Some Like it Hot (1959) is quite simply one of the finest classic black and white films ever made. If you have seen it, you will know why – if you haven’t I suggest you make all haste to rectify that error.
The fabulous combination of 1920′s flapper style, tasteful euphemisms and spectacularly well executed cross dressing almost needs no augmentation. But then you add in the stars who graced this masterpiece; Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown oh, and MARILYN MONROE, well it becomes clear that this is something special. This is not just a personal opinion; Some Like it Hot was chosen as the number one comedy by the American Film Institute in their 100 Years 100 Laughs Movie Selection. The gorgeous colour candid above is one of my favorite pieces, perfectly capturing the enormous sense of fun that director Billy Wilder managed to make this movie just ooze of.
Even though he did not appear in the production, another Hollywood great, Cary Grant, was a clear influence. His performance as a a transvestite in I Was a Male War Bride in 1949 was an inspiration, as was his general persona and accent which Tony Curtis drew on for the character of Joe- “Nobody talks like that.”
In 1975 Lemmon spoke about accepting the part, “The word in Hollywood was that Billy Wilder had lost his marbles to even consider making it. I wasn’t the first choice for the film by a long shot. The studio wanted Frank Sinatra. I didn’t have a big name in those days, and the studio thought the only way to salvage it was with big stars. A lot of them turned it down because of having to play 90 percent in drag. But I accepted immediately because I didn’t know any better and, needless to say, I’ve never been sorry.” Indeed Jerry/Daphne has been suggested as his best role ever, combining comedic value with an unfolding identification with his female persona, “I will never again find a man so good to me.” The exchange between Joe and Jerry clearly shows that Joe is not as in touch with his feminine side, ”You’re not a girl!” Curtis protests to Lemmon, “You’re a guy! Why would a guy want to marry a guy?” Lemmon: “Security!”. Then there is the epic line at the end of the movie from Joe E. Brown, as Jerry/Daphne becomes engaged to Osgood and finally reveals that he is a man, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
Heavily inspired by Kurt Hoffmann’s German comedy Fanfares of Love, (1951) Some Like it Hot became the highest grossing comedy in America up to that point, and was shot on location at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
Like all the best quality Americana, items from this film are now worth vast sums. In 2008 a gentleman brought a dress worn by Marilyn during filming to the Antiques Roadshow. It was conservatively appraised at $250,000.
Many people are unaware that Marilyn suffered a miscarriage during filming. She would later say that Some Like it Hot was her most hated film. Indeed she had so much trouble with a line she was supposed to say while looking through a drawer (“Where’s the bourbon?) that Wilder had the line pasted inside the drawer. Then she opened the wrong drawer. So he had it pasted inside every drawer.
Much has been made of Marilyn’s apparently unpredictable behaviour during filming, with Tony Curtis reportedly going so far as to say it was like kissing Hitler. Upon watching the film though, one can only think that Hitler must have been a fantastic kisser – Marilyn comes across as extemporaneous, gentle and sexy.
If you haven’t seen this classic, please do. If you have – for goodness’ sake, go and watch it again.
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