Audrey Vs. Marilyn

When I first started watching classic movies I fell in love with Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and the magic of Audrey. Yes, Sabrina was my first Audrey, When I was about 16 and earning money of my own for the first time I bought an Audrey Hepburn box set containing Sabrina, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Paris When It Sizzles (which I maintain is one of my favourite Audrey films, no matter how derided it is by everyone).

But as I’m sure any classic movie buff knows, it is hard explore that era of films without encountering perhaps one of the most identifiable women in history – Marilyn Monroe. My first encounter with her was through the Living Blonde series of books by Allison Rushby about a teenage girl who was obsessed with Marilyn movies and thought her life played out according to her most notable films. Admittedly I never thought much of Marilyn in the past. I left it until relatively late in my classic movie obsession to see any of her movies, and then when I did, I more often than not found myself more engaged with her co-stars than in the characters she played.  In Gentleman Prefer Blondes I was much more interested in the fortunes of Jane Russell’s Dorothy Shaw than the (admittedly gorgeously named) Lorelai Lee. How To Marry A Millionaire had me wishing all along that Lauren Bacall’s Schatze would just realise Tom wasn’t a gas pump jockey while as a lifelong glasses-wearer myself becoming annoyed at Pola’s antics not wearing her glasses when there was a man around. Even Some Like It Hot wasn’t enough to sway me to team Marilyn. While I did enjoy those movies,and I could see how charismatic and mesmerising she could be, I still viewed her as almost one-dimensional in her character portrayal.

And then along came The Seven Year Itch. Without a question this is my favourite Marilyn Monroe movie (of the four that I have seen). Any Billy Wilder and George Axelrod project is bound to be special. Tom Ewell absolutely grabs me as the abandoned husband stuck in New York during a hot muggy summer with a hot upstairs neighbour running rampant in his heat induced fantasies. Watching this movie I almost fell in love with Marilyn as The Girl though possibly due to the similarities present between Seven Year Itch  and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

This may seem like a wildly outrageous notion at first, but I find small comparisons there that may have drawn me to SYI because of their BAT likeness:

  • New York setting
  • quirky but breathtaking girl in the city to follow her dreams,
  • flirtations with the bumbling writer/publisher downstairs neighbour
  • based on successful source material
  • featuring iconic female leads with lesser known male leads

Mostly I find a sense of escapism in both films. Holly Golightly is obviously running away from her Texas beginnings. Tom Ewell’s Richard Sherman seeks to escape first from the presumed monotony of his marriage and summer existence through encounters with The Girl. And then when her temptations prove too much for him to bear he retreats to melodramatic fantasies and eventually his family in Maine. The addition of Marilyn Monroe playing The Girl perfectly is just an added bonus.

I read and watch movies to escape into other places and forget about my own troubles. The Seven Year Itch especially on a day like provides that chance to escape, wanting to be the quirky but breathtaking girl with a loveable downstairs neighbour. Today is a muggy almost summer day and , for today and today only, I am a Marilyn.


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