#28 – Some Like It Hot
In the world of modern comedy, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot is the Ur Stone, the Grand Pappy, and the Ne Plus Ultra of movies about guys wearing dresses. More than Charley’s Aunt on Broadway, more than Milton Berle on television, such diverse entertainments as Mrs. Doubtfire, Bosom Buddies, Just One of the Guys, White Chicks, and even She’s The Man all owe at least some of their varied pedigrees to Some Like It Hot.
Disguise is the key, and it is not just our heroes who are disguised. Nothing in this film is what it seems to be. A funeral parlor turns out to be a speakeasy. A cup of coffee is really illegal booze. A mobster’s flunkies are all “Harvard Men.” Sweet Sue is anything but sweet. Deep Sea fishing is NOT deep-sea fishing, a driver’s license is not a driver’s license, and when Sugar mentions always getting “the fuzzy end of the lollipop,” methinks she is not speaking of anything to be found in a candy store. Clearly the film’s use of double entendre was intended to skirt the production code at the time, but it is appropriate that, in a movie based on disguise, the very language the characters use enjoys its own forms of semantic disguise.
Some Like It Hot has so many narrative ends to tie up, so many disguises to be revealed, that it ends like a house on fire. The mobsters discover “those dames ain’t no dames.” Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee) discovers her saxophonist and bass player are really men, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) discovers her millionaire isn’t really a millionaire, and Suitor Osgood (Joe E. Brown) is in for the biggest surprise of all. All of these various complications and subplots are tied up neatly in just under eight minutes. This film’s artful climax is something to behold and treasure.
Marilyn Monroe was notoriously difficult on set. She was going through much misery in her personal life and this led to lateness, not knowing her lines, and endless retakes. Director Billy Wilder told Curtis and Lemmon that they had to be perfect in every take because the minute Monroe got it right, that was the take he was going to use. During the seduction scene aboard the yacht, Monroe kept flubbing a line, which led Tony Curtis to eat almost fifty of the little chicken wings he was supposed to be nibbling during her line. Curtis supposedly told a reporter on set that kissing Monroe was “like kissing Hitler.” With the passage of time, most of the principals softened their views. Curtis denied ever saying the Hitler line, and Billy Wilder mused that any actress could have shown up everyday and known her lines perfectly, but NO ONE ELSE could have given the performance that Marilyn Monroe gave. She is radiant in the film and so funny—funny and sexy is a difficult combination to achieve.
“In nomine Wilder, et Lemmon, y Spiritu Monroe… Shpilkis!”