June 6, 1955 [The Seven Year Itch]

Marilyn Monroe’s unnamed Girl steps over the air grate in The Seven Year Itch, just like the woman in the Edison short, the actual New Yorkers scurrying around and past the camera while the actors eventually saunter toward us, the woman’s skirts lifting as she reaches the grate at her feet. Monroe carries on a vital tradition.

And I must make light of her, since it’s a chore to keep my eyes on Monroe, the duskiest, dewiest grape on the vine since Lili St. Cyr stared down the cheesecake camera, a not-so-secret indulgence; despite all good sense, I allow Marilyn to be a movie I cannot avoid.

But I don’t want crummy old Tom Ewell’s Richard Sherman horning in, his pointy little nose twitching like a dumb bunny darting across the road--or then again: hound-dogging her, his eyes bulging, his voice wheezy, his whole posture full of creaks and groans. He’s one of those actors I love to watch, in part because he seems old before his time. But it irks me to see him sweating next to her, despite the shivery dream-life promised by his air conditioner.

Of course, I lie. The whole setup makes dismayingly obvious sense, from the married man’s self-delusion to the Girl's oblivious attitude toward her own flabbergasting effect. I understand why he stares, knowing better, and why she lets him. You reach a kind of invisibility at a certain age. Marilyn and Co. don’t want to know you're still under lots of pressure; they just flounce on by and leave the terminal swooning to you.

I wondered briefly if the Girl knew she was va-va-vooming Sherman into gaga-land. Marilyn, though, plays her, not as clueless, but guileless. She's happy to see you, and loves the tall cold drink and the air conditioning; but the rest of it--Sherman's hectic parody of suave, the double-backflip-entendres of every other line, even her own body’s precision engineering--is incidental to her desire for a nice talk and a cigarette.

So while Tom Ewell, behaving perfectly normally, wrestles with the Perils of Marilyn--actually never in danger, as far as Marilyn is concerned: she's too busy smiling wide-eyed at every bit of fun available--I saw my own jittery fits and starts, happy (as much as is permissible) that The Seven Year Itch serves up a slice of life loaded with as much whipped cream and guilt as my plate can bear.


  1. Perhaps the only Billy Wilder film which was boring and even Marilyn could not redeem.


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