Tag Archives: Marilyn Monroe

Irony and The Seven Year Itch

**Fair warning: this review/essay contains spoilers and assumes a basic knowledge of the film’s events**

For more years than I care to admit, I deliberately avoided seeing The Seven Year Itch. The overwhelming popular culture perception of the film (this and this) just put me off and I couldn’t stand the thought of watching it. But when I had my Marilyn revelation (explained here) I decided to give the film a chance. After all, I could fast forward the yucky Tom Ewell scenes I just knew had to exist. And that’s when I discovered one of the greatest (yet not discussed) misconceptions of classic film.

You see, on the surface, The Seven Year Itch looks like a film glorifying extra-marital affairs. You think it’s about Tom Ewell blatantly moving Marilyn into his apartment while Evelyn Keyes* is away. Well, at least that’s what I thought.

While it’s true that the majority of the film is seen from the perspective of Tom Ewell’s character (the creepily annoying Richard Sherman**), the film remains a wry, truthful window into the life of a beautiful woman (Marilyn Monroe, simply named The Girl). TE blunders around in this selfish little fantasy world imagining how much better his life would be if Marilyn was his girl. And every so often, the viewer gets these little glimpses into The Girl’s thoughts, usually occurring at the same moment TE is off imagining.

As is so often the case with relationships, Richard Sherman sees his friendship with The Girl as his one chance to be “the big man.” In all their encounters, he spends most of the time plotting how he will maneuver her into a situation of his design. And what is she doing? She’s absorbed by the fear that she’ll be enduring another sleepless night in an air condition-less apartment. Simple as that. She’s not in the fantasy land Richard Sherman created for her. She doesn’t even realize he’s thinking those things. All she wants is a good night’s sleep.

And miraculously, in spite of his overt lecherousness, The Girl actually enjoys his company and ends up making one of the all time best speeches in movie history concerning what women (at least nice women) actually want:

How do you know what a pretty girl wants? You and your imagination! You think every girl’s a dope! A pretty girl goes to a party and there’s some guy – a great big lug in a fancy striped vest, strutting around like a tiger, giving you that “I’m so handsome you can’t resist me” look. And from this, she’s supposed to fall flat on her face. Well she doesn’t fall on her face.

But there’s another guy in the room. Way over in the corner. Maybe he’s kind of nervous and shy – perspiring a little. First you look past him, but then you sort of sense he’s gentle and kind and worried. And he’ll be tender with you. Nice and sweet. That’s what’s really exciting!

After I heard this the first time, I stood up in my living room and clapped. It was singularly refreshing to finally hear a beautiful woman strike a blow for being treated with care: “tender, nice and sweet.” Yes, please.

So, in the end, I discovered that The Seven Year Itch is actually a hilarious look at how men relate to women. Even the all the awkwardness, mistakes, miscommunications and misunderstandings that can arise just from two people meeting make that interaction a worthwhile experience. It’s surprisingly family-oriented and the polar opposite of the unbridled raunch-fest pop-culture would have you believe. Do give it a go, if you’ve yet to see it. It now lives high atop the list of my favorite Marilyn films.

*Evelyn Keyes’ hair in this movie qualifies for most unfair hairdo in a film. It’s a hideous nest of poodle curls that she never did anything to deserve.

**I would also like to address the fact that Richard Sherman is quite the paranoid screwball. He’s a middle-aged, happily married man who incessantly talks to himself and leaps to insane conclusions based on his wild imaginings. Honestly, he’s incredibly lucky his wife hasn’t shipped him off to the looney bin already.

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Marilyn Monroe {180 Tag}

My friend Kate of Silents and Talkies started a tag last week that I think is pure genius.  I liked the idea so much, I’ve decided to tag myself with it.

Here’s Kate’s criteria: “Name an actor, actress or director that you started out despising (or just really not liking) but ended up loving. Or vice versa, someone you started out loving and ended up despising (or just really not liking) — and explain why.

I’m sure I’m going to shock some people with my choice for this tag, but I love shocking people so here goes – My choice is Marilyn Monroe, “a star I started out despising and ended up loving.”

“But how can you dislike Marilyn?” you cry incredulously, the indignation rising. I’ll try to explain.

When I was a budding early teen film fan, I saw snippets of Marilyn in Bus Stop and Clash By Night. I don’t think I ever watched either film totally through until much later. I did make it through Some Like It Hot, and while boosting my crushes on Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, it did nothing to alleviate my prejudice against Marilyn.  When I saw Marilyn on screen, her sexy whisper grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. The dumb blonde image she often embodied offended me to no end.  The entire idea of Marilyn as nothing more than a sex symbol put me off in every way. I’m a modest creature by nature (probably very modest according to modern standards) so at the time, the whole “in your face” sexuality Marilyn oozed just made my skin crawl. She reminded me too much of the modern culture I was vigorously fighting against.

After many years of living in “Marilyn Despisal,” I had my epiphany last year. The Film Noir Classic Collection box sets were on sale at Amazon, so like a good Noir fan, I snatched them up right away. Looking over the films included in each set, I saw Clash By Night was in Volume 2. It was disappointing, not only because it wasn’t a favorite of mine, but because I couldn’t understand how it was considered Film Noir. Despite these objections, I bought it anyway. My mom and I made our way through each box set, one by one. When it came time to watch Clash By Night, I wasn’t expecting much but decided to give it chance. The result was a complete turnaround on my views of Marilyn.

Maybe it happened because I have matured, maybe I was just in a weak moment, or maybe it was just my time to become a Marilyn fan. No matter what the reason, Marilyn disarmed me with her fresh honesty, sweetness, and down to earth manner. Marilyn was gorgeous, but she acted like she didn’t know or care. She was (or at least seemed) blissfully ignorant of her physical beauty. It’s a truly remarkable quality found in few. I get so annoyed with modern female film stars who walk around virtually screaming “Hey, look at me, I think I’m drop dead gorgeous!” And, it’s practically never true, anyway.  Marilyn comes up tops against them all.

Clash By Night is one of my favorite Marilyn films for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned plus one more.  The chemistry she has with Keith Andes is electric. If you ask me, Marilyn and Keith steal the whole film from Barbara Stanwyck and Paul Douglas (I say this even as a huge Paul Douglas fan). It’s obvious Marilyn and Keith’s characters have a strong physical attraction to each other, but they also share a meaningful friendship which allows them to kid around and just be silly. It’s easy to imagine their characters having a successful marriage, still being able to laugh with each other even 50 years on.

So, now as a Marilyn Monroe convert, I seek out every film she made, finding that each and every one has merit of some kind and is a wonderful film. She’s one of those actors who guarantees the success of a picture by her very presence. I recommend all of her films I have mentioned in this post. Her whisper has grown on me over time, and I now see it as a reflection of her shyness. The dumb blonde cliche which offended me so much before now only serves to remind me of the real Marilyn, who was not dumb at all. In fact, she was smart enough to figure out a way to escape her type-casting that studio heads would be forced to accept. And while I can recognize the image of Marilyn as a sex symbol, I have learned to look past it and see her as the kind hearted, fragile person she actually was. I suppose, in the end, Marilyn has the last laugh on me. And you know what? I don’t mind a bit.

And with that, I hereby tag the following bloggers with the 180:

Nicole at Classic Hollywood Nerd

Laura at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Matthew at Movietone News

(Have you ever noticed how I tag a lot of the same people? I hope they don’t get mad at me!)

If you would like to do a 180 of your very own, go ahead! Don’t be shy: write it up, post it and let me know. I’ll link it for you here as one of my tag-ees.

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