Snapped sometime prior to the 6.1.55 premiere of Billy Wilder‘s The Seven Year Itch. I tried watching this 20th Century Fox sex comedy a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t stay with it — it’s tedious, labored, constipated. I smirked a few times but I didn’t laugh once — not once. Tom Ewell wants to ravage Marilyn Monroe but he’s too chicken. On top of which I think his off-screen orientation came through on some level. I didn’t believe him.
Itch was the second of five ’50s films directed by Wilder during his “house director” phase, so-called because these films represented a creative hibernation for the director of Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. The usual Wilder traits — cynicism, opportunistic characters, smartass dialogue, ironic turnarounds — weren’t entirely absent in Sabrina (’54), The Seven-Year Itch, The Spirit of St. Louis (’57), Love in the Afternoon (’57) and Witness for the Prosecution (’57), but they were in relatively short supply. Wilder finally returned to form in ’59 with Some Like It Hot.
The house phase began in the wake of the success of Wilder’s Stalag 17 (’53), although the primary factor, I’ve always believed, was the failure of Wilder’s caustic and ultra-cynical Ace in the Hole (’51). After that film bombed critically and commercially, the word went around that Wilder needed to retreat from his hard-edged material and ease up for a while. He did.