Seven Year Itch (1955) B-
The sex farce, “Seven Year Itch,” is not a top-notch Billy Wilder work, but in terms of sexual politics and cultural mores, it’s symptomatic of the decade in which it was made—mid-1950s–and a good star vehicle for Marilyn Monroe, who was still developing as a comedienne and dramatic actress.
Too bad that, due to censorship (the dreaded Production Code), the film was toned down by George Axelrod, who adapted to the big screen his own hit Broadway play.
“Seven Year Itch” became Monroe’s best known film, due to the famous scene in which a rush of air from a subway grating sends her white skirt flying up around her shoulders.
Typically cast, Tom Ewell plays Richard Sherman, a book publisher who has been married for seven years, and who stays behind in Manhattan for the summer when his wife (Evelyn Keyes) and son (Bernard) leave on vacation.
Ewell’s building has an upstairs apartment which has been sublet to Monroe’s The Girl (that’s the name of her character), a flighty, dazzling and dizzy actress-model who becomes the object of his (mostly imaginary) amorous advances.
Ewell’s fertile imagination sends him into flights of fancy involving both his conquest of Monroe, and the humiliation which would result from the exposure of his infidelity. Monroe appears on a TV show to discuss his infidelities and proclivities.
The picture ends with no adultery having been committed only in Sherman’s mind. In one of his nightmares, Sherman imagines The Girl and the building janitor, Kruhlik (Robert Strauss, who was so good in Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning “Stalagn 17”), in on a plot to blackmail him, and wife Helen finally resorting to murdering him.
“Seven-Year Itch” was Monroe’s 23rd movie, made right after a series of artistic and commercial hits, including “There’s No Business Like Showbusiness” (1954) and “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” (1953).
Though playing a variation of the stereotypical role, the dumb blonde, she offered subtlety and nuance in her characterization, which were not in the script.
It was Ewell’s eighth feature since he began his career on a high note, opposite Judy Holliday in George Cukor’s great 1949 comedy, “Adam’s Rib.”
Reportedly, Monroe was not in good health (mental and otherwise), during the shoot, as her marriage to Yankee star Joe DiMaggio was ending.
The good character actor, Oscar Homolka, plays a bit part as a psychiatrist.
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