“The Seven Year Itch” – 4 STARS

Classic Movie SpotlightSEVEN YEAR POSTERAcclaimed director Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch” was a movie that at the time drove the Motion Picture Production Code enforcers crazy. As risqué and seductive as the film was, it’s based on a much edgier play by George Axelrod. Wilder co-wrote the screenplay with Axelrod and ended up making several changes to satisfy the censors. But these alterations did nothing to hurt the picture. “The Seven Year Itch” is a smart and funny romantic comedy – exactly the kind of movie you would expect to get from Billy Wilder.

The story is set during a hot Manhattan summer when wives and children leave the city for cooler vacation sites leaving behind the men to work. This exodus, which resembles a massive animal migration, leaves a nerdy, insecure business executive named Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) alone while his wife and son head off to Maine. It doesn’t take long to see that Richard is a bit eccentric and unsure about himself. He also has a vivid imagination and often times finds himself daydreaming about things that feed his insecurities. He spends a lot of time carrying on conversations with himself, discussing his wife’s skepticism over his ladies man status as well as his unquestioned faithfulness to his wife while she’s away. While other husbands may be out catting around, not Richard Sherman. There will be no drinking, smoking, or womanizing for him.

Well that may be easier said than done, especially when he bumps into the new tenant in his apartment building. Now this is no ordinary tenant. The a gorgeous blonde bombshell is played by Marilyn Monroe. Apparently that says all you need to know because we never get her name (which may give us an indication of where Richard’s mind is at). She’s simply credited as The Girl. As you might expect, Richard is smitten with his beautiful neighbor and regardless of his best efforts and outspoken arguments with himself, he places himself right in the path of temptation.


Richard’s array of flirtatious errors begins with inviting ‘the girl’ to his apartment for a drink. Bad move. The girl’s ditzy, playful, and seductive charm is more alluring than Richard imagined and soon he finds himself in too deep. A little fib here and a poor decision there has the already paranoid Richard a little on edge. The question becomes will he go too far and irreparably harm his marriage or will he come to his senses? On the other hand, does he even have any senses to come back to?

Tom Ewell was never what you would call a leading man. The consummate character actor, Ewell had a familiar face for film fans but his biggest career successes came on Broadway. His greatest recognition came with his lead performance in the stage version of “The Seven Year Itch”. He would play the role for three years, eventually winning a Tony Award. So Ewell was the natural choice to reprise his role of Richard Baxter in the film version. While the material was altered between stage and screen, Ewell handles it well and his common, everyday man persona works perfectly within Wilder’s film. In fact, my wife has said that Ewell’s portrayal of Richard’s neurosis is so convincing that it makes her antsy.

SEVEN YEAR2And then there’s Marilyn Monroe lighting up every scene with her radiance. While Ewell was clearly the lead character, it was Marilyn who received top billing. In 1955 Monroe was a hot property and it was her name that would serve as the biggest draw. She’s fantastic in this film. It’s easy to dismiss her character as another air-headed blonde but I think there’s more here than that. She certainly has her ditzy moments but its also feasible that she knows what she’s doing. Marilyn sells both sides and when combined with her obvious beauty and undeniable sexiness, she gives us one of her better cinema performances.

“The Seven Year Itch” has earned it’s place as an appreciated movie and many call it a true classic. There are several things about the film that is etched in pop culture history. Of course nothing more so than the iconic scene with Marilyn standing on the subway grating. The subway zips by underneath, the beautiful white dress of hers billowing from the air blowing up. But “The Seven Year Itch” has also been called an overly simplistic movie that at times feels too much like a play. I think that’s a fair criticism but one that doesn’t subtract too much from film. It’s witty and intelligent and ultimately unforgettable. The story never grows dull and the performances are a blast. While this may not be Billy Wilder’s best film it’s still a fun picture and a nice part of his amazing résumé.

5 Phenomenally Beautiful Actresses from the Golden Age

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

Over the years I’ve grown to love the Golden Age of cinema more and more. As my love for movies has matured, I’ve found myself appreciating film history and the great classics that came from that special time. I also discovered just how many beautiful actresses there were during that period. So I thought it would be cool to do a Phenomenal 5 that looked at the beautiful women of the Golden Age of movies. Talk about hard, this could easily be a Phenomenal 20 but you know the rules. As a point of clarity, by the Golden Age I’m referring to the end of the silent era all the way to the early to mid 60s. Now that’s a lot of years so obviously this isn’t the definitive list. But these five Golden Age actresses are without a doubt phenomenally beautiful.

Debbie Reynolds#5 – DEBBIE REYNOLDS
There was always something so adorable about Debbie Reynolds. She had such pep and energy but she was also a beautiful actress. Now some may point to the fact that Reynolds made several movies past the Golden Age. I would counter that by saying the bulk of her best films came within that wonderful era. She made her first film in 1948 but it was “Singin’ in the Rain” from 1952 that made her a star. In this classic her beauty matches her song and dance skills as she steals one scene after another. She would go on to make 22 films throughout the 1950s and she seemed to get prettier with each one. Whether she was dancing alongside Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain” or roughing it on the frontier in “How the West was Won”, Debbie Reynolds was an astounding beauty.

Marilyn Monroe#4 – MARILYN MONROE
Seriously, did you expect me to have a list of Golden Age beauties and not include Marilyn Monroe? For many, she is the first name to pop up when having a conversation about beautiful actresses. While I think you can debate Monroe’s acting abilities, there’s no denying that she was a gorgeous woman. In fact some believe her popularity as a major sex symbol was greater than her popularity as an actress. What ever the case, Marilyn Monroe became a cinematic icon and her beauty adorned magazine covers, wall calendars, and several great films including “The Seven Year Itch” and “Some Like it Hot”. Sadly Monroe died at the young age of 36 with so much ahead of her. But she left us with memories of one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the big screen.

Not many women can say they had an opportunity to be a celebrated actress and a royal princess. Well Grace Kelly could and you can add ‘one of the most beautiful women in film history’ to the list as well. Kelly only appeared in eleven pictures but many became true classics. She appeared in two of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock films “Dial M for Murder” and “Rear Window”. She also appeared in other wonderful movies such as “High Noon” and “To Catch a Thief”. Regardless of the movie, she was absolutely stunning and it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. She retired from acting at the early age of 26 and went to be the Princess of Monaco. She had a tragic end to her life but she left behind so many reminders of her great talents and her incredible beauty. There’s no way I could leave her off this list.

While she may not be one of the sexy blonde bombshells that took Hollywood by storm, to me Audrey Hepburn is one of the most beautiful actresses of her era or any era. It was easy to be attracted to Hepburn’s peppy and graceful charms on the screen. It was even easier to be mesmerized by her physical beauty – the dark hair, the big eyes, the darling smile. Her sprightly attitude fits perfectly with her glamorous appearance and throughout her movies you couldn’t help but be swept away by her presence. From her early films such as “Roman Holiday” and “Sabrina” to later Golden Age films like “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Charade”, Hepburn dazzled audiences during her amazing run. Some may downplay this choice, but I think Audrey Hepburn is nothing short of stunning.

Ingrid 600#1 – INGRID BERGMAN
I still remember the first time I saw Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen in the movies. Nothing has changed. I still feel the same way. Much like Kelly and Hepburn, Bergman had an undeniable grace and elegance to her. But she also had a beauty that could command and sometimes take over the screen. Her look wasn’t showy or overtly sexy like Monroe and others. The Swedish beauty possessed a subtle and natural allure. Don’t believe me? Well just watch her in “Casablanca”, “Gaslight”, and “Notorious”. Bergman would often times take on roles that would require her to hide her beauty. But even then you couldn’t help but recognize her as a gorgeous leading lady.

So there are my five choices. So many other beautiful Golden Age actresses come to mind. Who did I miss? Please take time to share your pick.


One thing that can be said for “My Week with Marilyn” is that it’s not your run-of-the-mill biopic. The movie is based on Colin Clark’s book about the making of “The Prince and the Showgirl”, a 1957 comedy starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. Said to have been a troubled set, “My Week with Marilyn” gives us an interesting glimpse at what it must have been like. But the movie mainly focuses on Colin Clark’s week-long relationship with Marilyn Monroe during the shoot. We spend a lot of time seeing the different sides of Marilyn through Adrian Hodges screenplay and the Oscar nominated performance of Michelle Williams. But while the film and especially Williams has received high praise, I found the movie lacking and in many ways missing the energy you would expect it to have.

The film starts with Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) leaving home in hopes of landing a job in the film industry. He ends up getting on with Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) new movie “The Prince and the Showgirl”. Marilyn Monroe (Williams) will be arriving to work on the picture and Colin’s first job is to find a home for her to stay in while she’s in London. Marilyn and Laurence get off on the wrong foot after she is late to the first script reading. This is a trend that continues throughout the filming of the movie and soon Laurence (who is also directing the picture) reaches his breaking point. Branagh is very good here and it’s quite obvious that he’s having a lot of fun with the role. He’s a likable character but very by-the-books when it’s time to work, something even his lovely but insecure wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormand) points out.

It’s during the stressful filming that we see Marilyn as extremely nervous and lacking any confidence in her acting abilities. In fact, she is almost always seen with her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) who actually serves more as a stabilizing mechanism to keep Marilyn from flying off the rails. Judi Dench plays Sybil Thorndike, a calm and soothing co-star who has sympathy for Marilyn and helps her build her confidence. But Marilyn doesn’t show up to the set one day and Colin is sent to check on her. A few days later Marilyn calls Colin to come over and see her. Colin is warned of Marilyn’s ways but his infatuation with her grows and grows. The relationship between the two is supposed to be unusual but I had a hard time finding any spark between them. Redmayne has the naive puppy dog thing working well but it was almost impossible to buy into their relationship.

I also thought the story, much like Colin and Marilyn’s fling, lacked any energy or vitality. I found my mind wandering during several scenes particularly when Marilyn is mumbling to Colin after taking to many pills. The movie just seems to hit an emotional flatline and I had a hard time staying interested. There were also times when Marilyn comes across as too childlike. I understand that the movie was trying to convey a type of childlike dependency in Marilyn but there were a couple of scenes where the script takes it too far.

But everything in this film comes back to the performance from Michelle Williams. She won a Golden Globe for the role but I have to say that I wasn’t as enamored with her work as most others have been. She certainly gives it everything she’s got and to be fair her biggest problem is that she’s let down by the material. But I never really felt like I was watching Marilyn Monroe. I always felt like I was watching someone play her. Now that may be expecting too much from Williams and it may be unfair. But this film hinges on the audience buying into Williams as Monroe and I only partially could.

When it comes down to it, “My Week with Marilyn” is pretty lightweight. It starts off strong but hits a rut at the midway point and spins its wheels for most of the second half of the film. Williams certainly isn’t bad here but she also isn’t Marilyn Monroe. I can see where if you buy into her performance completely, you’ll probably enjoy this film more than I did. But even with that, I would still have a hard time buying into this week-long lifeless fling. As I said at the beginning, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill biopic. But unfortunately it doesn’t use its uniqueness to create something special.