The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955)
This romantic comedy staring Marylin Monroe and Tom Ewell became one of the most iconic moments of Monroe’s career. The famous white dress blowing over the subway trap that unveils her legs to the audience and the male main character.
Adapted from the theater to the big screen by Billy Wilder who also directed the whole thing, The Seven Year Itch demonstrates how husbands sent their wives and kids for the summer to camps and retreats while they stay home in New York city to work but also blow off some steam. Some drink, others get tattooed, and obviously some cheat on their wives.
Our central character, a book publisher named Richard Sherman (Ewell) meets the upstairs neighbor (Monroe), who is renting the place for the summer, by accident the first night he is alone and promised to not drink, smoke, and behave while his wife is away with his kid. However, seconds after he encounters this girl, he starts smoking, drinking, and imagining having a romance with her. With the Hays code, Wilder had to censor some elements of the original play that retains this comedy to be too rancy. It is a well behave telling of a Wilder film that could have been as successful as his The Apartment. But in all respect to one of Wilder’s masterpiece, The Seven Year Itch never achieves its goal of complete comedy and subversive commentary.
Even with the censorship restrictions to its script, Wilder manage to pull a very effective comedy that rises to a hilarious finale. It explores man’s psychic reactions towards sexy and young women while Monroe is like a fish into water with her character looking for a good time and not thinking about anything more than what is happening on the screen. This naive looking gal that she portrays sure would make any wife jealous but Sherman is also a nice guy who would not do a thing to hurt his marriage.
It is the kind of comedy that defined romantic comedies for a time and sadly it is now regarded as old humour and the whole genre has completely fallen into vulgarity and easy moments of predictable sexual references or scatological situations. For some, Ernst Lubitsch and Wilder were gods of the comedy and they were the pioneers for geniuses like Mel Brooks. It is a shame that this kind of comedy isn’t considered funny anymore.
Overall, The Seven Year Itch is an American classic comedy starring the great Marylin Monroe but it should not be compared with the better work of Billy Wilder. But even for a lesser Wilder film it is still better than many of other directors’ best work.