The Seven-Year Itch: The Funniest Comedy Since Laughter Began (1955)

Posted: March 11, 2012 in Comedy, Romance

During the summer, most of the husbands working in the city send their wives and families off for summer vacation. The men stay and work during the busy season, but they also take advantage of their independence with smoking, drinking and single women. Richard Sherman is one of these men, but he would like to stay on the straight and narrow. Swearing to give up all of the temptations, he eats at a vegetarian restaurant and tries to take an early night at home. He consistently feels the urge to smoke and drink but finds a way to put away the obsessions. After a chance encounter with the tenant upstairs, he finds himself lusting after her beauty and unconventional ways. This girl may be the end of him and his quest to avoid temptation as she continues to unknowingly break down his defenses.

Starring: Marilyn Monroe (The Girl), Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman), Evelyn Keyes (Helen Sherman), Sonny Tufts (Tom MacKenzie), Robert Strauss (Mr. Krihulik), Victor Moore (Plumber), Donald MacBride (Mr. Brady)

This monologue-style comedy is led by quite the talented actor, Tom Ewell. While it is certainly difficult to match the fame of the gorgeous Marilyn Monroe, Ewell serves as the wildly talkative center of this film. Though he may not say much in a large package of words, his outbursts represent the great internal struggle that many people have when they are trying to resist what they really want. Though he may not be on an equal plane of attractiveness to Monroe, he has the great heart that shines through his many moments of weakness. For Monroe, she has a great airiness and beauty of spirit in her character. Seemingly unaware of the interest of Ewell, she floats across the screen and steals the attention of all of the other actors on the film. Robert Strauss, the man who tries to clean the rugs, has a memorable role as the instigator of Ewell’s actions. Evelyn Keyes, as Helen Sherman, may not have a strong role but has a few short moments of screen time.

Billy Wilder’s classic picture was one that tickles the funny bone and serves as an interesting, fictional snapshot of the life of a man who is at a potential disruption point in his marriage. Temptations are on the rise during the summer with wives and families away on vacation. Richard and his wife are at the seven-year mark of their marriage, which could be seen as a time when the relationship becomes stale and the marriage is open to trouble. He tries to commit himself to a faithful summer but the girl upstairs is not going to make things easy. While she has no intention of breaking up a marriage, Richard  cannot seem to control himself. His nerves have him rescinding his plan to not smoke and drink, and starts to lead him toward making some poor decisions with his interest in the girl.

The film has some of the more memorable moments of Monroe’s career, including the subway vent scene with the white dress. The film was toward the end of her career but certainly was iconic of her talent and screen presence. The presentation style was certainly all from the perspective of Ewell’s character. His ramblings representing the thought process of a man at an impasse are extremely entertaining but help to also give life to the challenge of marital stagnation. While he does not seem to have issues with his wife (other than his perceptions of possible unfaithfulness with a rival who happens to be on vacation at the same place as Richard’s family), he represents the problem that many people see with man and fidelity. The perception of man’s inability to be monogamous serves as the central theme and a very flimsy argument for anyone who states that man is incapable of true commitment. Richard falters on numerous occasion, and actually commits different levels of infidelity at different moments of the film, but he never completely loses perspective of the impact on his marriage.

This is truly a classic comedy that deserves to be on everyone’s watch list. Monroe was simply a vision but Ewell truly makes this film a comedy.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5


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