Reel Estate

Reel Estate: The Seven Year Itch, and things we'll do for free A/C

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Summer in New York without air conditioning can be a special kind of hell. So the plot of The Seven Year Itch makes total sense to us: the wife and son of Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) flee to Maine to escape the heat, leaving him alone to contemplate the so-called "seven year itch" theory—wherein spouses feel inclined to start cheating on each other after seven years of marriage—and to strike up a friendship with a way-out-of-his-league upstairs subletter, played by Marilyn Monroe.

Known somewhat condescendingly as "The Girl," Monroe's character finds that her landlord has failed to install any A/C, even though, as Sherman points out, one of them "makes $15,000 a year" and could easily afford it. (This movie was made in 1955.) Luckily, he's got air conditioning in every unit. As such, she starts coming over to his apartment all the time, in large part to bask in the cold air:


Given that the story was originally a stage play, the action takes place almost entirely in one location, in this case, Sherman's apartment. And really, it's an awfully nice apartment. Though it's on the first floor, which isn't always ideal, it's also a duplex (note the staircase):


​And it also has a tasteful terrace that opens off the living room (Monroe's character accidentally drops a plant onto it from her balcony one floor up):


Sherman even waxes on about the benefits of his modest, three-story, Upper East Side building, saying to himself, "I like this house. Why does [my wife] keep talking about moving into one of those big enormous buildings that look like Riot in Cell Block 11?" And while most of the film was shot on Hollywood sound stages, the building itself is very real, located at 164 East 61st Street (between Third and Lexington). Reportedly, the building's owner at the time allowed the film crew to use it as a shooting location in exchange for $200 worth of whiskey (again, think about how much whiskey that means in 1955).

On The Set of New York

The building itself still looks more or less the same on the exterior. The first floor apartment is now renting for a little over $7,000 a month, and if pictures on StreetEasy are any indication, still has a similar outdoor space attached to the first floor apartment: 

The only major catch to this place, at least in the fictional version: later on in the movie, Monroe's character climbs down into Sherman's apartment from a trap door that apparently connects the two (just imagine if your neighbors suddenly found one of those). Shortly thereafter, he flees to the country to join his wife and kids, leaving her with access to his apartment and air conditioning for the rest of the summer—an ideal outcome to a summer sublet situation if we've ever heard one (for Monroe's character, at least). Check out the trailer below, and catch up on this summer classic while it's still A/C season:


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