Summary: Sexy Stuff from Marilyn and Crazy Stuff from Ewell Make This a Hoot
At last I see glimpses of the Marilyn I had visualized after reading her biography; she is a hoot in The Seven Year Itch, naive, ditsy, vivacious and lovely, instead of the interminably irritating Elsie in Bus Stop. I read in her bio that she began training under Lee Strasberg, the known method acting teacher, after completing this film and perhaps that’s why she seems out of element in The Prince and the Showgirl and especially Bus Stop. I can empathize with her personal dissatisfaction with her performances that didn’t use the method and thus made her pretend, but oh boy, she lights up the screen without all the thinking involved. She is elegant, natural, funny and imperfect as the wide-eyed blonde nameless girl who brings the seven years’ itch in Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell).
The protagonist is played with a fine Jekyll and Hide persona by Tom Ewell, who’s Richard Sherman, has to spend the entire summer without his wife and space cadet kid and the man resolves not to lose his morals like all the other dirty men. Things get tricky with the appearance of the girl, who is invited by Sherman for ‘drinks’ and ‘mature talk’. The girl, with her innocuous and sometimes dizzy behavior is irresistible and Sherman’s seven year itch, a condition happening after seven years of loyal marriage, soon develops and he begins worrying and doubting everyone’s motives and intentions.
Tom Ewell is synonymous with his role since he has played it on stage, and he executes the zaniness and comical worry of his character very well. Most of the time he talks to the camera, something that may seem incongruous for the screen but is handled well here. Ewell’s movements are restricted to certain funny twitches and gestures in his body and his introspective nature is executed well and you feel as if his conflicting mind is continually speaking to you. Of course, his character does not touch you because it only shows its comic side, but it sure does entertain. Monroe, as mentioned above, turns the heat on though she could have fleshed out her girl more towards the end. The minor characters include Evelyn Keyes as Helen Sherman, a performance where she mostly plays the role in Richard’s imagination, who will make you snicker with her clever remarks; Sonny Tufts plays Tom Mackenzie with humor but ruins the paddle joke at the end, Robert Strauss plays the snoopy, uncouth Mr.Kruhulik, Oskar Homolka the eccentric Dr.Brubaker and the others include Richard’s boss, assistant, son and a plumber and some old people. Everyone has their moments and play their characters with as much quirkiness as possible.
The Seven Year Itch has a fruity script that relies on slapstick punches and situations; some pretty naughty innuendos are present that are unfortunately tamer that the play’s humor. I do mention here that even though we have a successful adaptation from a play here, I did find that the pacing required was still a tad slow for the film, but I forgive that. It is mostly because we see Richard and Marilyn doing a number of things to bring humor, and the film’s flow remains somewhat static. That doesn’t mean it gets boring, in fact Ewell and Monroe do handle the film whenever it gets shaky.
Watch the Seven Year’s Itch for its humor and the ensemble performance; Marilyn may favor serious performances over dumb blonde trifling roles, but I understand now why audiences love her so much – she plays a great dumb blonde