Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some Like It Hot (1959)

The Boston Harbor Hotel hosts a great free outdoor movie series in the summer and this is the first time I've taken advantage of it, mainly because Some Like It Hot is an insanely excellent film. The seating was a bit uncomfortable but it was worth it. Based on a story by Michael Logan and Robert Thoeren first used for the French Fanfare d'amour and German Fanfaren der Leibe (both unavailable in the US, of course), the movie thrusts musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) into a train filled with blonde instrumentalists, including the sultry Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).

After witnessing a mob murder in Chicago, Joe and Gerry flee with the only employment they could find- an all-girl jazz band- and find themselves posing as the big-boned tenor saxophonist Josephine and upright-bassist Daphne, respectively. While playing at a Florida resort, Joe dresses as a lonely millionaire to romance Sugar while Jerry loses himself more and more in his role as Daphne. Hiiiii-jinks.

With a fantastic cast, outlandish premise, clever script, and zany antics galore, Some Like It Hot has rightfully earned its spot as one of the best comedies ever made. It contains just the right amount of situational innuendo and secret identity mishaps, never straying far into vulgar or overly-farcical territory. I happen to be a person who generally loves the old "person has to pretend to be another sex so he/she can accomplish something, but then falls for a friend and can't tell him/her the truth" set-up, often because it's a trope that can really examine different kinds of relationships.

While I don't especially care about Joe and Sugar's relationship- really, he's just a huge, manipulative dick- I absolutely love Jerry's identity crisis as he falls into a befuddled romance with Joe E Brown's character. He begins the film as a horndog surrounded by a dozen gorgeous women, but becomes so comfortable as Daphne he forgets his original self. This subplot unintentionally morphs into a plug for same-sex marriage, culminating in Brown accepting Jerry's admission of manhood with "Nobody's perfect", one of the best lines ever put to film.

Neither of them are very believable as women, but it's fun to hear their high-pitched dialogue and see them stumbling around in heels. Lemmon puts on this manic giggle that's creepy and hilarious at the same time. Even though I don't like his character very much, it's great to see Curtis having so much fun doing an impression of Cary Grant when he steps into the billionaire role. And of course, there's Monroe, who I've always found to be charming in her naive delivery and wide-eyed presence. She was having a lot of personal problems during shooting and it's a bit of a miracle she even completed the film, but her lighthearted performance doesn't betray her real-life drama.

Despite its re-hashed story, Some Like It Hot is truly like no other. Wilder is one of the most accomplished directors of his century and the inclusion of such a top-notch cast and wildly entertaining script makes for a film that everyone should see at least once, if not 20 times. My only issue with it is how awful Joe, our main romantic hero, is to Sugar, which keeps it from being perfect in my book.


Original art
for this movie (available on etsy)


  1. This one always seems surprisingly modern when I see it, considering when it was made. But I agree, you really want Sugar to find someone better than Tony Curtis' smarm (although his Cary Grant impersonation is priceless).

  2. See, you're ignoring my favorite thing about this movie, which is that it's completely a gay love story. Jack Lemmon and Joe E Brown fall in love as two men, BOOM. And the real basis for Marilyn Monroe's affection for Tony Curtis is her lesbian attraction to him, BOOM. Gay Double Wedding. I love this movie.

  3. Alexa: Yeah it took me a bit to figure out why Curtis's voice sounded so familiar and then it was like OH! Cary Grant, duh. Apparently Grant was unimpressed with the impersonation haha.

    Muffin: I totally dig the relationship between Brown and Lemmon- I think it's one of the best things about the film, and like I said it's basically an early plug for gay marriage. I hadn't though about Marilyn's lesbian attraction to Curtis but yeah that makes sense too. Cool.

  4. I first saw this movie in a film class I took a few months ago, and I have watched it three more times since. I have really fallen in love with Billy Wilder films, and this one is surely one of his best in my opinion.