Based on George Axelrod’s play and directed by Billy Wilder, a husband’s wife and son leave for the summer, and he spends time with his beautiful neighbor, fantasizing about various possibilties.
Tradition on the island of Manhattan had wives go away during the summer. Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) kisses his wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes) and says goodbye to his son. They go to board the train, and men see a beautiful woman walk by.
At work Richard Sherman improves the cover of a paperback book by lowering the necklines because he has an imagination. He goes out for health food and pays the bill. The waittress declines a tip but says he can donate it to the nudist camp. He goes home to his apartment and finds it peaceful with no one else there. He opens a soda and reads the ingredients. He steps on a rollerskate and falls on his back. He hears the door buzzer and unlocks the outside door for the beautiful girl (Marilyn Monroe). She carries her groceries upstairs to her apartment. He decides not to smoke and locks away the cigarettes. He decides to work on a book about the unconscious. He goes outside on his porch and starts reading about the repressed urge of the middle-aged male. He talks to himself about how he has never been unfaithful to his wife and imagines having a conversation with her. She laughs at him when he says women have thrown themselves at him.
Richard fantasizes about his secretary Miss Morris (Marguerite Chapman), who says she is in love with him. She takes off her blouse and kisses him, but he says, “That will be all.” He says he arouses women. He tells Helen about the night nurse Miss Finch (Carolyn Jones) who comes in to his hospital room and says he bothers her. She kisses him and suggests they run for the border. He slaps her, and she begs for more and kisses him. He presses his call button, and men come in and take her away. Helen says he reads too many books and sees too many movies. He tells her about when he went swimming with Elaine (Dolores Rosedale). They kiss on the beach, and he pulls himself away from her. He tells Helen he resents her calling at ten to check up on him. He says he has tremendous character. He says women age quicker, and Helen is losing her looks. The phone rings, and he tells Helen what he is doing. He learns that she met Tom Mackenzie, and he advises her to avoid him. He says goodnight.
He gets up to doctor his drink, and a tomato plant falls on his chair. He complains and sees it is the girl. She apologizes and asks if there is anything she can do. He asks her to come down and have a drink with him. She says she will get dressed in the kitchen where she keeps her undies cold. He finds the key and unlocks the drawer to get a cigarette. He smokes and takes a drink and then another. He dims the light and then asks what he is doing. He turns the light back on and says one drink and out. He checks his records and chooses Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto. He fantasizes the girl arriving in an elegant dress. He plays piano in a red robe. She says hearing it affects her, and she sits next to him. She tells him not to stop. He stops and says he will kiss her hard. He does so. Then he hears the door bell.
Mr. Kruhulik (Robert Strauss) comes in for the rug. Richard tries to persuade him to come another time. He pushes him out and stops the music. He goes to get ice, hears the door bell, and trips on the other roller skate. He picks up the ice and answers the door. The girl, wearing pants and a blouse, comes in. He asks what she wants to drink. She asks if he lives there alone, and he says he does. She asks for gin and soda. She realizes that is wrong, and he suggests a martini. She asks for a big, tall one. She notices his stairway goes nowhere. He says it used to be a duplex. He gives her a big, tall martini. She says she puts sugar in martinis, but he advises against it. She notices that he has air conditioning. She stands by it and pulls up her blouse a little. She tells how her toe got stuck in the bathtub faucet and she called a plumber. She asks for a cigarette, and he gets the key and brings them to her. They both smoke. She says she got kicked out of her previous place because she posed for an “artistic picture.” Now she is on a television program, a commercial for toothpaste. He says he is 38, and she is 22. He says he can open champagne, and she goes upstairs to get her bottle. He looks in a book to see her picture. He finishes both his drinks. He answers the phone and talks with Helen. He says he is reading a book. He hears the doorbell and hangs up. The girl comes back in a dress, and she asks him to attach her straps in back. He opens the bottle but gets his finger stuck. She tries to help him get free, and she notices that he is married. He says his wife went away for the summer. They pull on the bottle, and she falls on her bottom. They sit on the floor, and she pours their drinks. She gives him potato chips. She says men ask her to marry them. She does not want to get married. She says the good thing about a married man is that he will not ask her to marry him. He promises that he will never ask her to marry him. He asks if she wants to hear music, and he suggests Rachmaninoff. She notices it is classical. He tells her to relax. She closes her eyes, and he is about to kiss her; but she moves and says she likes Eddie Fisher. He wants to change the music, and she says she is having a good time. She shows him her picture in the book. He pours more champagne, and it overflows. She asks him to play something on the piano. He plays Chopsticks. She plays it too in a duet. She gets excited and tells him not to stop. He tries to act sophisticated and tries to kiss her, but they fall on the floor. He says this never happens to him, but she says it happens to her all the time. He asks her to go and insists. She says goodnight and that he is nice as she leaves. Richard criticizes himself and looks in a mirror.
