A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Seven Year Itch (Billy Wilder, 1955)

Tiresome, talky, and unfunny, this may be Billy Wilder's worst film. Wilder blamed the censors, who squelched all the sexual innuendos that he wanted to carry over from David Axelrod's Broadway play. In the play, the protagonist, whose wife and child have gone to Maine to escape the summer heat in Manhattan, has an affair with the young woman who lives upstairs. The censors insisted that they must remain chaste: She spends the night in his apartment, sleeping in his bed while he spends a restless night on the sofa. The lead of the play, the saggy-faced character actor Tom Ewell, was retained for the film, while the biggest female star of the day, Marilyn Monroe, was cast opposite him. The result is a sad imbalance: Ewell, who is on-screen virtually all 105 minutes of the movie, is allowed to overplay the role as if performing to the rear of the balcony. Monroe, whose role is considerably shorter, works hard at giving some substance to her character, though it's little more than the ditzy blonde she had begun to resent having to play. And the match-up of Ewell and Monroe is entirely implausible. (On stage, the part was played by the pretty but decidedly un-Marilynesque Vanessa Brown.) The film is remembered today chiefly for the scene in which Monroe stands on a subway grate and her dress is blown up by train passing below.