The Seven Year Itch

The Seven Year Itch is a 1955 American romantic comedy film directed by Billy Wilder, from a screenplay he co-wrote with George Axelrod from the 1952 three-act play. The film stars Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell, who reprised his stage role. It contains one of the most iconic pop-culture images of the 20th century – Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown upwards by a passing train.[1] The titular phrase, which refers to a waning interest in monogamous relationship after seven years of marriage, has been used by psychologists.[2]

The Seven Year Itch
The Seven Year Itch.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBilly Wilder
Screenplay byGeorge Axelrod
Billy Wilder
Based onThe Seven Year Itch
by George Axelrod
Produced byCharles K. Feldman
Billy Wilder
StarringMarilyn Monroe
Tom Ewell
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Edited byHugh S. Fowler
Music byAlfred Newman
Production
company
Distributed by20th Century-Fox
Release dates
  • June 1, 1955 (1955-06-01) (Premiere)
  • June 3, 1955 (1955-06-03) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1.8 million
Box office$12 million

PlotEdit

Richard Sherman is a middle-aged publishing executive in New York City with an overactive imagination, whose wife, Helen, and son, Ricky, are spending the summer in Maine. When he returns home from the train station with the kayak paddle Ricky accidentally left behind, he meets an unnamed woman, who is a commercial actress and former model. She rents the apartment upstairs while in town to make television spots for a brand of toothpaste. That evening, he works on reading the manuscript of a book in which psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker claims that almost all men are driven to have extra-marital affairs in the seventh year of marriage. Sherman has an imaginary conversation with Helen, trying to convince her, in three fantasy sequences, that he is irresistible to women, including his secretary, a nurse, and Helen's bridesmaid, but she laughs it off. A potted tomato plant falls onto his lounge chair; the woman upstairs apologizes for accidentally knocking it off her balcony, and Richard invites her down for a drink.

 
Ewell reprised his Broadway role and Monroe replaced Vanessa Brown.

While waiting for her to arrive, he vacillates between a fantasy of her as a femme fatale overcome by his playing of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, and guilt at betraying his wife. When she does come down, she is wearing pink pajamas and turns out to be a naïve and innocent young woman. On his suggestion, she brings back a bottle of champagne from her apartment and returns in a white dress. Richard, overcome by his fantasies, awkwardly grabs at her while they are playing "Chopsticks" together on the piano, causing them to fall off the piano bench. He apologizes, but she says it happens to her all the time. Guilt-ridden, he asks her to leave.

The next day at work, Richard is distracted by the fear Helen will find out about his indiscretion, though she is none the wiser and just wants Richard to send Ricky his paddle so he can use the kayak. Richard's waning resolve to resist temptation fuels his fear that he is succumbing to the "Seven Year Itch". He visits Dr. Brubaker, who arrives at the office to discuss the book, to no avail. When he keeps hearing of his wife spending time with her writer friend McKenzie in Maine, Richard imagines they are carrying on an affair, and he decides to invite the young woman out to dinner and a film. They go to an air-conditioned theater, seeking respite from the oppressive heat, and see The Creature from the Black Lagoon. As the two are talking while walking home, she briefly stands over a subway grate to experience the updraft – Monroe in the iconic scene in her pleated white halterneck dress, blowing her skirt up in the breeze. The two then spend the night (platonicly) at his air-conditioned apartment (as her apartment is uncooled) so she can rest for her television appearance.

The next morning, Richard comes to his senses, and fearing his wife's retribution (within his dream), he tells the woman she can stay in his apartment, and leaves to catch the train to Maine.

CastEdit

 
Monroe posing for photographers while filming the subway grate scene for the film in September 1954

SoundtrackEdit

Song[3] Performer(s) Note(s)
"Piano Concerto No. 2" Played on a record and often in the score
"Sentimental Journey" Played often in the score
"Chopsticks" Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell

ProductionEdit

 
Marilyn Monroe's skirt blows upwards in the film.
 
