27 Days With Billy Wilder And Me

Every Movie He Directed…From Mauvaise Graine to Buddy Buddy

27 Days With Billy Wilder And Me header image 6

Day Thirteen: The Seven Year Itch

July 12th, 2011 · No Comments · 1955, Adaptation, Ally McBeal, Billy Wilder In Hollywood, Billy Wilder Interviews, James Thurber, Marilyn Monroe, Maurice Zolotow, My World and Welcome To It, Robert Horton, Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell, Walter Mitty, William Windom

The Seven Year ItchBilly Wilder’s thirteenth movie, The Seven Year Itch, starring Tom Ewell and the legendary Marilyn Monroe, was released in 1955. Billy was 49 years old.

This is a fun film that remind me of James Thurber’s humor, sort of a Walter Mittyesque fantasy. Or, if anyone remembers it, the short-lived TV series called My World and Welcome To It, starring William Windom. Lots of narration, scenes that spring from the protagonist’s mind, causing a blurring of reality and fantasy. This thematic device was used successfully many years later in the TV series Ally McBeal.

Although people think of Marilyn Monroe when they think of The Seven Year Itch, the movie really belongs to Tom Ewell. The vast majority of the film rides on his shoulders. It’s his narration and wry, often deadpan delivery that makes or breaks the movie. Ewell does a fine job. But I can’t help but look forward to every frame Marilyn is in. She is magical, the epitome of breathy, sultry (albeit ditzy) sensuality. She oozes sex appeal from every pore.

The movie is about a man (Ewell), married (for seven years) with a child, whose family goes out of town for the summer. In their absence, he meets a blonde bombshell (Monroe) who lives in the apartment above him. As he flirts with the women, he toys with the idea of having an affair with her.

The subject matter (adultery) was taboo when The Seven Year Itch was made, a challenge Billy Wilder recalled many years later in a 1976 interview in the book Billy Wilder Interviews Billy Wilder Interviews, by Robert Horton:

It was a nothing picture, and I’ll tell you why. It was a nothing picture because the picture should be done today without censorship. It was an awkward picture to make. Unless the husband, left alone in New York while the wife and kid are away for the summer, has an affair with that girl there’s nothing. But you couldn’t do that in those days, so I was just straight-jacketed. It just didn’t come off one bit, and there’s nothing I can say about it except I wish I hadn’t made it. I wish I had the property now. (p. 124)

The movie may be a trifle when viewed today (as I am this evening). But it’s a slice of Americana, one of those films that everybody either has seen or plans to see. At least, everybody has seen the promotional photo of Marilyn standing over the air vent, her dress billowing up in an oh-so-tantalizing way.

So there she is all ditz and breathiness, all hair and lips, bosom and butt. God.

I always wondered what she was like in real life. According to Billy Wilder In Hollywood Billy Wilder In Hollywood, by Maurice Zolotow:

So his next film was The Seven Year Itch, starring Marilyn Monroe, and, three years after that, he made Some Like It Hot, again with Marilyn. There were many times during the course of these films when he looked back nostalgically to his fights with Bogart. Why, Sabrina was a piece of cake compared to Some Like it Hot. At least, Bogart was there. He got there on time. He was there all day. So what if he left as six P.M.? A man got tired, he had to go home, he had a dear woman at home waiting for him, he was not a bad sort, really, Bogart, just a vulnerable guy, yeah…but Marilyn…ah, there — there was a monster of monsters. (page 255)

Every book I’ve read about Marilyn Monroe said she was difficult. Never could remember her lines. Always late. Frequently sick. But, oh, when she nailed it…she was pure magic.

I’m not sure this movie would have been worth watching — or worth remembering — if not for the presence of Marilyn Monroe.

Principle Cast:
The Girl……………………………………..Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962)
Richard Sherman…………………………….Tom Ewell (1909–1994)
Helen Sherman………………………………Evelyn Keyes (1916–2008)
Tom MacKenzie………………………………Sonny Tufts (1911–1970)
Mr. Kruhulik……………………………….Robert Strauss (1913–1975)


No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment