Some Like It Hot (1959)

  • Director: Billy Wilder
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe
  • Screenplay: Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond
  • Music By: Adolph Deutsch
  • Cinematography: Charles Lang
  • Running Time: 121 minutes
  • Premiered: March 29, 1959

Synopsis: When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in. (From IMDb)

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Review: In 1958, visionary director Billy Wilder began planning a film about two male musicians who dress up as women and join an all-girl band. Wilder wanted only one person to play the lead: Tony Curtis, the handsomest man in Hollywood at the time. Rounding out the cast, Wilder also cast Marilyn Monroe, probably the most enduring sex symbol to come out of Tinseltown, and Jack Lemmon, a popular comedian and seasoned actor. A collection of beach beauties, some sinister Mafiosi, a glamorous seaside, the culture of the roaring 1920’s, and a selection of “hot” Jazz songs makes Some Like it Hot into a comedy classic.

Billy Wilder made his career making intelligent comedies filled with double entendres and memorable characters. Some Like it Hot combines elements of romantic comedies, a buddy movies, crime capers, and musicals. The basic plot revolves around Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), a saxophonist and a bassist, respectfully, who barely scrape together a living in sub-zero Chicago when they witness the St Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.

Joe and Jerry desperately attempt to evade the gangster, Spats Colombo (George Raft), responsible for the massacre. In order to escape unnoticed, they disguise themselves as “Josephine” and “Daphne”, Jerry disliked the Geraldine, so that they can hideout in Florida with Sweet Sue’s Society Syncopators, an all-female Jazz group. Once on board the train with their fellow “band mates”, Joe and Jerry both fall for the band’s ukulele player, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe). Sugar is planning to seduce a millionaire once they arrive in Florida. When the band arrives at the Seminole-Ritz Hotel, Joe adopts a third identity as Junior, heir to the Shell Oil fortune, in order to seduce Sugar.

One of the film’s funniest twists occurs when Sugar meets Junior on the beach. Junior/Joe decides to play hard to get and quickly dismisses Sugar. In an effort to impress Junior, Sugar tells him that her band specializes in hot jazz, but Junior is not impressed and haughtily intones, “Well, I guess some like it hot. But personally, I prefer classical music.” Undeterred Sugar declares that she studied classical music at the “Sheboygan Conservatory of Music”, a claim Joe made when talking himself into the Jazz ensemble as Josephine.  No such conservatory exists.

On the other side of the beach, Jerry as Daphne ends up going on a date with an elderly tycoon named Osgood (Joe E Brown). The next morning, an exasperated Jerry informs Joe that “Daphne” and Osgood are engaged. Despite Jerry’s protestations that he Osgood cannot get married, Osgood stands his ground and continues to pursue the enchanting “Daphne”. The film ends with Jerry pulling off his wig and declaring to Osgood that they cannot get married since “Daphne” is a man. Osgood responds with the film’s most memorable line, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Some Like It Hot is a film about people who lie and cheat in order to get ahead in life and never get caught. Despite all the lies and deceptions, Joe, Jerry, and Daphne are all relatively happy and likable characters. Despite the audiences’ better judgement, it is impossible to dislike this collection of merry conmen. Unfortunately, Some Like It Hot would not perform well in today’s box office. Modern audiences like to see people suffer the consequences of their actions.

A modern version of the film would see Joe and Jerry punished for their deceit, probably in a highly public and humiliating scenario. Sugar would catch onto Joe’s multiple deceits and make him apologize, most likely in a groveling and demeaning manner. Then the viewers would endure a depressing montage of Sugar and Joe feeling miserable before she realized her mistake and forgave him. This forgiveness would come at an inopportune moment, like right before saying “I Do” with another woman. Jerry and Joe would use their talents for disguise to team up with the FBI to extract a confession from Spats Colombo and then escort him to a waiting police barricade to a round of enthusiastic applause. Osgood would turn out to be a more successful con artist using Jerry/Daphne as a cover for the heist of the century. The film would end with Sugar and Joe getting married while Jerry and Osgood work with the authorities/an overly cynical detective to bring down an organized crime syndicate in return for leniency.  

Some Like It Hot endures because it does not take itself too seriously and Curtis and Lemmon play their respective roles with gusto. Tony Curtis only every played one role in his life, Tony Curtis. Of all his films, this one made some of the best use of his unique charm and rather rough around the edges approach to drama. Curtis and Lemmon play off each other exceedingly well and infuse each scene with charm and excellent comedic timing. Monroe looks glamorous and actually shows some acting ability, not that Sugar required much more than a breathy voice and some alluring walking. However, Monroe stands her ground in each scene and does not let Curtis steal her thunder. If you ever need a fun, silly movie to watch, Some Like It Hot is an excellent comedy.

Fun Fact: While taking a break from filming, many of the women playing the background members of the Jazz Ensemble went to an open audition to be the “spokeswoman” in a local car commercial. They persuaded Tony Curtis into going with them in costume as “Josephine”. Curtis won the role.

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