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The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Book Vs Movie Podcast

Book Vs. Movie: The Seven Year Itch
The George Axelrod 1952 Play Vs. the 1955 Billy Wilder Film

When the coronavirus pandemic began, the Margos decided to expand on the very idea of a “book” to movie adaptation to cover weekly. The timing of putting our four episodes a month means we can’t always cover anything longer than 200 pages. This is why we have also talked about magazine articles, songs, and plays on this show. This episode is devoted to The Seven Year Itch which started on Broadway in 1952 with Tom Ewell and Vanessa Brown and was written by George Axelrod (who later adapted Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Manchurian Candidate which we have discussed on this show before.)

The story of a married man, Richard Sherman played by Ewell, whose family spends the summer in Maine while he sweats it out in their Gramercy Park apartment. (And I thought I had problems!) While learning about extramarital affairs from a book he is publishing, he soon begins a friendly relationship with a new neighbor. THE GIRL is never given a name and she is vexing him with her beauty. In the play (spoiler!), they have a brief romantic encounter which leaves him feeling guilty and heading up to Maine and back to his wife.

The show features dream sequences and we actually hear Richard’s inner dialog the whole time. Supposedly Ewell worked to change the quirky behavior with each performance (he would go on to win a TONY for best dramatic actor) and at 1,141 performances–it was the longest-running nonmusical play of the 1950s on Broadway.

Ewell was pleasantly surprised to be asked to lead in the film adaptation by Billy Wilder. Years later, Wilder would complain that the current Hays Codes ruined the story by not allowing Richard to actually have an affair with THE GIRL (played by a shimmering Marilyn Monroe.) The movie is special for many reasons: Marilyn and the “white dress” moment is a classic, and the original Pennsylvania Station is featured before its horrible destruction in 1963 (a blight on NYC) to name just two things.

It’s impossible to talk about Monroe without talking about her chaotic private life which always seemed to create havoc on movie sets. Her husband Joe DiMaggio was NOT happy about the world watching his wife getting her dress blown by a wind machine. Monroe’s battle with anxiety and depression caused her to be late to set. Her legendary ability to forget her lines caused major delays to the film which caused the budget to go to $1.8 million. The movie was a hit and made money but her reputation for being a problem followed her for the rest of her career.

So between the two, which did we like more? The play or the movie?

In this ep the Margos discuss:
The stage version and how it became a huge success.
Marilyn Monroe’s life and career in the 1950s.
Changes to the film that critics and Wilder disliked
The cast: Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman,) Marilyn Monroe (The Girl,) Evelyn Keyes (Helen Sherman,) Sonny Tufts (Tom MacKenzie,) Victor Moore (plumber,) Oscar Homolka (Dr. Brubaker,) Marguerite Chapman (Miss Morris,) and Carolyn Jones as Nurse Finch.

Clips used:
Subway grate scene
The Seven Year Itch 1955 trailer
Meet the new neighbor
Champagne scene
The piano scene
“My wife never gets jealous…”
Music by Alfred Newman


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Margo D. @BrooklynFitChik www.brooklynfitchick.com brooklynfitchick@gmail.com
Margo P. @ShesNachoMama https://coloniabook.weebly.com/

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