Men can be wayward dogs.  That's hardly anything new, but it's the basis for The Seven Year Itch, a play-turned-film that helped cement Marilyn Monroe's cinematic reputation.

It's a sweltering summer in Manhattan, and publisher Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) has just sent his wife and kid up to Maine to escape the heat, while he stays behind to work.  His wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes) reminds him that the doctors said to smoke and drink less, so he decides to focus on work, and to live healthy in his apartment.  In a conversation with an imaginary Helen, Richard vividly pictures numerous women throwing themselves at him -- as proof that he's faithful and trustworthy.

Things go south for Richard when the Girl (Marilyn Monroe) moves in upstairs for the summer.  She wears beautiful dresses and casually mentions sexual images without any guilt or thought.  ("When it gets hot like this, you know what I do?  I keep my undies in the icebox.")  It's not long before Richard is back to smoking, drinking, and picturing everything from the Girl after him, to her revealing his amorous advances on national television ("He made me play chopsticks!"), to picturing Helen having an affair in Maine.  The Girl, meanwhile, keeps showing up to enjoy Richard's air conditioning.
 The Seven Year Itch is pretty straightforward and decently amusing.  While the movie truly feels like the play adaption that it is, director Billy Wilder balances Tom Ewell's increasingly frantic thoughts and actions with Marilyn Monroe's casual delivery.  There are several running gags -- Richard needing to send a kayak paddle up to his son, the Girl sharing a snack of champagne and potato chips -- and while the movie doesn't shed new light on temptation or fidelity, it does supply a good number of laughs.  (The famed shot of Marilyn Monroe's dress blown upwards by her standing on a subway grate is here, albeit with several camera cuts.)  This movie shows how and why Marilyn Monroe was seen as both a sex symbol and the girl next door -- and if The Seven Year Itch isn't hilarious, it is amusing.  (DVD extras include promotional materials from when the movie was first released.)
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: