Cinema: The New Pictures, Jun. 13, 1955

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The Seven Year Itch (Feldman Group Productions; 20th Century-Fox) has been hawked across the nation with one of the most teasing promotional campaigns in movie history, culminating last week in a four-story cardboard model of Marilyn Monroe simpering prettily at Times Square while her skirts are being blown up around her hips.

This leering come-on may pull the easily titillated into the theater, but they are doomed to disappointment—for the screen version of Itch has been thoroughly laundered to win approval from the Production Code and the Legion of Decency. In the hit Broadway play, it was fairly clear that Summer Bachelor Tom Ewell went to bed with his pretty neighbor; in the film, undulating Marilyn spends the night with him, but, while she slumbers, Ewell chastely passes the wee hours wrapping up a kayak paddle for mailing to his vacationing son.

Not everything came out in the wash. There still remains in the film a heavy deposit of double-entendre. George Axelrod's play, and the movie he wrote in collaboration with Director Billy Wilder, concerns a middle-aged Manhattan husband who spends the summer in the city while his wife and son are enjoying the Maine breezes. Into his enforced celibacy comes the girl upstairs, an uninhibited hoyden from Denver who powerfully blends naiveté with sex—she dunks potato chips in champagne, begs for "more sugar" in her martini, artlessly boasts of posing in the nude, feels that it is all right to do "anything," with Ewell since there is no danger of his wanting to marry her. Ewell is already equipped with a vivid, Mittylike imagination (he daydreams that his wife's girl friend, his secretary and a beautiful nurse all try unsuccessfully to seduce him), and he is swept by alternate tides of temptation and remorse as Neighbor Marilyn gambols about his apartment in a series of elaborate costume changes, each more inviting than the last. The film ends as he flees New York with virtue intact but imagination hopelessly ravaged.

Itch is beautifully mounted in De Luxe-color CinemaScope, and Marilyn Monroe's eye-catching gait is more tortile and wambling than ever. She also displays a nice comedy touch, reminiscent of a baby-talk Judy Holliday. After listening to a Rachmaninoff concerto, Marilyn gets real comic conviction into her voice when she decides it must be classical music "because there's no vocal." Tom Ewell brings the expertise of long familiarity to his part of the agonized husband, but Director Wilder has let several of Ewell's monologues go on a shade too long. In minor roles, Robert Strauss and Donald MacBride also help to slow down the farce pace, while Oscar Homolka, as the psychiatrist, loses most of his best lines in transition from Broadway and delivers the remainder in too impenetrable an accent. Itch should have emerged on the screen as a fast, furious and funny comedy; at times it is all of these, but, continuously, none of them.

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