The Story (continued)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Then after turning the lights back on, he fantasizes about everything that will happen with her, as he plays a recording of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto. In an amorous fantasy, the Girl appears coming down a staircase with a slinky strapless, sparkling black and gold evening gown and black gloves, flourishing a long cigarette holder. He imagines himself at the piano in an elegant red dressing gown, distinguishedly gray at the temples, lighted candelabra on the piano. He greets her with an affected accent. She is overwhelmed and swept away by the music:
Rachmaninoff...It isn't fair...Every time I hear it, I go to pieces...It shakes me, it quakes me. It makes me feel goose-pimply all over. I don't know where I am or who I am or what I'm doing. Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't ever stop!
With imaginary thoughts of conquest, he stops the music and in a suave manner takes her in his arms and kisses her, embracing her on the piano bench.
And then the doorbell rings and he is awakened from his fantasy and the mood is interrupted, especially since it is only the slovenly, T-shirted janitor Mr. Kruhulik (Robert Strauss) who has come to pick up the bedroom rugs for cleaning, arranged by Helen. Refusing to let him take the rugs until later, Sherman learns that Kruhulik will also become a "summer bachelor" the next day, but disapproves of his crass expectations for freedom: "He's got four kids. Something happens to people in this town in the summer. It's disgraceful."
Rushing to the door when the buzzer sounds, he slips on the roller skate once again, toppling himself and his bucket of ice cubes. The blonde arrives at his door, wearing tight pink slacks and a matching pink blouse. He offers her a drink, and then mentions that he lives alone, explaining away the roller skate he is holding by telling her that it is adjustable and that he likes to roller skate. The Girl is receptive to a drink: "I drink like a fish..." She doesn't know what a martini is (gin and vermouth), but lets him make her a big tall one.
Then, she tells him how the Kaufmann's upstairs apartment is not air-conditioned. She stands in front of his air conditioner, removing her belt and raising her pink blouse to let the cool air blow on her bare midriff, while artlessly and empty-headedly relating what happened to her the previous day in her hot apartment:
It's just terrible up there...Ohh, this feels just elegant. I'm just not made for the heat. This is my first summer in New York and it's practically killing me. You know what I tried yesterday? I tried to sleep in the bathtub. Just lying there up to my neck in cold water...But there was something wrong with the faucet. It kept dripping. It was keeping me awake, so you know what I did? I pushed my big toe up the faucet...The only thing was, my toe got stuck and I couldn't get it back out again...No, but thank goodness there was a phone in the bathroom, so I was able to call the plumber...He was very nice, even though it was Sunday, I explained the situation to him and he rushed right over...But it was sort of embarrassing...Honestly, I almost died. There I was with a perfectly strange plumber and no polish on my toenails.
The Girl, with more physical assets than brains, tells him that she had previously lived in a women's club and discloses why she was asked to leave:
I hated it. You had to be in by one o'clock or they locked the doors. Now I can stay out all night if I want to. I was really glad when they kicked me out, I mean when they practically asked me to leave...It was so silly. I posed for this picture and when it was published in U.S. Camera, they got all upset...It was one of these 'artistic' pictures...it was on the beach with some driftwood. It got Honorable Mention...It was called Textures, because you could see three different kinds of texture: the driftwood, the sand and me. I got $25 dollars an hour, and it took hours and hours. You'd be surprised.
No longer a model, she is now an actress, doing Dazzledent Toothpaste Hour TV commercials every other week:
I do the commercial part...Honest, it's a very good part. First they put a little gray makeup on my teeth to show what happens when you use ordinary toothpaste. Then, they wipe it off again to show what happens when you use Dazzledent. I kind of sit there like this, for about 14 seconds, and I get to speak lines too: 'I had onions at lunch. I had garlic dressing at dinner. But he'll never know, because I stay kissing sweet, the new Dazzledent way.'
She innocently muses about her fleeting fame on TV:
You know, people don't realize that every time I show my teeth on television, I'm appearing before more people than Sarah Bernhardt appeared before in her whole career. It's something to think about?
On her 22nd birthday only a few days earlier, she bought a bottle of champagne to elegantly drink by herself in the bathtub. But because she couldn't get the bottle open, it still sits in her refrigerator with her undies and potato chips. She rushes upstairs to get the bottle to share with him. While she is gone, he sneaks a look at her U.S. Camera photograph he discovers in a book on his shelf and fends off another phone call from his wife.
When the Girl returns with the champagne, she has changed into a seductive white dress with loose criss-cross straps, explaining:
I figured it just isn't right to drink champagne in matador pants. Would you mind fastening my straps in the back?...Potato chips, champagne, do you really think you can get it open?
