Classic Movie Review: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Comedy
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Some Like It Hot

Saxophonist Joe (Tony Curtis) and bass fiddle player Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are two out of work musicians.  They are so desperate for work that they will dress as women to join an all-girl jazz band.  On the way to the gig, they witness a mob rubout by Spats Columbo (George Raft).  Joe and Jerry barely escape with their lives, and decide to dress as women to escape the mobsters.  They board the train and meet Sugar Kane Kowalczyk  (Marilyn Monroe) a ukulele player who drinks to forget her bad luck with men. Sugar tells Josephine that she just wants to meet a nice, cerebral millionaire, and settle down.  Joe and Jerry are both smitten with Sugar, but they are Josephine and Daphne now, and can’t let on that they are really men.

As the train stops for the band’s gig in Florida, Joe transforms himself from Josephine to a Shell Oil magnate, the man of Sugar’s dreams, and continues to find ways to meet Sugar, as the handsome millionaire Daphne is also pursued by a millionaire named Osgood Fielding III, (Joe E Brown) and Jerry’s got a plan too, to get married to Osgood, then reveal his true identity, and collect alimony for the rest of his life.  Do Osgood and Sugar ever find out Joe and Jerry’s true identities?

This is a hilarious movie, not only for the obvious reasons of two men dressing as women, but also because they are two men lusting after the same woman, and each tries their own way to get into her good graces.  The Osgood Fielding character obviously plays up to the awkwardness of a man cross-dressing, but the Shell Oil millionaire is the guy of every girl’s dreams, so naturally Sugar falls for him.  If the viewer can put aside some pretty crude Italian mobster stereotypes, which probably weren’t given a second thought in 1959, but look and sound awful now, the viewer will enjoy this farce.

The acting is superb.  Tony Curtis not only sounds like a woman, but does a spot on Cary Grant impression, his character the Shell Oil magnate is what makes the movie funny for me.  The Cary Grant impression was apparently Curtis’ idea, he asked director Billy Wilder if he could do it, and Wilder agreed.  Cary Grant himself didn’t think much of the impression. Jack Lemmon plays the shifty con-man role very well, he’s always got an angle.  Marilyn Monroe is amazing in this role, she exudes sexuality, and yet plays Sugar as a sweet, vulnerable girl who’s been hurt a lot by men.  She also sings the iconic song, I Wanna Be Loved By You, in that unforgettable Betty Boop voice, it’s irresistible. I don’t think any movie captured the mix of her vulnerability and sexuality so well.  Joe E. Brown was a veteran comedic actor who plays Osgood, the swinging millionaire with such abandon, that it’s impossible not to laugh when he’s on the screen.

Much of the credit for the success for Some Like It Hot has to be given to Billy Wilder, he co-wrote the screenplay, and his camera treats Monroe alternatively lovingly and lecherously.  He also had to deal with Monroe, who was notoriously difficult as an actress,  she was pregnant at the time and having marital stress with Arthur Miller.  She brought her acting coach to the set, but couldn’t remember many of her lines.  And yet, he coaxed probably the best performance out of her in her short career. Curtis was seeing a psychiatrist at the time, and was extremely nervous about acting in women’s clothing.

Some Like it Hot:  Definitely NOT a drag.

  1. mkauthor says:

    Great review! Thanks for sharing!

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