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On Friday, the Wife and I visited Cinema Under the Stars for a screening of Billy Wilder's "Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (as host Ralph DeLauro put it) The Seven Year Itch, starring Marilyn Monroe and someone else. (Actually, Tom Ewell carries the movie in a very difficult role, one that requires him to talk to himself throughout - no easy trick on film. But of course, it's Marilyn that everyone remembers.)

As Garrison Keillor noted on The Writer's Almanac, the day before had marked the anniversary of her famous rendition of "Happy Birthday" for President Kennedy.

Just a few months later, she was dead. As the Wife and I strolled back to our car after the show, a silver-haired gentleman called out from his porch: "Great movie, huh?" He then related the anniversary news, and concluded, "Conspiracy? I don't know."

Neither do I. But I do know this: after seeing The Seven Year Itch, the Wife understands what all the fuss was about. Marilyn really was capable of seeming innocent about her impossible-to-miss sexuality, and that innocence in the face of the obvious was hilarious. As opposed to, say, Britney Spears circa 2003, as evidenced by her Esquire invterview with Chuck Klosterman:

"Interviewing Britney Spears is like deposing Bill Clinton: Regardless of the evidence, she does not waver.

'Why do you dress so provocatively?' I ask. She says she doesn't dress provocatively.

'But look what you're wearing right now,' I say, while looking at three inches of her inner thigh, her entire abdomen, and enough cleavage to choke a musk ox.

'This is just a skirt and a top,' she responds.

It is not that Britney Spears denies that she is a sexual icon, or that she disputes that American men are fascinated with the concept of the wet-hot virgin, or that she feels her success says nothing about what our society fantasizes about. She doesn't disagree with any of that stuff, because she swears she has never even thought about it. Not even once.

'That's just a weird question,' she says. ;I don't even want to think about that. That's strange, and I don't think about things like that. Why should I? I don't have to deal with those people. I'm concerned with the kids out there. I'm concerned with the next generation of people. I'm not worried about some guy who's a perv and wants to meet a freaking virgin.'

And suddenly, something becomes painfully clear: Either Britney Spears is the least self-aware person I've ever met, or she's way, way savvier than any of us realize.

Or maybe both."

Image

Special Just Like Olde Tymes Bonus Feature: movies at Cinema Under the Stars open with a cartoon short. We got Mutiny on the Bunny. Good fun for grown-ups, and a fine reverse-cultural education for kids. Okay, now you've seen the spoof; how about checking out the original?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcRVEpYKU_8

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One can only wonder how much better the material would have been in the hands of Frank Tashlin.

May 23, 2011

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