Every Monday, the CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are looking back at Billy Wilder’s 1955 classic, “The Seven Year Itch” starring Marilyn Monroe in her iconic performance as the lusted-after girl-next-door.
When his family goes away for the summer, Richard Sherman (played by character actor Tom Ewell), prepares to spend the next few months working and remaining a disciplined and faithful husband. However, on his first evening alone at home, he runs into his new neighbor (unnamed and played by Monroe), a wide-eyed, 22 year-old model and aspiring actress, who he decides to invite over for a drink. There is no confusion when watching this film why Monroe became and remains one of the most universally recognized sex symbols. With her wildly expressive bedroom eyes, she charms and seduces Richard and the viewer as she floats around his apartment delivering lines like “A married man, air conditioning, champagne and potato chips; it’s just a wonderful party!”
Throughout the course of the film, Richard, who works at a small publishing company, is reviewing a manuscript by a psychoanalyst discussing the theory of “the seven year itch,” referring to the urge–felt by every married man–to cheat on his wife after seven years of marriage (Richard, coincidentally has been married seven years). The entire film is narrated by Richard as he talks to himself and lets his imagination wander, as he creates detailed and dramatic scenarios in his mind about past female acquaintances, his neighbor, and his wife who he suspects is getting cozy with a male friend while on vacation.
Director Billy Wilder makes several overt statements about the role of women as sex objects, temptresses, and creatures of jealousy while depicting men as foolish and irrational in the face of lust and insecurity. The film differs from the original play by George Axelrod—which centers around Richard’s comical behavior and narration—in that it is hard to focus on anything besides Richard’s beautiful neighbor. Her speech, expression, and movements scream sex in the most controlled and effortless way. “The Seven Year Itch” is a classic and easy film to watch as Monroe titillates, amuses, and generally entertains the viewer in a way that only Marilyn Monroe could.