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THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, 1955
Classic Movie Review

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THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH MOVIE POSTER
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH, 1955
Movie Reviews

Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell
Review by Cheryl Farr



SYNOPSIS:

When a strict by-the-book man sends his wife and son to Maine to escape a hot and steamy New York City, he is tempted on every level when he meets his neighbor – a hot and steamy toothpaste model.

Review:

This classic comedy is a character study of a middle-aged man, Richard Sherman, who is one of hundreds of men who stay home and earn a living, while their families enjoy a cooler summer away from the city.

It opens with Native Americans on Manhattan Island who send their families away for the summer, while they stay and set traps, hunt, and fish. A beautiful woman passes by and the group of summer bachelors pursue the fair maiden. Then, 500 years later, the businessmen drop their families off at the train station and turn and pursue a beautiful woman who walks past. Evidently, things don’t change much in the male psyche.

That’s the story. Poor Richard has been faithful in every respect his entire life. His life has become rather dull. He hears his wife’s voice in his ear – no drinking while she’s gone, no smoking. He must subdue any desire for vice, not only for his wife, but for the doctors who have taken away his guilty pleasures.

In one fell swoop (literally), his strength against evil is sapped. Marilyn Monroe, the nameless woman renting the apartment upstairs for the summer, drops a heavy tomato plant that nearly hits Richard. Naturally, his first instinct is to invite her down for a drink. A drink? Before she arrives, he grabs the key, unlocks the cigarettes, has one, then downs a drink. All his resolve melts away like the tendrils of smoke from the end of his cigarette. With his vivid imagination, he fanaticizes about the girls that he has scorned due to his great honor for his wife, about kissing his new neighbor, and possible dalliances on the part of his absent wife. These imaginations are portrayed in the style of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and are very entertaining. As the next few days go by, he finds himself in compromising situations, but never crosses the line of impropriety. It doesn’t help that his boss and apartment handyman have also sent their families away and are taking every advantage of their freedom, and encouraging him to do the same. Or that he is in the midst of reviewing a manuscript describing the repressed urges of the middle-aged male.

He imagines his wife arriving home unexpectedly, finding Monroe in the shower, him making toast, and then shooting him seven times. When he tells Monroe how his wife would never believe that he could “stray,” she convinces him that he is just what a beautiful woman really wants; someone kind, gentle, and sensitive. He realizes how much his family means to him, and rushes off to spend two weeks with them in Maine. Monroe plants a kiss on his lips so that his wife will be less prone to taking him for granted.

Last Thoughts:

This story was initially presented as a theater piece, starring Tom Ewell. In this version, he became intimate with his neighbor (Vanessa Brown). However, the Hayes office demanded many changes before it could be filmed. In this film version, Richard was able to maintain his virtue. This is the film that shows Monroe standing over the subway grate in the famous white halter dress, with the skirt sailing up as the subway passes beneath. This, too, was originally too racy for Hollywood. The first footage has the dress going up above her waist. It had to be shot again in a studio, this time, her skirt was held down for the sake of decency. Also, the footage taken in New York was rendered unusable because the crowd became over-excited as Monroe performed the scene. The film is a great comedic study of the desires of man (or woman) fighting with moral virtue and the ensuing guilt and fear that could result from acting on our desires. So much so, that even psychologists use this film as a study.

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