Sunday, June 21, 2020

Can Marilyn Monroe Cure ‘The Seven Year Itch?’ 1955

Marilyn as 'The Girl' upstairs, figuring out how to beat the NYC summer heat!

Despite the capable cast, clever dialogue, and sexy premise, a memorable Marilyn Monroe is truly the whole show in1955’s The Seven Year Itch.
George Axelrod’s Broadway smash, The Seven Year Itch, is one of film’s first "sex" comedies, directed by Billy Wilder. Itch is a light look at what was considered racy and irreverent about the sexes in the ‘50s. That’s also the problem with Itch, much like the later Pillow Talk. Both film farces are now dated and while clever, only skin deep. That makes Itch more of a curiosity today, though there are people who prefer a past sensibility. An indicator that this material hasn't stood the test of time is that nobody has done a remake of the movie or a Broadway revival of the play. The lone time it’s been done on a major stage was London in 2000, with 40-year-old Daryl Hannah as ‘The Girl’!
Evelyn Keyes as Helen, leaving hubby Richard (Tom Ewell) alone for a summer in The Big Apple.

The Seven Year Itch is set at the start of a NYC summer, when all the wives and kiddies get away to beat the heat, and the husbands stay behind to sizzle and bring home the bacon. While the mice are away, the tom cats will play, according to this movie’s satirical view. One is a scaredy cat, Richard Sherman. After this hubby sees his wife and young son off, he vows not to smoke, drink, overeat, and keep his eyes to himself. That all goes out the window when Richard meets ‘The Girl’ upstairs.
Richard toils at a paperback publishing company. His editing marks show what's on his mind!

Marilyn Monroe’s effortless breeziness as ‘The Girl’ is offset by Tom Ewell's one-note performance as Richard. The dynamic here is the same as a decade later with one of Wilder's worst comedies, Kiss Me, Stupid, with Kim Novak and Ray Walston. Marilyn was far better than Kim, as the good hearted sex object, but at least Novak tried for pathos. Ewell and Walston both played comedy sitcom-style, which is very wearing in a two hour movie. Ewell played the sexless sap later with two other Marilyn wannabes, Sheree North and Jayne Mansfield. His bug-eyed shtick gets old real fast. Ultimately, The Seven Year Itch is about MM watching and Tom Ewell overacting.
In 1955, Marilyn Monroe was all that and a bag of chips, plus a bottle of bubbly!

Marilyn looks terrific here, in her physical prime, and adorable in her Travilla summer outfits. Given that MM is playing ‘The Girl,’ who’s just the object of the married man’s fantasies, Marilyn is surprisingly warm, human, naturally funny, womanly, and sexy, in a most appealing way.
In the Broadway play, Richard & 'The Girl' hook up. On film, the romance is all in his head.

Wilder feels The Seven Year Itch copped out by not having the film duo have a fling. Well, that wouldn’t have flown in 1955. Even a decade later, in Wilder’s ’64 sex farce, Kiss Me, Stupid, censors, critics, and audiences were put off  by the hero’s wife having a one night stand. The fantasy sequences in Itch are clever, well-done, and blend in with the actual action quite well, though the film still feels stage-bound. The Seven Year Itch’s humor is passé: The Manhattan ‘Indians’ intro; the interior designer ‘roommates’ upstairs; the ‘wacky’ health food restaurant; the sex maniac males; and anatomical humor relating to ‘The Girl.’
The fantasy sequences of 'Itch' are still funny and wittily performed by MM and Ewell.

Hollywood’s age game skews things, too. The movie couple’s been married seven years. Richard says his wife Helen is 31, and that he almost 38. “The Girl” confides that she is 22. Well, when Itch was released, Evelyn Keyes was almost 40, Ewell 46, and Marilyn almost 30. While MM looks great, she looks too mature to possess a child-woman persona. Keyes and especially Ewell look a bit timeworn to be parents of a young child. Jack Lemmon and Jean Hagen might have been a more vibrant couple.
Marilyn as 'The Girl,' the morning after, in a fluffy robe and hairstyle!

The Seven Year Itch is most famous for the memorable scene of Marilyn’s white dress blown up by the air from a subway grate. Marilyn Monroe, like that billowing dress, is heavenly as she floats above the material, while the rest of the movie feels earthbound.
While 'The Seven Year Itch' is a product of its time, Marilyn Monroe will still dazzle you!
FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB  movie page. 


  1. You’re right, this movie is dated and Ewell is not my idea of a leading man...he is amusing but not a great comedian. Marilyn shines and sparkles and transcends her material. Without her, there would be no movie.
    I prefer Some Like It Hot...better movie, but Marilyn here is at the height of her beauty and fame...
    - Chris

    1. That about sums up the two MM movies in a nutshell!
      Cheers, Rick

  2. A very observant and honest review of this famous movie. While people still gush about this movie for obvious reasons you pointed out the errors. I did not care for Ewell. Yes Jack Lemmon would have been much better cast but being a terrific actor he maybe would have overshadowed it's star MM. Ewell's schtick did get tiring - right after the film! Their age vs real life does seem silly but overlooked. Marilyn was at peak beauty I don't think anyone cared what age they casted her as! And what better designer than Travilla to dress her in. Poor Marilyn. Joe really gave to her after the subway scene. Still, besides it showing how outdated it is, it is still entertaining to watch - the 1950's, iconic dresses and a breathtakingly beautiful Marilyn Monroe.