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The Seven Year Itch
Director: Billy Wilder (Dir)
Release Date:   Jun 1955
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 3 Jun 1955; Los Angeles opening: 17 Jun 1955
Production Date:   early Sep--4 Nov 1954; addl seq 10 Jan 1955
Duration (in mins):   104-105
Duration (in feet):   9,442
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Marilyn Monroe (The girl)  
    Tommy Ewell (Richard Sherman)  
    Evelyn Keyes (Helen Sherman)  
    Sonny Tufts (Tom MacKenzie)  
    Robert Strauss (Krahulik)  
    Oscar Homolka (Dr. Ludwig Brubaker)  
    Marguerite Chapman (Miss Morris)  
    Victor Moore (Plumber)  
    Roxanne (Elaine)  
    Donald MacBride (Brady)  
    Carolyn Jones (Miss Finch)  
    Butch Bernard (Ricky)  
    Doro Merande (Waitress)  
    Dorothy Ford (Indian girl)  
    Mary Young (Attractive woman in railroad station)  
    Ralph Sanford (Railroad station gateman)  

Summary: One hot summer in Manhattan, book editor Richard Sherman escorts his wife Helen and son Ricky to the train station, from which they and numerous other families are leaving to escape the city's heat. After agreeing to Helen’s admonitions not to smoke or drink, Richard briefly joins the other “summer bachelors” in ogling a pretty woman, but firmly tells himself that he will not be like other husbands who run amok while their families are away. Richard returns to his office at Brady & Co., where his unusually vivid imagination helps in the designing the company’s lurid covers of paperbacks. After a bland, healthy dinner, Richard goes home and is about to work on a new manuscript, Of Man and the Unconscious by Dr. Ludwig Brubaker, when he is interrupted by the outside door buzzer. A stunning blonde enters and tells Richard that she is his new neighbor, as she is renting the apartment above his for the summer, and the awestruck Richard’s neck cracks alarmingly as he cranes to watch her ascend the stairs. Determined to enjoy a quiet evening, Richard resolves not to think about The Girl, whose name he did not learn, and returns to Brubaker’s book. Before long, however, Richard begins pondering Helen’s intention to call him at 10:00 and decides that she must not trust him, even though he has been faithful during their seven years of marriage. As Richard debates the matter, he imagines Helen sitting opposite him on the patio and hears her laugh when he states that he is attractive to other women. The vision of Helen continues to chuckle as Richard dramatically spins a tall tale about being romantically accosted by his secretary, Miss Morris; a nurse; and Helen’s own best friend, Elaine. Helen chides Richard for imagining things in CinemaScope with stereophonic sound, then disappears, but before Richard can return to his manuscript, the real Helen telephones early. Richard is disconcerted to hear that she ran into Tom MacKenzie, a writer of lurid romances, on the train to Maine, yet promises that he is following her advice. After hanging up, Richard gets up just before a huge tomato plant from the upstairs balcony crashes into his chair. The Girl, who was watering the plants, apologizes for knocking over the plant, and Richard invites her for a drink. Nonplussed by the Girl’s announcement that she leaves her underwear in the refrigerator to keep cool, Richard frantically prepares for her visit. While searching for mood music, Richard selects Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and imagines himself seducing the Girl with his magnificent playing of the powerful music. When the doorbell rings, Richard comes out of his reverie and instead finds Krahulik, the building’s janitor who has come to take the rugs. Richard quickly dismisses Krahulik, then welcomes the Girl, a bubbly, naïve model who appears in television commercials. The Girl laments the fact that her apartment does not have air conditioning, as the Shermans’ does, and relates that she attempted to sleep in a bathtub full of cool water, but had to call a plumber after her toe got stuck in the faucet while she was trying to stop a leak. When the Girl notices his wedding ring, Richard admits that he is married, but she responds that she is pleased he is married, as nothing “drastic” can happen. Richard commiserates with her complaint that men are continually asking her to marry them, then plays “Chopsticks” with her on the piano. Their duet ends when Richard, imitating the earlier seduction scenario he had imagined, attempts to kiss the Girl and they fall off the piano bench. Bewildered but not unhappy, the Girl exits gracefully when the nervous Richard asks her to leave. The next morning, worried that he is becoming a dissolute lecher, Richard asks his boss, Brady, for two weeks off to spend with Helen but Brady refuses. Richard then reads Brubaker’s theory about “the seven year itch,” which posits that most married men commit adultery during the seventh year of marriage, and that the statistic grows higher during warm weather. When Brubaker arrives