The Seven Year Itch (1955) – Billy Wilder

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Marilyn Monroe is featured in another title from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book recommendation following Some Like It Hot.

Based on George Axelrod’s stage play, which he and director Billy Wilder adapted for the screen, Monroe is cast simply as The Girl, and there is evidence to suggest that her entire existence is only in the imagination of Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell), an ad-man with a knack for daydreaming.

When his son and wife leave Manhattan to summer in slightly cooler climes, Sherman is left on his own, and in short order, after an imaginary conversation with his wife about how other women find him appealing, meets the lovely girl upstairs, who is house sitting a neighbor’s apartment.

Right off the bat, Sherman is attracted to her, and how could he not… as he points out later, she could be Marilyn Monroe!

Almost succumbing to the seven-year itch, he invites the Girl down, and she does, agreeing to join him for a drink, and the very odd combination of champagne and potato chips, which made me laugh from the sheer absurdity, and then honestly wondering what that would taste like.

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The film, and its advertising, brought us the immortal image of Monroe on the subway grate with her dress billowing up in the draft… An image that doesn’t even appear in the film. We see her legs, but do not see the full image of her that has become iconic and synonymous with this screen siren.

The film is very funny, combining witty dialogue with physical humor in a wonderful parfait and I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this one. This one, I think has to be my favorite after Some Like It Hot.

Monroe is lovely in this, and Ewell, who originated the stage role, seems right at home in the character and his daydreams. I’d be interested in seeing the stage version at some point, but for now, I was happily delighted to watch this for the first time.

I totally get Sherman though, as my mind has been known to take me off on side journeys like his, though, nowhere near as vivid of course, and when he starts to imagine and worry about what his wife is doing, or discovering, his reactions tend to be completely hilarious.

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Wilder keeps the film rocketing along with a tightly paced script that is filled with laughter from the get-go, and doesn’t let up until the final scene. That’s over an hour and a half of solid laughter and enjoyment, not something a lot of comedies can actually lay claim to.

Monroe is radiant, and no matter her personal problems off-camera, or how many takes it took to get her to say her lines right (up to 40 in some cases), she is a true gem in this film, and it was hilarious watching her warn other women of the dangers Sherman could be, like The Creature From The Black Lagoon!

I have really loved this look at some of Monroe’s films that this book has afforded me so far, but the next comedy recommendation, while directed by Wilder, features a different pair of actors, in a film I’ve only seen once… Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine in The Apartment!

What is your favorite Wilder film?

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