The depiction of Monroe over the grate has been compared to a similar event in the 1901 short film What Happened on Twenty-third Street, New York City.[4][5]

The Seven Year Itch was filmed between September and November 1954, and is Wilder's only film released by 20th Century-Fox. The characters of Elaine (Dolores Rosedale), Marie, and the inner voices of Sherman and The Girl were dropped from the play; the characters of the Plumber, Miss Finch (Carolyn Jones), the Waitress (Doro Merande), and Kruhulik the janitor (Robert Strauss) were added. Many lines and scenes from the play were cut or re-written because they were deemed indecent by the Hays office. Axelrod and Wilder complained that the film was being made under straitjacketed conditions. This led to a major plot change: in the play, Sherman and The Girl have sex; in the movie, the romance is reduced to suggestion; Sherman and the Girl kiss three times, once while playing Sherman's piano together, once outside the movie theater and once near the end before Sherman goes to take Ricky's paddle to him. The footage of Monroe's dress billowing over a subway grate was shot twice: the first take was shot on location outside the Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theater, then located at 586 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, while the second take was on a sound stage. Both eventually made their way into the finished film,[citation needed] despite the often-held belief that the original on-location footage's sound had been rendered useless by the overexcited crowd present during filming in New York. The exterior shooting location of Richard's apartment was 164 East 61st Street in Manhattan.[6]

Saul Bass created the abstract title sequence, which was mentioned favorably in numerous reviews; up until that time, it was unheard of for trade press reviews to mention film title sequences.[7]

Dimaggio was on set during the filming of the dress scene, and reportedly angry and disgusted with the attention his wife received from onlookers, reporters, and photographers in attendance. Wilder had invited the media to drum up interest in the film.[8][9][10]

ReleaseEdit

Box officeEdit

A major commercial success, the film earned $6 million in rentals at the North American box office.[11]

Critical responseEdit

The original 1955 review by Variety was largely positive. Though Hollywood production codes prohibited writer-director Billy Wilder from filming a comedy where adultery takes place, the review expressed disappointment that Sherman remains chaste.[12] Some critics compared Richard Sherman to the fantasizing lead character in James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty".[13]

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, 84% of 32 reviews from critics are positive, with an average rating of 7.2/10.[14]

In the 1970s Wilder called the movie "a nothing picture because the picture should be done today without censorship... 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 straitjacketed. 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."[15]

Awards and honorsEdit

Date of ceremony Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
January 29, 1956[16][17] Directors Guild of America Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Billy Wilder Nominated
February 23, 1956[18][19] Golden Globe Awards Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Tom Ewell Won

In 2000, American Film Institute included the film as No. 51 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs.[20] The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002.[21]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Seven Year Itch". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  2. ^ Dalton, Aaron (January 1, 2000). "The Ties That Unbind". Psychology Today. Retrieved December 31, 2016.
  3. ^ "The Seven Year Itch (1955): Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  4. ^ Rosemary Hanes with Brian Taves. "Moving Image Section – Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division" The Library of Congress. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  5. ^ Lee Grieveson, Peter Krämer. The silent cinema reader (2004) ISBN 0-415-25283-0, 0-415-25284-9, Tom Gunning "The Cinema of Attractions" p. 46. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  6. ^ The Cad
  7. ^ Horak, Jan-Christopher (2014). Saul Bass : Anatomy of Film Design. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4720-8. OCLC 892799673.
  8. ^ "Inside Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio's Roller Coaster Romance".
  9. ^ "The Shocking Story You Never Knew Behind Marilyn Monroe's Skirt Scene". August 29, 2021.
  10. ^ "The Truth Behind the Marilyn Monroe Dress Scene". July 3, 2021.
  11. ^ "All Time Domestic Champs", Variety, January 6, 1960, p. 34.
  12. ^ "The Seven Year Itch". Variety. Reviews. January 1, 1955. Archived from the original on August 11, 2016. Retrieved October 30, 2008.
  13. ^ Schildcrout, Jordan (2019). In the Long Run: A Cultural History of Broadway's Hit Plays. New York and London: Routledge. p. 103. ISBN 978-0367210908.
  14. ^ The Seven Year Itch at Rotten Tomatoes
  15. ^ "Conversations with Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond [Part 8]" November 28, 2011 by Scott Go Into the Story accessed May 28, 2014
  16. ^ "Directors Guild of America, USA: Awards for 1956". IMDb. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  17. ^ "8th Annual DGA Awards: Honoring Outstanding Directorial Achievement for 1955 – Winners and Nominees – Feature Film". DGA. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  18. ^ "The Envelope: Past Winners Database – 1955 13th Golden Globe Awards". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2007. Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  19. ^ "The 13th Annual Golden Globe Awards (1956)". hfpa.org. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
  20. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Retrieved August 27, 2016.
  21. ^ "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 2002. Archived from the original on December 11, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2013.

External linksEdit