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16 Faithful Facts About The Seven Year Itch

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Despite being stymied by strict morality guidelines set forth by The Motion Picture Production Code, The Seven Year Itch is best known for the iconic scene in which Marilyn Monroe's dress blows above her knees while she's standing over a subway grate. Based on a play by George Axelrod, Billy Wilder co-wrote and directed the movie version of the story of the nerdy, married Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) who, during one summer, is tempted to cheat on his wife when he meets The Girl (Monroe).

1. THE SCREEN RIGHTS WERE ACQUIRED FOR $255,000.

Part of the 1953 agreement with Axelrod was that the movie could not be released before January 31, 1956, since the play was still making money. When 20th Century Fox head Darryl F. Zanuck grew impatient, he paid Axelrod another $175,000 to move up the movie debut to June 3, 1955.

2. WILDER AND AXELROD HAD A SOMEWHAT CONTEMPTUOUS FIRST MEETING.

Both Wilder and Axelrod worked on the movie adaptation. Axelrod brought his script from the play with him to his first meeting with Wilder, and told Wilder he thought they could use it as a guide. Wilder famously replied, "Fine. We'll use it as a doorstop."

3. THANKS TO THE HAYS CODE, THERE WERE KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PLAY AND THE MOVIE.

In the play, Sherman and The Girl have sex. However, the Production Code dictated that “adultery must never be the subject of comedy or laughter.” Wilder thought he came up with a workaround and suggested they have Sherman's maid find a hairpin when making up his bed, implying the adulterous act without showing it. Zanuck refused to give Wilder—or anyone else—the go-ahead to even suggest the idea to censor Geoffrey Shurlock. Instead, Sherman only fantasizes about cheating with The Girl in the film. Two decades later, Wilder said the limitations imposed by the Hays Code made The Seven Year Itch a "nothing picture," and that he wished he had waited until the 1970s to make it. The Production Code effectively ended on November 1, 1968, with the introduction of the MPAA film rating system.

4. THE GIRL HAD NO NAME FOR A REASON.

"The truth is that I could never think of a name to really fit the girl I had in mind," Axelrod said. Apparently Wilder couldn't come up with one either.

5. AN UNKNOWN WALTER MATTHAU ALMOST LANDED THE ROLE OF RICHARD SHERMAN.

Walter Matthau tested for the part along with the then-just-as-unknown Gena Rowlands as The Girl on June 15, 1954. After considering Gary Cooper and William Holden, Wilder wanted Matthau. Axelrod agreed with the Matthau choice. Zanuck did not. James Stewart expressed interest but his schedule was already full.

6. TOM EWELL WAS SURPRISED HE WAS CAST.

Even though he played Richard Sherman 730 times in the Broadway production of The Seven Year Itch, and won a Tony Award for his troubles, Ewell said he "never expected to get the part" in the film adaptation. "In fact, I had already taken a house on Martha's Vineyard for a vacation. Needless to say, I'm happy they did choose me."

7. A SCENE INVOLVING YOGI BERRA WAS CUT.

Footage featuring Yankees catcher Yogi Berra and pitcher "Steady" Eddie Lopat that was filmed during an Indians-Yankees game on September 1, 1954 was meant to be a part of the gossip sequence when Sherman daydreams about news of his activities with The Girl spreading throughout New York City. Shooting for the film began on that Wednesday afternoon. Twelve days earlier, Hedda Hopper reported on the upcoming scene in her gossip column, adding that the script for the movie was the "best I've ever read."

8. MONROE ANNOYED WILDER WITH HER TARDINESS.

"I would get very angry at her," Wilder admitted. "For The Seven Year Itch, she was perfectly un-punctual. She never came on time once. Instead of studying with [acclaimed acting teacher] Lee Strasberg, she should have studied in Switzerland at Patek Philippe." Despite this, Wilder went on to work with Monroe again in Some Like It Hot (1959).

9. BELL CHIPS DELIVERED CASES OF THEIR CHIPS TO THE SET, HOPING THEY'D BE USED AS A PROP.

Then a west coast regional brand trying to go national, Bell potato chips sent cases of their goods to various movie sets. When Wilder ended up casting them as the chips Monroe ate, Bell became famous. However, the company went out of business in 1995.

