SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) revisited

October 12, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. Billy Wilder‘s classic was the latest in the comedy series sponsored by Dallas Film Society and Dallas Morning News. It is almost always ranked as one of the top comedy films of all-time, and often the best ever. While that’s a bit higher than I would rank it, there is little doubt that it has earned its enduring place in cinematic history. To fully understand the impact of the film, it helps to remind yourself of the times … it was filmed more than 50 years ago. What we might call tame today, was incredibly risqué and daring for the times.

What really stands out while watching the film is just what an incredible screen presence Marilyn Monroe possessed. It is quite challenging to take your eyes off her during any of her scenes. I am at a loss to come up with any other actor or actress who even comes close to this level of camera-cornering. Greta Garbo and Marlon Brando were great, but Marilyn is transcendent while on screen. Of course, the reports of her personal issues are legendary. Supposedly on this film, she was constantly 2-3 hours late, couldn’t remember her lines and had to be coddled by all involved. Still, the final product is stunning and director Billy Wilder understood that no other actress could be substituted. Sadly, Marilyn only made two more films and was dead 3 years after this film was released.

 As wonderful as Marilyn is, this is really the story of Joe and Jerry, or Josephine and Daphne, or even Junior. Those five characters are all played with crackling comedy timing by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. Lemmon, as Daphne, is especially terrific as he tango’s the night away with Osgood Fielding III (played by Joe E Brown). Curtis is at his best when courting Marilyn’s Sugar Kane while sporting his Cary Grant impersonation and driving the boat backwards.

There are so many classic comedy moments in this film, and though it is based on a 1935 French farce titled Fanfare d’Amour, Wilder and his co-writer and frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond made it their own by adding the gangster story line. Seeing notorious movie bad guy George Raft tied to the 1929 Chicago St Valentine’s Day Massacre adds a dimension that many writers/directors would be unable to handle. Instead, Wilder injects his frenetic dialogue and mixes in some wild double-entendre’s, a touch of Marx Brothers, and the sensuous singing of Marilyn to deliver a world class comedy and must see for any movie lover.

 The Florida scenes were filmed across the country at the historical Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, which remains a very popular resort location even today. Marilyn sings “I Wanna Be Loved By You” and “I’m Through With Love” in such a way that her character’s naivety adds a dimension that breaks the heart of Joe (Curtis) and mesmerizes the viewer. Billy Wilder is certainly one of the Hollywood giants and delivered such classics as Sunset Blvd, The Apartment, Irma laDouce, and Witness for the Prosecution. His excellence spans numerous film genres, and we admire his patience and proficiency in juggling the issues required to pull off Some Like it Hot … and, though it’s true that “Nobody’s perfect“, he does avoid the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

**Note: the film received 6 Oscar nominations, and won for Best Costume Design

**Note: Wilder decided to film in Black & White because the make-up on Curtis and Lemmon was distracting in color

watch the trailer: