You've seen the iconic picture - Marilyn Monroe standing above a subway grate, the breeze from below pushing her skirt up to her thighs - but do you know the context?
That scene, which I've pasted below in a video clip, passes by quite unceremoniously in the film, which goes to show how I believe the intent of the film is different from how it's received. The Seven Year Itch was at first a Broadway play, a comedy, and it was adapted (significantly changed) for the big screen.
There's debate on whether or not Monroe was truly a talented actress or if she was just justifiably typecast into the parts of naive female leads. If you'd read through her autobiography My Story I think you'll see her performance in this movie to be one of incredible depth.
**MOVIE SPOILER IN CLIP BELOW**
The film was released in 1955, a time when America was being introduced to the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean, and then caught up in a Davy Crockett phase. Men in movies were portrayed to be especially strong and TV dads were virtuous (Think Ward Cleaver in 1957, Leave it to Beaver). The Seven Year Itch didn't bother to adhere to either norm. Tom Ewell's character is a bumbling, sex-starved fool who can't help but be caught up in his brash imagination while his wife is away on vacation. That's what makes Marilyn Monroe's acting so great - she sees nothing but a platonic friendship between them and is largely ignorant of his scheming. The way she portrays her part places a critical spotlight squarely back on Ewell's character. What results is a frustrated friendship where neither truly appreciated the other. That's the very chemistry that for many years has halted the progress of emotional literacy and relational continuity time and time again. So often, in contexts including but also beyond the sexual, friendships get stuck on giving and taking instead of on the appreciation of what we already have. All of that is what The Seven Year Itch hides underneath the innocuous label of "romantic comedy."
If you've never watched any of Monroe's films I'd recommend this one as your starting point and following it up with Some Like it Hot. Before you do either though perhaps a look through her autobiography would be helpful so you can truly appreciate what kind of person she was, the good and the bad. She's an incredible icon in American culture and rightfully so, but perhaps even still it goes to show how misunderstood she knew herself to be.