Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot photo starrating-5stars.jpg“Look at that! Look how she moves. That’s just like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motor. I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!”

So observes jazz musician Jerry as he witnesses Marilyn Monroe sashaying down the street as Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk. It’s one of the most acknowledged lines in the screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. There’s one zinger that surpasses it, but I won’t spoil it here. It comes at the very end of the film and it is perhaps the most perfect capper ever written. Billy Wilder’s time-honored gender bending tale is a landmark. Extracting humor from men dressing up like women is so basic it pre-dates slipping on a banana peel. The idea probably goes back to the prehistoric age. However Some Like It Hot arguably represents the gag at its zenith.

Joe and Jerry are a pair of jazz musicians in the city of Chicago during the Prohibition-era. One day the two of them accidentally witness a particularly brutal mob hit. In order to stay a step ahead of lead gangster “Spats” Colombo. They join an all female band, dressed as women. Now disguised as Josephine and Daphne they travel by train to Miami. The two of them behave awkwardly and look ridiculous. It’s a deceptively simple one-joke premise but nevertheless, a thoroughly entertaining one at that.

Some Like It Hot spotlights a triumvirate of winning performances. Jack Lemmon is positively manic in his portrayal as a woman. He was the only actor to get an Oscar nomination for his performance. In contrast Tony Curtis is notably restrained. I found his depiction to be even funnier in the way he underplays the role. Monroe commands your attention whenever she is on screen. Anyone wanting a quick glimpse into the cult of Marilyn need only watch her rendition of “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” She’s all coy sensuality and Betty Boop helium voice. She exploits her blonde bombshell personality at its bubble headed best. How Sugar (or anyone else for that matter) could not determine that Daphne and Josephine are actually men is unfathomable. They are hilariously unbelievable as women, but I suppose that‘s precisely the point.

Some Like It Hot is highlighted by a wit that is surprisingly prescient of modern times. The script mines gender humor with a sophisticated modernity that still seems remarkably fresh even today. The satire is composed of well worn targets, but they’re handled in such a lighthearted way, it entertains through the commentary. Granted this farce is more apt to cause mild giggles than outright guffaws. I wouldn’t call it the funniest comedy ever made, but the plot developments are so captivating, it’s easy to see why this film ranks amongst the finest of the period.

As part of Cinemark theaters practice of digitally restoring classic movies, Some Like It Hot represented a golden opportunity for me to see a revered masterpiece as it was originally shown. No, it doesn’t feature gorgeous panoramic vistas or special effects, but seeing the beautiful Marilyn Monroe this way is kind of a special effect in itself.

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19 Responses to “Some Like It Hot”

  1. Great film, great review. I’ve seen it a few times now, but each time I watch it with a little bit more knowledge of the era and find it that little bit funnier (catching the “Little Caesar” jokes I’d missed on the previous run-through, or realising that Curtis’s persona in the film is a winking parody of Cary Grant).

  2. Nice review. Despite being a fan of Billy Wilder, I have shamefully not seen this.

    • Billy Wilder has so many great films one can hardly blame you for missing some. Its reputation is so great, however, I’d put it at the top of your “must see” list.

  3. “There’s one zinger that surpasses it, but I won’t spoil it here.”

    Well…nobody’s perfect! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

    This is such a great movie. Fact: I actually thought this was the first cross dressing movie.

    You’re so lucky to have seen it on the big screen. School started for me the day after…I was planning to see Pulp Fiction on day one, but the event was an hour away (only select Cinemark theaters–Jesus H. Christ!!) and my back wasn’t mended enough for such a long drive. Now if you saw THAT one…just don’t go telling me that it WAS the best theatrical experience.

    • I didn’t get to Pulp Fiction (or The French Connection) but I hope to see To Kill a Mockingbird this week.

      P.S. I hope your surgery went well. All my best for a speedy recovery!

  4. Great review, Mark! A very fun movie with stellar acting, like you said. How lucky to have seen this on the big screen.

  5. I agree with basically everything you said here; i just watched this for the first time a couple years ago and thought it was well-executed. Good write-up!

  6. Good review. 🙂 I really should check this one out someday…

  7. A comedy classic!

  8. I can see why this is a classic. It was very funny. The performances of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were equally great. Marilyn was so cute and sexy. Some very clever lines throughout this movie too. 4 stars.

    • It was a really enjoyable film. Would you call it the funniest movie ever made? That’s going a bit far, but the AFI did when they placed at #1 on their list.

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