Celebrating what would have been Marilyn Monroe's 80th birthday is this two disc edition of The Seven Year Itch (1955). It's a cheeky bedroom comedy defining Monroe's appeal as somewhere between an innocent country gal and wily seductress. She stole the show from co-star Tom Ewell who plays a married man left alone for the summer with just the blonde bombshell upstairs for company...
Scratching The Itch
Although it's tame by today's standards, The Seven Year Itch was a risqué proposition in the 50s. A half-hour documentary revealing the story behind the production gives an insight into the battles director Billy Wilder and writer George Axelrod (adapting his own play) had to fight with the censors at the Hays Office. Among their puritanical regulations, the censors insisted "'Adultery must never be the subject of comedy or laughter," which made this film almost impossible to pull off! Axelrod explains how they negotiated this tricky ground and Wilder himself appears in archive footage to talk about his experience of working with an absentminded Marilyn. "No matter how you suffered pulling lines out like a dentist," he said, "they seemed so totally natural when she said them."
At least two scenes were considered too suggestive by the Hays Office and are featured here. The first sees Monroe taking a bubble bath while her plumber tries to fix the faucet. (Naturally, he drops his tool.) The second is an alternative version of the iconic moment when Monroe's skirt billows up as she stands over a subway grate. It doesn't vary much except that, in the original location shoot, her skirt blew up a little higher than the censors could allow. It was this day of shooting that hastened the divorce of Monroe and her grumpy baseball hero husband Jo DiMaggio. That's also a talking point in the documentary.
A vintage film chronicling Monroe's life offers startling proximity to those who knew her best. The late great director John Huston (who worked with her on The Misfits) talks to her first husband, her schoolteachers, and her family to provide some insight into Norma Jean Baker - the person she was before achieving international stardom. "Marilyn Monroe and Norma Jean Baker are two different people," insists the man who married her when she was just 16 years old. We also hear from her colleagues in the industry, including Robert Mitchum who observes, "She had an acquiescent loser's philosophy."