Glory Days: Marilyn and the Middle-Aged Male

Writing for Collider, Jeremy Urquhart includes The Seven Year Itch among 10 Movies That Best Capture Middle-Aged Angst. It’s the earliest film on the list, followed by Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage (1974); The Four Seasons (1981), starring Alan Alda; the Oscar-winning American Beauty (1999); Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004); Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight (2013), the finale in a romantic trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy; from the UK, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End (2013); and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019.)

In The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell plays Richard Sherman, a 37-year-old editor at a pulpy publishing house whose wife and young son have left New York for the summer. The film’s title refers to the duration of the marriage, and Sherman’s dilemma when left alone with a beautiful neighbour known only as ‘The Girl.’ As played by Marilyn, she embodies the temptations of his bygone youth. While ineffectually trying to woo her, Richard is also tasked with spicing up a manuscript entitled The Repressed Urge in the Middle-Aged Male.

“This Billy Wilder film also stands as one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic roles, and approaches the idea of a midlife crisis in a way that’s more humorous than most films about middle age,” Urquhart writes. “Risqué for its time, but not as impactful today – and certainly not one of Wilder’s best – it still stands as a solid comedy that provides a lighter-than-normal look at middle-aged frustrations.”

Interestingly, the two most recent entries on the list are also comedies: and the male protagonists of Kevin Smith’s Clerks III, and Jackass Forever, both released in 2022, make Richard Sherman look well-adjusted by comparison. (Marilyn, of course, would never reach middle age.)