courtroom drama, and of course comedy, like The Seven Year Itch.
The Seven Year Itch is a humorous look at marital infidelity, 1950s style. Although making a sex comedy in the repressed 50s has its limitations, leave it to Billy Wilder to milk the material for every laugh he can wring from it. The Seven Year Itch, in fact, is more famous for what's NOT IN IT than what is. More about that later.
Based on the play by George Axelrod, adapted for the screen by Billy Wilder, the movie stars Tom Ewell as the repressed schmoe Richard Sherman who sends his family to Maine during a summer heat wave while he stays in New York City to work as a publisher of pulp novels.
All of this is explained in a voiceover by Ewell, who continues to narrate the piece. As we might expect from a person involved in publishing fiction, Ewell's observations are dramatic and given to flights of fancy. We are treated to Ewell's resolutions to be good, eat right, not drink or smoke, chase women, etc., that is, until he helps new tenant Marilyn Monroe (known simply as "the Girl") get in the building so she can go upstairs to the apartment above his, upon which all resolutions go out the window.
After several fantasy sequences in which Ewell is established as the greatest lover ever (or the one with the biggest imagination), he is brought back to reality by a potted plant crashing down from the balcony above. It is the beautiful girl, who agrees to come downstairs when she gets dressed. More fantasy sequences follow while he's waiting...
The Seven Year Itch plays on Marilyn Monroe's sex appeal and comic timing and is arguably her finest work. Anybody who thinks she cannot act certainly has not seen this performance which took much effort to appear both innocent and sexy at the same time. Tom Ewell is an excellent foil for Monroe, a typical, average-looking guy, not handsome and not repulsive, but one who is able to play opposite to Monroe without crowding her. According to Wilder, new face Walter Matthau was his first choice, but Fox did not want to risk using a newcomer, so Ewell who had played the part on stage was cast.
The famous shot with Monroe with her white dress billowing up above her waist does not appear in the film, which might be a letdown to fans expecting the risqué shot. That was used in publicity photos but the movie shows only Monroe's lower legs, in keeping with the morals of the time.
Similarly, the humor is dated with the many fantasy sequences not quite as funny as they once were. Monroe, however, is in top form and has exquisite comic timing and screen presence. For her performance alone, the movie is a must see.
The Fox DVD is presented in color, in 2.55:1 Cinemascope, and runs 110 minutes. There is a pan and scan (1.33:1) version also available, if you prefer movies formatted to the TV screen.
More by Billy Wilder -
Witness for the Prosecution
Read all comments (6)