Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, May 31, 2010

How Times Have Changed

This morning I watched a classic film I had never seen.  I had heard of it, of course, seen the poster and stills of the famous subway grill scene, but never seen the film.  It is a funny movie, but it is even funnier reflecting on how perceptions and tastes and rules have changed in the 53 years since it was made.

The little description box on my TV had the viewer warnings at the bottom: V and SD, I believe were the letters, and it said "Intense Violence" and "Intensely Suggestive Dialogue".

I could understand the intensely suggestive dialogue, although in reality it was not very intense compared to what you hear in any present day TV sitcom. There were no "four-letter" words, no graphically described bits of erotica, as well as no nudity or explicit sex. In today's theaters it probably would garner a PG rating, a PG-13 at the most.

Yes, the dialogue was subtlety suggestive, yet "Intense Violence"? Having never seen the film, I kept waiting and looking for this intense violence.  Twenty years ago we had still-beating hearts pulled from chests in an Indiana Jones adventure and that wouldn't measure up to intense violence compared to many of the modern movie bloodfests. What would be intense violence in a 1955 comedy?

It came near the end, in the imagination of Tom Ewell as the man with the seven year itch.  (Shouldn't it have properly been called the 'seventh year itch'? He didn't have an itch for seven years). He fantasizes his wife suddenly coming home and shooting the lock off his apartment door. She menaces him with her pistol and finally shoots him five times on a staircase and twice more after he has fallen.  We hear the gun, see puffs of smoke and watch Ewell stumble about and fall, but we never see any blood or gore. I once played such a victim in a high school sketch. It was comic violence, hardly intense.

And then there are all those stills and the posters of Marilyn standing on a subway grill, her skirt flying high above her waist as Tom Ewell leers at one side. These were shots that upset Joe DiMaggio, but they were shots not taken from the film. Yes, she does stand upon a subway grill and twice her skirt is blow up, but at the angle the scene is shot you only see her legs exposed to just above her knees. Women shop in our malls in shorts that display more leg than this infamous scene.

Speaking of women today and Marilyn, it was striking how she...well...looked plump. Women today would be heading for the diet books if photographs showed them looking as wide across the beam as Marilyn in this film and they'd be concerned about the thickness of their legs as well. 

Another thing that stood out was prices. Ewell has a meal in a restaurant. The waitress enumerates the items he had to eat, which were quite a few, and ends stating it will be a $1.27. At another point, Marilyn complains about the uselessness of an electric fan she purchased and states she will return it to the pharmacy and get her $3.87 back.

It is obvious the film was based on a play. It is not extensively movie-like.  Most of it takes place in Ewell's apartment and consists of two characters. A few scene go outside the apartment and include others, but it is easy picturing it being performed on a stage.

Despite all this, it is still funny and enjoyable. In other words, it's basic story is timeless.

I'll make one final observation. This film was considered somewhat daring in its day. But it is very, very, very mild indeed compared to where film and TV have went since. This is the subtle way evil creeps further into corrupting our lives. One would be laughed at for objecting to the Seven Year Itch as dirty or sexy or...oh my...intensely violent. The line has moved and it isa perfectly acceptable film for police society. Yet each decade that passes, that line moves further and more things become acceptable. Eventually there will be nothing one can object to and not be thought prudish or judgmental. And then I think we will be morally lost. We may be close. We may be there. 

1 comment:

Ron Tipton said...


Another well written essay that provokes thought. Thank you.