Musings on “The Seven Year Itch” and Its Influence

It’s a hot Summer day in August here in Falmouth on Cape Cod. I have all my errands done and it’s just around 3:00pm. Since it’s too early to eat supper, I think I’ll watch one of my “summer” moviesThe Seven Year Itch. (You can’t go wrong with Billy Wilder). Well, I watched it and, once again, enjoyed it thoroughly. I always thought that was one of Marilyn Monroe‘s best films, she definitely had a flair for comedy. (I have also always thought this movie was the high point of Tom Ewell‘s movie career, he did have a full, and sucessful, stage, and TV, career, so not to fret).

That famous subway grate scene is always fun to revisit! I can remember seeing pictures of the giant billboard in NYC with Marilyn, and her billowing skirt 80 feet high. Now that’s art! (I must interject the fact that I didn’t see The Seven Year Itch until the early 1960’s, since at the time it came out I was 11 or 12 and my tastes ran more to Abbott & Costello or Martin & Lewis).I remember liking the apartment featured in Itch very much, and noticing the great use of bookcases, shelving, etc. There was no wasted space. At the time I was living on Joy Street in Boston on Beacon Hill and was looking for ways to make my tiny studio apartment seem bigger. I always remembered the stairway to nowhere from the film, and used it later in life when a friend bought a condo in a high rise. He didn’t like modern décor, he preferred colonial. He also needed more closet space, so I remembered this movie and suggested he put in a phony staircase, which he did. He had closet space under the faux staircase and a landing at the end for more hidden space — which doubled as a wonderful showplace for his Christmas tree. I’ve lost track of the friend, and sometimes wonder if he still lives there and if condo still has the staircase. So you see, you never know what knowledge you might get from going to the movies.

The crude janitor of the building was played by Robert Strauss, a very colorful character, who I’m sure you will recall from his portrayal of Animal in the wonderful movie Stalag 17. Hmmm, now I’m thinking of Stalag 17 and what a great film that is…but, I digress. Another wonderful scene from The Seven Year Itch is when Mr. Ewell plays Rachmaninov on the piano in one of his many fantasy scenes and fantasizes how he will woo Marilyn Monroe’s character. That particular scene is responsible for me starting my classical music collection, ecause the dialogue informed me of the name of the piece. (The problem with most classical radio stations is they usually tell you the lineup for the upcoming segment before they play them, so after you hear something you like you don’t know the name of it). I am probably repeating myself about how movie music has influenced my tastes, but it remains true.

Now that I am thinking about how much movies have influenced me, I often recall a specific movie that influenced a portion of my life. For instance, Gig Young wore an outfit in That Touch of Mink that I thought was sharp, so I emulated it to the best of my ability back then. I thought, “I’m no Gig Young, but, I look good!”  I can also recall movie restaurant scenes where they were dining on a particular dish, and knew I would be ordering that dish sometime in the near future. As I reread this I sound like some innocent, uneducated, oaf, who is very susceptible! Or, is Hollywood really playing mind games with us? We all know of the subliminal messages that flashed across our drive-in screens back in the 50’s/60’s, nobody really craves shrimp poppers, popcorn, and pizza all at the same time! But, I digress. Go revisit The Seven Year Itch, you won’t be sorry, and I’ll bet you dust of that old copy of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto #2, in E flat minor!

Bill Dunphy enjoys photography, cooking, reading, and, of course, movies — of which he has about 350 in his library.