Some Like It Hot was shot in black and white because Tony Curtis’ and Jack Lemmon’s makeup didn’t look right in color. I’d love to see what it looked like because even in black and white, there is no way I buy “Josephine” and “Daphne” pulling off the con they do. Once you can get over that, this film is a ton of fun.
Over the past six months or so I’ve been watching a lot of director, Billy Wilder’s movies. It’s definitely been the best experience I’ve had going back and watching classic films. Wilder was writing potent dialogue before Tarantino, creating cynical characters before the Coens, and making smart comedies before Brooks. Some Like It Hot demonstrates his craft as well as any other movie out there, while also being flat-out funny.
Wilder seems to not have the highest respect for us Americans. Born into a Jewish family in Austria, he was forced to move to Paris in order to escape Nazi Germany and eventually made his move to Hollywood, primarily as a screenwriter. He broke out as a director with Double Indemnity and the rest is history. From the films of his I’ve seen, most of its characters are not very redeemable or admirable. That’s often how film noirs go though. And when there’s a “good” character, they’re usually weak and getting pushed around by stronger, bad characters. I don’t know if there are any personal reasons for the cynical way of approaching his stories, but they are nothing, if not interesting, to watch.
Some Like It Hot may be Wilder’s lightest film and possibly most accessible. At it’s heart it is really just a fun slap-stick comedy, and without a Chaplin, Marx or Stooge. It honestly makes it a challenging prospect to review. But I’ll give it a try.
Curtis and Lemmon are two struggling musicians in Chicago who walk into the wrong garage one day and witness a murder at the hands of the mob. One of them has the idea to dress up like women and escape to Miami on a train of women musicians who, luckily, are in need of a bass and sax player. That’s the premise to introduce the movie. These first few scenes aren’t particularly special, only being there to set up the story and have something to conclude at the end. It’s also the only real complaint I have about Some Like It Hot. During the third act, too much time is spent on the mob characters who inexplicably arrive in the same place as Curtis and Lemmon. There’s an out of place ceremony and introductions to more characters that was completely unnecessary. I understand needing to have them caught, but it just makes the film drag for about ten minutes.
Seeing it yesterday as a part of TCM and Fathom Events was my second time seeing Some Like It Hot. This viewing made me realize how funny and well-written this script really is. Curtis, Lemmon and Monroe are a huge strength to the movie, yes, but Wilder gave them great material to work with. I mentioned needing to bring back the mob for the third act of the film. Pay attention though, because almost every seemingly unimportant piece of dialogue plays into a future joke or is called back in a later scene. The writing is so good that by changing one word, you could totally mess up the rest of the film. It takes a scene that has no reason to be funny and makes you laugh anyway.
Another note I’ve made with almost every Wilder film is that he has terrific endings, or final words. Lemmon’s love interest perfectly delivers the line “well, nobody’s perfect” as The End pops up on the screen. It’s totally absurd but works wonderfully with the whole film. I should talk about Joe E. Brown because the first time I watched him I couldn’t stand his obnoxious character. For whatever reason, this time I couldn’t stop laughing at his wide, creepy smile and saying “Zowee!” all the time.
I, of course, need to talk about Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane. Everything including her name is ridiculous. Monroe makes it work though. I’m not saying anything new here, but she had that something. I don’t know what that is, but she certainly has it. She has maybe one too many singing numbers but I’ll never complain about seeing too much Marilyn Monroe.
Some Like It Hot was even better in it’s second viewing, solidifying Wilder as one of my new favorite directors. His comedies are strangely just as powerful as his dramas and noirs. It’s hard to even classify them as a certain genre because of how complex they are. Let’s just say they are great movies.