Some Like It Hot (1959)
“Marilyn Monroe and her bosom companions”
Director: Billy Wilder
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
Synopsis: When two musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all female band disguised as women, but further complications set in.
In Some Like it Hot, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon play Joe and Jerry, two hard-up musicians struggling for work in 1920s Chicago, who stumble upon a gangland massacre (closely based on Al Capone’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) orchestrated by Spats Colombo (George Raft). Fleeing from the scene of the crime, Joe and Jerry realise they need to get out of Chicago fast if they want to stay alive, and trick their way into jobs with an all-girl band by transforming themselves into Josephine and Daphne. On board the train to the band’s engagement in Florida, they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), a luscious blonde ukulele player with whom Joe is instantly smitten, Upon arrival at the swanky hotel, ‘Daphne’ immediately attracts the amorous attention of a wealthy ageing playboy (Joe E. Brown), which gives Joe the opportunity to pose as the heir to the Shell Oil empire in order to woo Sugar.
Some Like it Hot had a difficult shoot apparently, with the troubled Monroe repeatedly struggling to remember her lines and even refusing to emerge from her trailer, but there’s nothing on screen that suggests such behind-the-scenes problems. In fact, Monroe never looked lovelier, radiating an alluring warmth that surely had every male member of the audience wishing that they could step into young Joe’s deceitful shoes in order to steal kisses and more from her. There are tiny clues to Monroe’s state of mind, though. Sometimes her eyes roam from side to side as she reads her lines from an off-screen board. But to dwell to long on such matters serves only to temper the infectious humour of the movie.
Lemmon and Curtis work well with each other, with Lemmon’s typically anxious persona meshing well with Curtis’s more devil-may-care attitude. Curtis nails a mean Cary Grant accent when in his guise of a millionaire, even though the man himself couldn’t see it, and while some girls might find the idea that he felt it necessary to pose as a man of wealth in order to get her into bed offensive, Sugar’s love for him is so pure and untainted that she never gives his deception a second thought. Meanwhile, Jerry becomes worryingly confused over his gender identity as he falls for the charms of wealthy Osgood Fielding III, and giddily accepts his proposal of marriage. Today, it would be almost impossible to play this kind of situation in such a light-hearted way without descending into broad (and largely tasteless) farce, but the world’s tastes had not yet become as sophisticated as they are today, and little was read into the sexual transferences taking place. Men dance with men, a woman believes she is receiving a long, deep kiss from another woman, women climb into bed with one another, and yet never does the humour descend into lewdness.
Director Billy Wilder augments the romantic shenanigans with a gangster sub-plot which gives him the opportunity to provide work for George Raft and Pat O’Brien, a couple of mainstays from the Warner gangster movies of the 1930s. O’Brien doesn’t have a lot to do, to be honest, but it’s nice to see him on the screen anyway.
(Reviewed 29th July 2012)