to discuss his book, Richard confesses that he attempted to “terrorize” a young lady the previous evening. Intrigued by Richard’s twitching thumb, Brubaker listens and advises him to give himself more room than a piano bench if he feels the impulse to “terrorize” again. After Brubaker leaves, Richard imagines the Girl telling the plumber about his attack upon her, and the news then spreading throughout New York until Ricky and Helen see it on television in Maine. In despair, Richard decides to telephone Helen to learn if she has discovered his indiscretion. Instead of Helen, the phone is answered by a babysitter, who informs Richard that Helen is on a hayride with Tom. At first Richard is pleased, believing that Helen must not suspect anything is wrong if she is out having fun, but then begins to imagine that Tom has arranged a private hayride, with no other passengers, no driver and blinkered horses, in order to make a pass at the receptive Helen. Infuriated with Helen’s supposed behavior, Richard takes the Girl to dinner and a movie, and after the film, admires her legs as she stands over a subway grating and her skirt is blown up by the air from passing trains. Richard and the Girl return to his apartment, which is cool from the air conditioning, and while Richard prattles about psychology and the possibility that the Girl subconsciously loves him, she worries about the heat. Working up her courage, the Girl asks him if she can spend the night, and after determining that she intends to sleep in the living room chair, a nervous Richard assents. Their conversation is interrupted by Krahulik, who has come again to collect the rugs. Krahulik spots the Girl, who is hiding in the chair, but Richard bluffs through the situation by stating that she came to retrieve her tomato plant. Richard is forced to usher the Girl out, along with Krahulik and the plant, but is surprised soon after when she appears through the ceiling via the trap door separating the stairs between their apartments. The Girl happily announces that they can go back and forth all summer without anyone knowing, and Richard, horrified by so much temptation, spends a troubled night on the couch. In the morning, while waiting for the Girl to awaken, Richard imagines that Helen, informed by Krahulik about his rendezvous with the Girl, has returned from Maine to shoot him. The Girl calms Richard, and when he tells her that Helen is never jealous of him because no pretty woman would want someone like him, the Girl informs him that women always want a shy, sweet man rather than some egotistical, handsome lout. Giving him a tender kiss, the Girl assures him that she would be jealous of him if she were his wife, then goes into the kitchen. Richard is then surprised by the arrival of Tom, who has come to pick up Ricky’s kayak paddle. Richard assumes that Tom has come to ask for a divorce on Helen’s behalf, however, while Tom is baffled by Richard’s talk of having a blonde who might be Marilyn Monroe in the kitchen. Determined to be with his family, Richard slugs Tom and knocks him out, then tells the Girl that she can use the apartment while he is gone. Richard grabs the paddle and runs out into the street before being stopped by the Girl, who tosses him his shoes from the window. Richard’s neck cracks again after one last look at the Girl, then he waves goodbye as he hurries to the train station. 

Production Company: Charles K. Feldman Group Productions  
  Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Director: Billy Wilder (Dir)
  Joseph E. Rickards (Asst dir)
Producer: Charles K. Feldman (Prod)
  Billy Wilder (Prod)
  Doane Harrison (Assoc prod)
Writer: Billy Wilder (Scr)
  George Axelrod (Scr)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
  Sam Shaw (Stills)
Art Direction: Lyle Wheeler (Art dir)
  George W. Davis (Art dir)
Film Editor: Hugh S. Fowler (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Walter M. Scott (Set dec)
  Stuart A. Reiss (Set dec)
  Jack Stubbs (Props)
Costumes: Charles LeMaire (Ward dir)
  Travilla (Cost des)
  Ann Landers (Women's ward)
  Sammy Benson (Men's ward)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus)
  Edward B. Powell (Orch)
Sound: E. Clayton Ward (Sd)
  Harry M. Leonard (Sd)
  Ray Raymond (Sd ed)
  Dolph Rudeen (Sd ed)
  Lou Hesse (Sd ed)
Special Effects: Ray Kellogg (Spec photog eff)
  Saul Bass (Titles des)
Dance: Stephen Papich (Tommy Ewell's dance coach)
Make Up: Ben Nye (Makeup artist)
  Allan Snyder (Makeup)
  Helen Turpin (Hair styling)
  Gladys Rasmussen (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Buddy Erickson (Unit mgr)
  Tom Pryor (Auditor)
  Marshall Schlom (Scr clerk)
  Charles Einfeld (Pub)
Stand In: Gloria Mosolino (Stand-in for Marilyn Monroe)
Color Personnel: Leonard Doss (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Songs:
Composer: Sergei Rachmaninoff
Source Text: Based on the play The Seven Year Itch by George Axelrod as presented on the stage by Courtney Burr and Elliott Nugent (New York, 1952).
