Billy Wilder George N. Fenin - Essay

George N. Fenin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Seven Year Itch is another step down in the career of [Billy Wilder]. (p. 22)

[The Broadway play] was a simple, sometimes funny comedy enriched by nuances and subtle insights into the American "psychological" approach to the battle of sexes.

The screen version cannot advertise the same quality…. [Marilyn Monroe] was apparently forbidden to make the slightest attempt at acting: she has been built into the film as a symbol of sex, in a definite geometry of solids, the display reaching a paroxysm that leads us to suspect a streak of sadistic satire in Wilder's direction. Thus one follows the buildup with a great deal of curiosity, because it may be logically anticipating an unpredictable climax with an equally unpredictable creative contribution by the director. But after such a titillating game of senses,—which soon degenerates into rather cheap effects,—everything collapses…. The triumph of the pharisaic hypocrisy of the Production Code is total. No adultery, no danger of sudden repentance, for the camera focuses on our man in the street, destination family. Thus in the name of the Victorian values that still oppress our society, the incredible massacre of the story is carried out, the buildup wasted, and the audiences given a finale which does not carry any logical conclusion to the rather clearly expressed sexual appetites of the hero. (pp. 22-3)

[It] is proper to assume that Mr. Wilder could have found ways and means to respect the consistency of the story and satisfy the censors as well. (p. 23)

George N. Fenin, "A Victorian Film," in Film Culture (copyright 1955 by Film Culture), Vol. 1, No. 4, Summer, 1955, pp. 22-3.