The Seven Year Itch – Billy Wilder
When Sherman plays a recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto, she is not swept away as he had fantasized, but exclaims that it must be classical music because there is no vocal. “I have this big thing for Eddie Fisher,” she informs him, dipping her potato chip in champagne. The Girl’s favorite expression of approval is “delicate,” which she uses to describe drink¬ing champagne with a married man in an air-conditioned apartment. She is trusting, too, not suspecting or looking for hidden motives in Sherman’s actions. He is able very easily to trick her into kissing him by saying that he doubts the truth of the Dazzledent commercials. Like a child, she is pleased by the cool breeze that escapes from the ducts of the subway when a train whishes through, and squealing delightedly, she allows her full skirt to billow up.
The Girl is presented as more than merely an object. Although she is not sophisticated, she is kind and smart enough to realize that Sherman’s self-confidence needs bolstering. In a scene that demonstrates her kindness and gives some individuality to her character, she reassures Sherman, telling him that not every girl wants a man who looks like Gregory Peck. What is really exciting, she tells him, is the nervous, shy man sitting in a corner at a party. At first he may be overlooked, but a woman can sense that he is gentle, kind, and sweet, and will be tender with her. She ends by assuring Sherman that if she were his wife she would be very jealous of him and awards him her ultimate accolade: “You’re just delicate.”
In the play Sherman spends one night with The Girl, but in the film he merely lets her use his air-conditioned bedroom while he sleeps on the living room couch. His conscience having become as active as his libido, he then flees to Maine to spend two weeks with his wife and son. The Girl kisses him good-bye and tells him not to wipe off the lipstick, implying that a little jealousy on Helen’s part ‘will make her more aware of his appeal to other women.
Under the direction of Billy Wilder, Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell give remarkable performances which are funny and entertaining while keeping the lighthearted eroticism of the film from becoming vulgar. Evelyn Keyes is good as the wife, particularly in the fantasy scene in which she discovers The Girl with her husband and shoots him, saying, “The wives of America will give me a medal.” Indeed, the fantasy scenes are well handled throughout to show us the workings of Sherman’s hyperactive imagination.
It is not difficult to see why The Seven Year Itch was the most popular film released by Twentieth Century-Fox that year, and remains one of Marilyn Monroe’s most noteworthy films.