Clumsily getting his finger stuck in the bottle's opening, she accidently discovers that he is married, but is relieved - nothing can get "drastic" with a married man:
I think it's wonderful that you're married. I think it's just elegant...I wouldn't be lying on the floor in the middle of the night in some man's apartment drinking champagne if he wasn't married....Sure, with a married man, it's all so simple. I mean you can't possibly ever get drastic...You may not believe this, but people keep falling desperately in love with me...And suddenly they get this strange idea in their heads...Yes, they start asking me to marry them. All the time. I don't know why they do it...All I know is, I don't want to get married. Not yet anyway. Getting married! That'd be worse than living at the Club. Then, I'd have to start getting in by one o'clock again...That's the wonderful part about being with a married man. No matter what happens he can't possibly ask you to marry him because he's married already. Right?
When he proposes playing a recording of Rachmaninoff, she admits that she doesn't know anything about music:
This is what they call classical music, isn't it?...I can tell because there's no vocal.
She is not swept away by Rachmaninoff as he had fantasized earlier. He wishes to recreate his fantasy: "Shhh. Don't talk. Don't fight it. Relax. Go limp...Let it sweep over you." As he moves down for a kiss, she sits upright: "You know, I've got the biggest thing for Eddie Fisher," and reaches into the potato chip bag. Sherman reminds her of his sexual fantasy: "Very frequently, people go all to pieces listening to this...It quakes them, it shakes them, it makes them goose-pimply all over." The Girl dips her potato chip in his champagne glass, remarking: "Hey, did you ever try dunking a potato chip in champagne? It's real crazy. Here...Isn't that crazy?" When he realizes that Rachmaninoff wasn't such a good idea, she reassures him:
Don't worry. Everything's fine. A married man, air-conditioning, champagne and potato chips. This is a wonderful party.
In a memorable sequence, he begins playing Chopsticks on the piano and she joins him on the piano bench, banging and singing out the tune with him in a child-like manner. Exuberantly during their duet, she exclaims: "I don't know about Rachmaninoff and this shakes you and quakes you stuff, but this really gets me...and how...I can feel the goose pimples...Don't stop. Don't stop."
After a few vigorous renditions, he stops and approaches her with a romantic accent: "Because now I'm going to take you in my arms and kiss you, very quickly and very hard." They fall backwards off the piano bench, leaving him sprawled over her. Realizing what he has said, he pleads that it was all a mistake:
The Girl: What happened? I kinda lost track.
Sherman: I don't know. This is terrible. There's nothing I can say, except that I'm terribly sorry. Nothing like this ever happened to me before in all my life.
The Girl: Honest? (It) happens to me all the time.
Sherman: This is unforgiveable. The only possible excuse is that I'm not quite myself tonight. So maybe it would be better if you just go.
The Girl: Why, you're being silly.
Sherman: Please go, I must insist. Take your potato chips and go.
The Girl (shrugging it off): All right, if you really want me to. Good night.
Sherman: Good night.
The Girl: I think you're very nice.
Sherman (condemning himself): Nice! You're not nice. You're crazy. That's what you are. You're running amuck. Helen's gone for one day and you're running amuck. Smoking, drinking, picking up girls, playing Chopsticks. You're not gonna live through the summer. Not like this you're not. (Looking in mirror) Look at those blood-shot eyes, look at that face, ravaged, dissipated, evil. One of these mornings, you're gonna look in the mirror and that's all brother: The Portrait of Dorian Gray.
Flustered, upset, and thinking he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the next day at work, he asks his boss Mr. Brady (Donald MacBride) for a two week vacation so he can join his wife and child in the country. But he is refused - it's the publisher's busiest season and his boss isn't very sympathetic to his plight. Sherman imagines he has indeed been transformed into Dorian Gray:
Vice, lust, and corruption, the story of a young man, on the surface clear-eyed and healthy, just like you Sherman, but underneath, ah, dry rot and the termites of sin and depravity, gnawing at his soul.
In Chapter 6 of the Brubaker manuscript, Sherman reads about a phenomenon which is particularly applicable to himself - the tendency and urge of middle-aged men married for seven years to seek infidelity and extra-marital adventures - "the seven year itch." Later that afternoon, psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker (Oscar Homolka), whose book he is publishing, arrives for an appointment. The title of his manuscript has been renamed "Of Sex and Violence," and the premise of the book has also been revised - a middle-aged man terrorizes a young girl. Sherman seeks a bargain for counseling he feels he sorely needs:
Sherman: Tell me, doctor, are you very expensive?
Dr. Brubaker: Very.
Sherman: I'm sure you occasionally make exceptions.
Dr. Brubaker: Never!
Sherman: Why, I mean once in a while, a case must come along that really interests you.
Dr. Brubaker: At $50 an hour, all my cases interest me.
In a counseling session held in his office, Sherman stretches back and explains how he is in serious trouble because he attempted to terrorize a young lady on a precarious piano bench. He fears he is afflicted with the Seven Year Itch. Dr. Brubaker takes notes and advises: "If something itches, my dear sir, the natural tendency is to scratch." Sherman is concerned that she will spread the word around that he perversely terrorized her.