'The Seven Year Itch'

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The Seven Year Itch
Directed by Billy Wilder
Criterion/20th Century Fox
July 22 through 28, Film Forum

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By 1955, when Billy Wilder's NYC-set midsummer night's sex comedy was released, Marilyn Monroe was so famous that her character no longer needed a name. Earlier turns included the plummy appellations Miss Caswell, Lorelei Lee, and Pola Debevoise; in The Seven Year Itch, she is simply the Girl—the ripe, curvy sublettor who lives upstairs from neurotic pulp publishing house schnook Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell). To quote Mulholland Drive: This is the Girl. So arresting is Monroe's presence that when she's not on-screen, we wait impatiently, wondering, Where have you gone, Mrs. DiMaggio? Would-be adulterer Sherman, with the missus and tyke shipped off to Maine, incessantly narrates the workings of his guilty conscience, a wearying comedic strategy. Monroe's outfits, whether pink matador pants or the notoriously naughty ivory sundress with a halter top worn above a subway grate, shift the attention away from Ewell (who wouldn't fare much better the following year with MM manqué Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It). In Some Like It Hot, she'd have worthier comic foils—and her character's name would be a mouthful: Sugar Kane Kowalczyk.

 
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