Authors: George Axelrod
  Elliott Nugent
  Courtney Burr

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Charles K. Feldman Group Productions 3/6/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP5664

PCA NO: 17230
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  col: De Luxe
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope
  Lenses/Prints: Lenses by Bausch & Lomb

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Editors
  Imagination
  Infidelity
  Marriage
  New York City
  Television actors and actresses
 
Subjects (Minor): Air conditioning
  Apartments
  Authors
  Beauty, Personal
  Champagne
  "Chopsticks" (Song)
  Cigarettes
  Hayrides
  Indians of North America
  Janitors
  Jealousy
  Kisses
  Nurses
  Photographs
  Plumbers
  Psychiatrists
  Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2
  Secretaries
  Seduction
  Television commercials
  Toothpaste
  Waitresses

Note: The film opens with a sequence depicting the “Manhattan Indians” sending their wives and children away to the countryside during the hot summer. After their families depart, the men are distracted by the sight of a beautiful young Indian woman walking by. Voice-over narration describes the action and introduces the character of “Richard Sherman.” Robert Strauss's character is referred to as both "Kruhulik" and "Krahulik" by contemporary sources. According to HR news items and information in the film’s file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, several studios, including Warner Bros., M-G-M and Twentieth Century-Fox, were interested in obtaining the screen rights to George Axelrod’s hit Broadway play and asked PCA officials to evaluate the play’s potential for translation into a movie. On 16 Dec 1952, HR noted that M-G-M was hoping to secure the rights in order to star June Allyson and Van Johnson in the film. In every case, however, the PCA responded that the play could not be made into a film, as the Production Code maintained that “adultery must never be the subject of comedy or laughter.” In the original play, Richard does have a sexual affair with “The Girl,” and the PCA did not approve the final screenplay until all suggestions of the affair were removed.
       HR news items reported that in Feb 1953, director Billy Wilder was discussing an independent film deal with Axelrod and hoped to film three separate versions simultaneously: an English-language version starring Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe; a French-language production starring Fernandel; and a Spanish-language picture starring Cantinflas. On 20 Feb 1953, HR announced that agent Charles K. Feldman had acquired the screen rights to the play for $255,000, and that Wilder would direct the picture and might “also figure in the ownership of the rights.” According to information in the Charles K. Feldman Collection at the AFI Library, Feldman and Wilder also considered producing an Italian-language version of the film, starring Gina Lollobridgida. The 20 Feb 1953 HR news item noted that the film could not be released before 31 Jan 1956, because the play was still enjoying very healthy business on Broadway, and that the payments to Axelrod and the play’s producers were spread over a period of years.
       The Feldman papers reveal that he approached a number of studios, including Columbia, Warner Bros. and United Artists about distributing the picture, and that while Feldman preferred to distribute it through United Artists, Wilder persuaded him to co-produce the picture with Twentieth Century-Fox and distribute through that studio. Part of Wilder’s reason for wanting to work with Fox was that it would be easier to obtain the services of Marilyn Monroe as the Girl, because Monroe was under contract to Fox. Feldman was Monroe’s agent, and his papers confirm that when he and Wilder signed with Fox, the deal was partially predicated on obtaining Monroe, who consequently did not have any rehearsal or vacation time between making her previous Fox film, the 1954 release There’s No Business Like Show Business (see below), and The Seven Year Itch .
       A HR news item announced Feldman and Wilder’s co-production deal with Fox on 12 May 1954. Although the 20 Feb 1953 news item speculated that Ewell, who would soon win a Tony Award for his role in the play, would star in the film, modern sources state that Walter Matthau was Wilder’s original choice for the role of Richard. The DVD release of the film contains Matthau’s screen test for the role, which was directed by Wilder on 15 Jun 1954 and co-starred Gena Rowlands as the Girl. [There is no indication, however that Rowlands was considered for the film.] The Feldman papers reveal that after Wilder decided against Matthau, as being too little known, both he and Twentieth Century-Fox production chief Darryl F. Zanuck considered casting either Gary Cooper or William Holden as Richard. Jul 1954 memos in the Feldman Collection reveal that James Stewart was also interested in the role but could not participate due to other commitments.
