Dated and toned down from its Broadway origins thanks to the infamous Hollywood Production Code, The Seven Year Itch
is a fine little comedy, made immortal by one of the most famous scenes in all of film: Marilyn Monroe
standing over a New York subway grate as the breeze blows her skirt in the air.
In the 1950s, when most women didn’t work outside the home, and air conditioning was a luxury, not a given, the wives and children of Manhattan businessmen would leave the sizzling city for woodsy resorts and beach houses. Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell
), publisher of cheap paperbacks, resolves to stop smoking and drinking and eat healthy foods while his wife and son are away. And he certainly won’t play the field like the other summer bachelors left behind in the city.
Then he meets his upstairs neighbor: dizzy, ditzy, luscious Marilyn Monroe (known only as The Girl), subletting for the summer. His resolutions go out the window fast, and he finds himself a happily married man tempted by the “seven year itch.”
The Cast of 'The Seven Year Itch'
Ewell reprises his role in the hit Broadway play, as an average guy with an above-average imagination, engaging in Walter Mitty
-esque flights of fantasy. Faithful to his wife for all the seven years of his marriage, he imagines giving in to the “animal magnetism” he engenders in other women. One minute he‘s playing From Here to Eternity
on the beach with his wife’s best friend, the next he’s fighting off his amorous secretary. And then he imagines his wife pooh-poohing the whole thing and putting it down to his overactive imagination.
He’s sweet and completely harmless. The audience begins to wonder whether Marilyn has actually appeared in his apartment house, or is just another figment of his vivid imagination.
As The Girl, Monroe is bursting at the seams in a well-chosen wardrobe that makes the most of her assets, but she manages to seem sweet throughout. She dunks potato chips in champagne and thinks it's "just elegant," and keeps her undies in the fridge to beat the summer heat.
Monroe's image as a sex goddess too often overshadowed her chops as a fine comic actress. She was completely irresistible, and very good.
It’s too bad the Hollywood bluenoses and the Hays Production Code made it necessary to change the play’s actual affair into a simple flirtation. A lot of funny lines and some depth of plot were lost, and it frankly strains credulity that this plain man wouldn’t give in to one of the most desirable women in history.
But director Billy Wilder was a fine and witty writer, and he collaborated with playwright George Axelrod on the screenplay. The movie, bowdlerized though it was, became a huge hit in 1955, and is still considered a classic comedy. The phrase “the seven year itch” became part of the language, and has even been used in scholarly research by psychologists and sociologists.
'The Seven Year Itch' - The Bottom Line
An artifact of the days when women stayed home and men were the breadwinners, The Seven Year Itch
has lost some of its luster, and some of its laughs. But it’s still enjoyable, and a must-see for the subway grate scene alone.
Recommended for You:
If you liked The Seven Year Itch
, you may like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, Some Like it Hot
or other Billy Wilder movies
Just the Facts:
20th Century Fox