10. NEW YORK CITY ONLOOKERS FOR THE DRESS-BLOWING SCENE WERE SO LOUD, IT HAD TO BE SHOT ALL OVER AGAIN—IN HOLLYWOOD.

Originally the scene was shot in New York on September 15, 1954 at one in the morning on Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street, in front of a crowd of an estimated 1000 to 5000 spectators. Monroe's husband, Joe DiMaggio, was one of those onlookers, and he was reportedly "embarrassed and angry" about the scene. The scene was reshot in Hollywood on the 20th Century Fox lot. Forty more takes were necessary.

11. WILDER'S CREW ARGUED OVER WHO GOT TO WORK ON THE DRESS-BLOWING MOMENT.

"I had guys fighting as to who was going to put the ventilator on, in the shaft there, below the grill," Wilder revealed to Cameron Crowe in 1999.

12. A SIMILAR SIDEWALK GRATE SCENE WAS FILMED IN 1901.

The 1901 short What Happened on Twenty-Third Street, New York City featured actress Florence Georgie's dress being blown up above her knees, too.

13. MONROE'S "GRATE DRESS" WAS SOLD FOR $5.6 MILLION IN JUNE 2011.

Actress Debbie Reynolds, a collector of Hollywood memorabilia in her spare time, was the one who put it up for auction. CNN reported that Reynolds was "in tears" when the bidding ended. The auction house believed it would only fetch $2 million.

14. MONROE FILED FOR DIVORCE DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM.

DiMaggio's anger over the subway grate scene was allegedly the final straw in his short-lived marriage to Monroe. Still, he escorted her to the movie premiere on June 1, 1955.

15. A 52-FOOT BANNER OF MONROE WAS USED TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE.

20th Century Fox put up a 52-foot cutout of the Monroe grate dress shot on the façade of the Loew's State Theatre in Times Square. It had to be taken down after people complained.

16. THE FILM WAS BANNED IN IRELAND.

Due to the fact it was "indecent and unfit for general exhibition."

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now
Disney/Marvel
Disney/Marvel

If you’re in the mood for some speculative fiction and your pile of Arthur C. Clarke books has been exhausted, you could do worse than to tune in to Netflix. The streaming service is constantly acquiring new films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres that should satisfy most fans of alternative futures. Here are five of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix right now.

1. CUBE (1997)

This low-budget independent film may have helped inspire the current "escape room" attraction fad. Six strangers wake up in a strange room that leads only to other rooms—all of them equipped with increasingly sadistic ways of murdering occupants.

2. METROPOLIS (1927)

Inspiring everything from Star Wars to Lady Gaga, Fritz Lang’s silent epic about a revolt among the oppressed people who help power an upper-class city remains just as visually impressive today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

3. TROLL HUNTER (2010)

A Norwegian fairy tale with bite, Troll Hunter follows college-aged filmmakers who convince a bear trapper to take them along on his exploits. But the trapper fails to disclose one crucial detail: He hunts towering, aggressive trolls.

4. NEXT (2007)

Nic Cage stars a a magician who can see a few minutes into the future. He's looking to profit with the skill: the FBI and others are looking to exploit it.

5. THE HOST (2006)

A slow-burn monster movie from South Korea, The Host has plenty of tense scenes coupled with a message about environmental action: The river-dwelling beast who stalks a waterfront town is the product of chemical dumping.  

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 (2017)

Marvel's tale of a misfit band of space jockeys was a surprise hit in 2014. The sequel offers more Groot, more Rocket Raccoon, and the addition of Kurt Russell as a human manifestation of an entire sentient planet.

7. STARDUST (2007)

Director Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel features Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro as supporting players in the tale of a man (a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) in search of a fallen star to gift to his love.

8. KING KONG (2005)

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) set his considerable sights on a remake of the 1933 classic, with the title gorilla pestered and exploited by opportunistic humans.

9. DONNIE DARKO (2001)

What will a teenage mope do when a giant rabbit tells him the world is about to end? The answer comes in this critical and cult hit, which drew attention for its moody cinematography and an arresting performance by a then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal.  

10. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)

Soon we'll have a movie for every single major or minor incident ever depicted in the Star Wars universe. For now, we'll have to settle for this one-off that explains how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the plans for the Death Star.

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Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
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9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
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Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

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