With his family away for their annual summer holiday, New Yorker Richard Sherman decides he has the opportunity to live a bachelor's life - to eat and drink what he wants and basically to enjoy life without wife and son. The beautiful but ditsy blond from the apartment above his catches his eye and they soon start spending time together. It's all innocent though there is little doubt that Sherman is attracted to her. Any lust he may be feeling is played out in his own imagination however.Written by
Even after sixty years, THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH retains its freshness and bounce - a delightful testament both to the script (by Billy Wilder and playwright George Axelrod) and the quality of the performances.
The story is a simple one: left on his own during a hot New York summer, Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) tries his best to avoid the temptations of drink, tobacco and an extra-marital affair. However his best intentions are frustrated by the presence of The Girl (Marilyn Monroe), who has moved into the apartment above him. Nothing actually happens, but the promise persists ...
Ewell gives a stellar performance, the best in his forty-five year acting career. In his rumpled gray suit, with tie askew, he embarks on a series of monologues where his better nature competes with his carnal desires. Most of them are shot in single takes in the Shermans' apartment: Ewell's India-rubber face changes rapidly as he debates the morality of inviting The Girl down for a drink. He walks from side to side of the frame, his shoulders hunched, almost as if he is bearing the cares of the world on his back.
The fantasy-sequences are extremely funny, with Ewell imagining himself as the protagonist in a comic reworking of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, rolling about on the beach with a woman not his wife. Later on he casts himself as a Noel Coward-like figure speaking in a cod-British accent, as he plays Rachmaninov on the piano while trying to seduce The Girl (a reference to BRIEF ENCOUNTER).
When the latter scene is re-enacted for real, The Girl is completely uninterested in Rachmaninov. Sherman tries to embrace her, and the two of them end up falling off the piano bench in an ungainly heap. Although Sherman imagines himself as the Great Lover, he will never be able to fulfill his role.
Monroe is equally memorable in her role as the not-so-dumb blonde from Denver. It's clear she is attracted to Sherman - not because of his physical attributes, but because at heart he is an extremely sweet man. On the other hand she respects his love for his wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes), and thus refrains from making a pass at him. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH contains the memorable sequence where she stands over a grille and lets the wind from a subway train beneath blow up her white dress. Wilder shoots this sequence very discreetly, leaving everything to the viewer's imagination. Monroe is far more seductive in an interior sequence, where she hides behind a chair and stretches out one leg, and then another. The janitor Mr. Kruhulik (Robert Strauss) witnesses what happens, and promises to leave Sherman alone.
Wilder's and Axelrod's script fairly crackles with one-liners, as well as a series of in-jokes referring to Charles Lederer (Wilder's fellow-scriptwriter), as well as a reference to Monroe herself.
THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH is one of those comedies that never loses its sparkle, even after repeated viewings.
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