Retro Review: The Seven Year Itch

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 8 out of 10

You’ve seen the famous photo, Marilyn Monroe attempts to exercise some restraint as she pushes down her upblown white dress whilst atop a New York City subway grate. But it is the film behind that infamous publicity still that you may not have seen. The Seven Year Itch is a wonderfully funny look into what happens when ego and reality come together for one delusional NYC husband. Starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe, directed by Bill Wilder, this 1955 classic film helped to cement both the legend and sex appeal of Ms. Monroe while providing a fantastic film.

Richard Sherman (Ewell) is a, thus far, faithful and devoted husband and father living in the bustling metropolis of New York City. When the summer heat sets in, like many other city dwelling families, wives and children depart for the cooler oasis’s found in the surrounding upstate rivers and lakes. Forced to remain Richard works to support his family while reveling in his newfound pseudo-bachelor lifestyle. When a buxom blonde (Monroe) moves into the apartment upstairs Richard finds himself fighting against what is comically referred to as the seven year itch, or in other words, he must tame the wondering eye.

Tom Ewell, who played Richard Sherman in the original Broadway play, does a fantastic job of seamlessly transforming from the stage to the screen. The film is shot almost exclusively in Sherman’s apartment showcasing the epic battle going on within his head between his believed masculine ego and the reality of his home life. Ewell is able to portray the “every man” with such believability that despite his occasional quips about his upstairs neighbor he remains a lovable character. Ms. Monroe’s performance in The Seven Year Itch has become one of her most iconic and is seen as another completely “naïve blonde” that she plays so well. Though one could hate her for her good looks, or despise her due her lack of sharpness, audiences fall in love with the innocence and naivety that came so naturally to the unnatural blonde. The girl upstairs is no different; Monroe’s sincerity and grace as she time after time unknowingly places Sherman in the crosshairs of his masculine conflict are what drive the film.

Director Billy Wilder, known for his comedic brilliance and way with actors, makes The Seven Year Itch shine in its film adaptation. The camerawork used to compliment Sherman’s day dreams of winning over the girl upstairs, and his ego boosting conversation with his wife are playfully done with either proposed flash forwards, or hallucinatory fade-in’s. All the while the audience feels just as claustrophobic and heat stricken as poor old Sherman, as the film is truly mostly shot within the walls of the his apartment. Wilder also managed to keep most of the sexuality that the play had, although watering it down for the movie review boards.

The Seven Year Itch is an iconic comedy that often times gets overshadowed by its more boisterous comrades, but deserves the spotlight just the same. With the talents of a legendary director, a perfect leading actress, and stellar stage performer, this film falls together into the perfect mix of slapstick, rye, and sexual humor.  So on a chilly fall afternoon sit down with some friends and “scratch” The Seven Year Itch.

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