       Eventually it was decided to cast Ewell, who is billed onscreen as “Tommy Ewell.” In a 20 Sep 1954 memo to Feldman and Wilder, Zanuck stated: “If I had read the script at the time we were casting the picture I would never have recommended William Holden or anybody else except Tommy Ewell. No one I can think of can play this particular script. I didn’t quite understand it at the time but in re-reading it again I now believe that Holden would have been as big an error as Gary Cooper.” Zanuck added: “In spite of the enormous success of this play on the stage it would not be, in my opinion, 50% of the picture it will be with Marilyn Monroe. She is an absolute must for this story.”
       As noted by contemporary sources, a few sequences of the film were shot on location in New York City, and a frenzy of publicity surrounded Monroe’s appearances there. Location sites included Manhattan, Pennsylvania Station and the outside of the Trans-Lux Theater on the corner of 52nd St. and Lexington Ave. An Aug 1954 HR news item and the film’s pressbook reported that a sequence featuring Yogi Berra and Eddie Lopat at Yankee Stadium was filmed during a “Yanks-Indians game” on 1 Sep 1954, but the sequence was not included in the completed picture. The Feldman papers confirm that the scene was shot and was to be included in the “gossip sequence,” in which Richard imagines the news of his flirtation with the Girl spreading throughout New York. In correspondance between Feldman and others involved in the production, the sequences in which Richard imagines things are referred to as “dream bubbles.”
       The film’s most famous scene, in which Monroe stands over a subway grating to enjoy the breeze blowing up her skirt, was filmed in the early morning hours of 15 Sep 1954 in front of a crowd of over a 1,000 spectators. Modern sources frequently assert that the shooting of the sequence contributed to the demise of Monroe’s short-lived, troubled marriage to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio, who had married Monroe only nine months earlier, had not planned to attend the location shoot, but was encouraged to do so by gossip columnist Walter Winchell. During the filming of the “skirt blowing” sequence, DiMaggio allegedly became infuriated by the huge crowd’s opportunity to ogle his wife’s legs, as her skirt was blown up much higher than it does in the completed picture. DiMaggio and Monroe reportedly fought after the location filming was completed; two weeks later, Monroe filed for divorce. Modern sources confirm that the New York footage of the sequence could not be used because of the noise from the crowd and had to be re-shot on the Fox lot. The image of Monroe in the white halter dress, with her skirt flowing around her knees, has become one of the most well-known images of her and is often copied or parodied in films, television and print.
       When production resumed at the Fox studio shortly after the New York location sequences, HR news items included George Givot, Mercedes Marlowe and Almira Sessions in the cast, although their appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Ron Nyman ( Indian ) to the cast. Despite complaints from Zanuck, contained in the Feldman papers, that the production was falling behind schedule, in part because of Monroe’s illnesses and need for repeated takes, Feldman supported the actress, stating that the additional takes were required due to the lack of rehearsal time, and that she worked fifteen days straight in order to make up time she took off during her divorce proceedings. Monroe completed retakes for the film in Jan 1955, despite being on suspension from the studio for asserting that her long-term contract was no longer legally binding. Monroe formed her own corporation with close friend Milton Greene, with whom she intended to produce films, but later in 1955, signed a much more favorable contract with Fox, which awarded her greater freedom and higher pay.
       After production on The Seven Year Itch was completed, the PCA agreed to issue the film a MPAA certificate number on the conditions that “all references to glands” in the dream bubble sequence between “Helen” and Richard on the patio were deleted; the hayride sequence was shortened; and one of the three shots of the Girl’s skirt blowing in the subway breeze be eliminated. Numerous contemporary reviews commented that the play’s story and risqué dialogue were considerably toned down for the film version. After the film first opened, however, it was protested by the National Catholic Legency of Decency, which threated to give it a “C,” or condemned, rating.
       Among the aspects of the picture protested by the Legion, which had been included in the original screenings of the film, were a sequence in which “the plumber” drops his wrench into the Girl’s bubble bath and must retrieve it, and a line in the skirt-blowing scene in which the Girl states that she feels sorry for men having to wear “ those hot pants.” The MPHPD review called the “hot pants” line “some of the more objectionable dialogue in the picture,” but the HR review praised the plumber sequence. The scenes were cut from the thirty-seven prints then “in the field,” according to a 9 Jun 1955 telegram from Feldman, and on 30 Jun 1955, the Legion of Decency issued the picture a less stringent “B” rating for treating “in a flippant and farcical manner marital fidelity.” The Legion also objected to the implication that the Girl is nude in her much-discussed “U.S. Camera” photograph and insisted that a photograph of her wearing a bikini be inserted in order to dispel the implication. The Feldman papers reveal that all of the eliminations were restored for overseas distribution. According to information in the PCA file, the film was completely rejected for distribution in Ireland and was called “indecent and unfit for general exhibition” by the Dublin Board of Censors.