Richard comes into his office, and Miss Morris offers to bring him some breakfast. He asks Mr. Brady (Donald McBride) for two weeks off, but Brady says it is their busy season. He asks how long he has been married. Richard says seven years. Brady says he is happy that his family is gone for the summer. Brady says he is lonely, and he suggests they team up. Brady suggests they reprint The Portrait of Dorian Gray about a man who is just like him.
Richard reads Brubaker’s manuscript about the seven-year itch and learns it is worse during the summer months. He reads about a case history in Germany. Dr. Brubaker (Oscar Homolka) comes in, and Richard shows him the proposed book cover with the title Of Sex and Violence. Dr. Brubaker notices that Richard’s thumb is twitching. He asks the doctor if he is expensive. Brubaker says he charges $50 an hour. Richard says he told her to go. He sits on a couch and starts talking to the doctor about his seven-year itch. He says he attempted to terrorize her. He shows him her picture in a bikini. Richard says if she tells anyone, he will kill her. Dr. Brubaker advises him to avoid murder because it is too complex. Dr. Brubaker leaves.
Richard imagines her telling a plumber (Victor Moore) about what happened. The plumber tells other people. Richard is afraid everyone will know about it. He imagines her on television telling millions about an evil man, giving his name. His son sees it and calls his mother. Richard decides to call his wife and gets the babysitter. He learns she is on a hayride with MacKenzie. He forgot to send the paddle that his son left behind. Miss Morris comes in, and Richard says life can be beautiful.
Richard walks home whistling. The girl in her slip from the window tells him she just washed her hair. He goes in and says it will be quiet there. He whistles and takes off his pants. In the shower he thinks about Helen and MacKenzie, who is a writer. He imagines them laying on the hay. Helen says she is afraid of herself. He says he can play it that way too. He looks up Kaufman in the phonebook and calls the girl and invites her to dinner and a movie.
Richard and the girl come out of the theatre, and she says she felt sorry for the creature. She stands on a vent over the subway, and her dress flies up. She tells him about the toothpaste, and she kisses him to prove her point. He kisses her back to be certain. They return to their apartment building, and he invites her into his air-conditioned apartment. She sits down and puts her feet up while he fixes drinks. She thinks about taking back her fan to get a larger one. He says there are no accidents. She plans how she could make her apartment cooler. He says she wanted to kill him with the plant because she loves him. He says they are all savages. He asks what they should do, and she says she would like to stay there tonight with him. She does not want to go back to her hot apartment. She asks if she could sleep in the chair. He says sure. She offers to fix his breakfast, but he is worried someone will see them. The doorbell rings, and Kruhulik wants to pick up the rug; but Richard stops him. Kruhulik sees the girl’s leg and apologizes and leaves. Richard wants to explain. She says hi, and he says hello. Richard asks him to take her tomato plant back upstairs. Richard says goodnight to them both. She says she understands and goes.
Richard asks what he should do, and he plans to send the paddle in the morning. He can’t figure out how to wrap it. He decides to use newspapers. The girl comes down the stairs and says she pulled out the nails.
Richard sleeps on the couch in his clothes and notices his thumb twitching. He gets up and talks to the sleeping girl in his bed. He quietly brings in the milk. In the kitchen he talks to himself about the girl while he fixes breakfast. He thinks she will blackmail him. She is in the shower. He thinks about what impression someone would get who walked in then. He worries Helen might come in. Kruhulik might have told her. Helen shoots her way in with a gun and says she will kill him. He tries to explain. He says she will never get away with it, and she shoots several times. He asks for a cigarette. Richard goes to get a cigarette, and the girl asks him what is the matter. He says he is shot. She says she should have taken the couch. He says his wife shot him, and she says he had a bad dream. He says it is his imagination, and she says she has no imagination. He says Helen trusts him implicitly, and she made him stop smoking. He says no pretty girl wants him. The girl says she does not go for the handsome man but for the nervous, shy man who is gentle and kind. If she were his wife, she would be jealous. She kisses him. The doorbell rings, and MacKenzie comes in. Helen asked him to stop by. Richard asks about the hayride. MacKenzie says he has hayfever and did not go. Richard says he refuses to give her a divorce and starts to explain about the blonde in the kitchen. MacKenzie came for the paddle. Richard says he will take the paddle back and threatens to punch him in the nose. Richard says Helen loves him, and he slugs MacKenzie, knocking him out. The girl comes in with breakfast, and Kruhulik comes in for the rug. Richard asks him to take MacKenzie, and he drags him out. Richard tells the girl she can stay in his air-conditioned apartment. He grabs the paddle, and she kisses him with a message for his wife. He runs out, and she throws him his shoes from the window. He runs down the street.
Though censored from the play, this farce shows how a man has fantasies based on his desires, fears, and jealousy. Yet his actual behavior is rather normal. This movie version works rather well because Marilyn Monroe represents someone many men would fantasize about. Naturally in the heat of summer people would be inclined to want to take their clothes off. Yet his air-conditioned apartment offers a solution to that problem.