New York Film Locations

otsoNY in 2009: The Seven Year Itch

22 October 2019

Between September and November in 1954, Marilyn Monroe was in New York City to shoot the Billy Wilder romantic comedy, ’The Seven Year Itch’, based on a three-act play with the same name by George Axelrod. The film was co-starred Tom Ewell, reprising his Broadway role from the play as Richard Sherman, a nerdy, faithful, middle-aged publishing executive with an overactive imagination and a mid-life crisis, whose wife, Helen, and son, Ricky are spending the summer in Maine. When he returns home with the kayak paddle Ricky accidentally left behind, he meets a woman, who is a commercial actress and former model, and who rents the apartment upstairs.

Film Poster: The Seven Year Itch

“For most film location fans, it is the iconic sidewalk scene where Marilyn Monroe stands over the subway grate to experience the breeze, wearing the pleated white halterneck dress,” explains otsoNY’s creator Mark Rogers. “But for me, it was always the apartment building on East 61st Street, where Marilyn Monroe first appears in the doorway, holding a bag of groceries and an electric fan, its cord trailing like a cat’s tail. Her polka-dotted dress was shrink-wrapped to her body, whilst her lips were red and wet, and as she walks upstairs, in a slow ascent equal parts geisha swish and runway strut, it was almost impossible for Ewell to look away. Monroe’s luminescence was at full wattage here, and I imagine a collective gasp coursing through the 1950’s cinema audience, and the film censors fanning themselves!”

Scene from The Seven Year Itch featuring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell

“During the filming, Marilyn Monroe was constantly photographed by the paparazzi, and none more so than the scenes that took place on Lexington Avenue, which were later re-shot on a soundstage due to the noise of onlookers, and at 164 East 61st Street, where she was seen waving from to her co-star from the apartment window. Monroe also spent some time between scenes posing on the front steps of the apartment building. “In May 2009, I visited this location and also posed for a selfie on the same steps that Marilyn Monroe had done some fifty-five years previously,” says Mark. “As for the apartment building, thankfully, not much had changed apart from the exterior wall colour was no longer a dark brown, but a cream, and the window shutters had since been removed, though there were still air-conditioning boxes attached to the windowsills much like they had been in the 1950s!”

Marilyn Monroe standing on the steps of 164 East 61st Street

Marilyn Monroe inside the apartment at 164 East 61st Street

Marilyn Monroe inside the apartment at 164 East 61st Street

As the films story developed, it was explained that Richard Sherman spent his first night alone reading the manuscript of a book in which psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker claimed that almost all men are driven to have extra-marital affairs in the seventh year of marriage. Sherman’s imagination would often cause him to over-think situations and at times have imaginary conversations with his wife Helen, as he would try to convince her that he was irresistible to women, including his secretary, a nurse, and even Helen's own bridesmaid. It was between a break in conversation that a tomato plant crashed onto Richard’s lounge chair from the apartment balcony above, which then caused a change of events in his life. The apologising Monroe is then invited down to his apartment on the offer of a drink and a cool air-conditioned environment. “I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched this movie,” says Mark, “but it simply is Marilyn Monroe at her very best. The chemistry between her and Tom Ewell is faultless, and as each scene plays out, it is almost like watching a live theatre show.”

On the set of The Seven Year Itch

The apartment building at 164 East 61st Street is located between Lexington and Third Avenues and has recently been beautifully transformed with a new marble entryway, new staircase, and many other top-quality appointments. “It was whilst I was taking photos that a resident of the building showed up and asked about my interest in the place, upon which I mentioned that it had appeared in a Marilyn Monroe film. I remember he seemed surprised and quite taken aback as to what I had just told him, whereas I was just disappointed that someone actually living at this address didn’t know the history behind it.”

The apartment building entrance in May 2009

The final scene of the film has Richard Sherman coming to his senses, and fearing his wife's retribution from his wildly exaggerated fantasies, tells the young woman she can stay in his apartment for the rest of the summer. “It is during this scene when Marilyn Monroe waves from the apartment window as Richard runs off along the street to catch the next train to Maine,” explains Mark. “Many lines and scenes from the play were cut or re-written because they were deemed indecent which led to a major plot change. In the play, Sherman and The Girl, as Monroe was known by, had sex, whereas in the movie, the romance is all in Richard’s head, and that the romance between the two is simply suggested.”

On the set of The Seven Year Itch

Sixty-four years have passed since the release of ‘The Seven Year Itch’, and though in the early 1980s, 20th Century-Fox had planned to do a remake starring Al Pacino as Richard Sherman and Melanie Griffith as The Girl, the project never came to fruition and, to date, no remake has ever been made. “I’m actually pleased that ‘The Seven Year Itch’ hasn’t been remade,” exclaims Mark. “There is already far too many old films being remade, and not often for the better. This film is perfect as it is, and to honest hasn’t really dated. Its core theme that marriages and relationships can suffer after a period of time is still as true today as it was all of those years ago.”

Other film locations from ‘The Seven Year Itch’ include Pennsylvania Station on 7th Avenue, the subway grating on Lexington Avenue near East 52nd Street, and East 57th Street between Madison Avenue and Park Avenue.

Click HERE for a full list of film locations from The Seven Year Itch

In the next article of this series, Mark talks about the film, ‘The Prince of Tides’ and the fire escape attached to the Prince Street apartment building where Nick Nolte once stood.


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