       Although a 12 Apr 1955 HR news item reported that Sammy Cahn had been assigned to write lyrics for Alfred Newman’s instrumental theme “The Girl Upstairs,” no vocal song was included in the completed picture. The Feldman papers add that Jules Styne and Cahn wrote a song for Monroe, titled “The Seven Year Itch,” to sing at the picture’s end, but despite Feldman’s hopes that the song would be a hit and therefore increase box-office revenues, as did the popular title song from the Fox film Three Coins in the Fountain , it was not used. One of the changes from the play to the film was the use of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in the “seduction scene” rather than Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill's “September Song,” which was used in the play.
       On 4 May 1955, HR noted that Fox paid an additional $175,000 to Axelrod and the play’s producers for the right to release the picture in Jun 1955 rather than in Jan 1956, as was originally contracted. The immense publicity for The Seven Year Itch included a four-story cutout of Monroe, in the pose with her skirt blowing up, being hung over the Loew’s State Theatre marquee in New York City. According to 24 May 1955 HR and NYT news items, the Legion of Decency objected to the revealing cutout and it was replaced with a “more decorous” fifty-two foot version. A 17 Jun 1955 telegram from publicist Charles Einfeld to Feldman, contained in the Feldman papers, reveals that some newspapers refused to run the ad featuring Monroe’s windswept skirt pose, and other ads had to be used in its place.
       On 1 Jun 1955 a “sneak preview” was held in New York, and Monroe attended the widely publicized event with DiMaggio, even though their divorce had been finalized by then. Numerous other theaters across the country, including in Chicago and Los Angeles, used variously sized cut-outs of Monroe to adorn their marquees. According to a 28 Jun 1955 HR news item, publicity for the film included a picture book entiled Marilyn Monroe as the Girl . The “over 100 candid photographs” were taken by Sam Shaw, who took the famous photographs of Monroe with her skirt blowing. The Seven Year Itch became one of Fox’s highest grossing film of 1955.
       The film contains numerous tongue-in-cheek references to the movie industry, such as the scene in which Helen tells Richard that he imagines things in CinemaScope with stereophonic sound; a satire on the film From Here to Eternity in the dream bubble in which Richard is kissed on the beach by “Elaine”; and when the Girl refers Richard to “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” in his dream bubble in which she is telling everyone about his alleged attack upon her. The film’s inventive opening title cards, designed by Saul Bass, received much commendation from reviewers, including the MPHPD critic, who stated: “The picture deserves at least a variant of an Academy Award for its extremely effective main title.” Ewell won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor—Musical/Comedy for his performance as Richard. The Seven Year Itch was number fifty-one on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs list.
       In Nov 2000, People reported that Darryl Hannah was starring in a stage production of The Seven Year Itch in London, and that the producers had approached the Los Angeles design house of Travilla, who designed Monroe’s white halter dress, for a reproduction of the dress for Hannah to wear. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   11 Jun 1955.   
Daily Variety   2 Jun 1955.   
Daily Variety   3 Jun 55   p. 3.
Film Daily   3 Jun 55   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 1952   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 1953   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Feb 1953   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 1953   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Aug 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Aug 1954   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Sep 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Sep 1954   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Sep 1954   p. 4, 10.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Sep 1954   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Sep 1954   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Oct 1954   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Nov 1954   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   31 Dec 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jan 1955   p. 1, 7.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Jan 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Apr 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   4 May 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 May 1954   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   24 May 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jun 1955   pp. 1-7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jun 55   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jun 1955   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jun 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jun 1955   pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jun 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 1955   p. 1.
Los Angeles Examiner   11 Jan 1955.   
Los Angeles Times   18 Jun 1955.   
Life   30 May 1955.   
Look   25 Jan 1955.   
Motion Picture Daily   3 Jun 1955   p. 1, 6.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   11 Jun 55   p. 473.
New York Daily News   16 Sep 1954.   
New York Post   29 May 1955.   
New York Times   25 Jan 1953.   
New York Times   24 May 1955.   
New York Times   4 Jun 55   p. 9.
People   20 Nov 2000.   
Variety   8 Jun 55   p. 6.

Display Movie Summary
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