"I tell you, it's a whole different sex."
Some Like It Hot has a silly plot: after witnessing a mob massacre in 1929 Chicago, two male musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) dress up in drag and join an all girl band headed for a gig in Florida. Not the sort of movie you'd think would make the list of the 100 greatest American movies ever made. But it did.
Why? Because it's clever and witty, and very funny. It never stops moving, right up to and including the famous ending. And then there's the cast.
If anyone should ever ask you why Marilyn Monroe was one of the greats, you can just show them this movie. Her dumb blonde gold digger Sugar Kane should be forgettable, but instead there is this soft, innocent sweetness and sexiness about her that draws you in. Monroe looked positively luminous and she stole every scene she was in. Her singing voice wasn't great, but she knew how to make the most of it. She completely sold "I Want to Be Loved By You" and "I'm Through With Love" wearing costumes so revealing that she looked topless. I have no idea how they got those dresses past the censors back then. Seriously, look at this dress.
Tony Curtis did quite well as the romantic lead, and like Monroe's gold digger, it's hard to dislike Joe even when he is deceiving Sugar into believing he's a millionaire who wants to marry her. Curtis pulled off "Josephine" and handled the physical comedy deftly, but what I've always enjoyed most was his extended impression of Cary Grant as he was trying reverse psychology seduction on Sugar.
(I've always wondered if that was supposed to be a tribute to Cary Grant's cross-dressing role in an earlier screwball comedy, I Was a Male War Bride.)
That seduction scene on the yacht includes some intense kissing for a 1959 movie, but the best thing about it is how they keep cutting away from Joe and Sugar smooching to Jerry's date with Osgood. In fact, Jack Lemmon's exuberant performance as "Daphne" is my favorite thing about this movie, and it isn't just because he got most of the best lines. From his giggles and screams during the impromptu all-girl party in his Pullman berth, to the expression on his face when he tangoes with Osgood with a rose clamped between his teeth, Lemmon brings the funny over and over again. One of my favorite scenes is in the hotel room where, still in drag, high on life and dancing around with maracas, Jerry tells Joe that he's just accepted Osgood's proposal of marriage.
The last scene in Some Like It Hot is generally considered to be one of the funniest in movie history. If you've never seen the movie, I probably shouldn't spoil it for you. Okay, maybe I'll post that final bit of dialogue below, but in white, just in case you haven't seen the movie and plan to someday.
-- Although I find the gangster set-up at the beginning to be the least interesting sequence, it does feature movie gangster George Raft in a caricature of his more serious roles.
-- Joe E. Brown as the lecherous much-married millionaire Osgood is so oddly sweet that you can't help but like him. At least his intentions are honorable.
-- Marilyn Monroe was notoriously difficult to work with and kept delaying production. When Tony Curtis was asked what it was like to kiss Marilyn Monroe in this movie, he said it was like "kissing Hitler." Fortunately, that doesn't come across in his performance.
-- Much of the movie was filmed at a huge, gorgeous beach hotel that was supposed to be in Florida but was actually the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California.
-- Some Like It Hot was written, produced and directed by Billy Wilder, who is also known for great (and much more serious) movies like Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend and The Apartment.
-- Is this movie really a sideways tribute to Shakespeare's As You Like It? I honestly didn't know that until after I wrote this review.
Jerry: "Look at that! Look how she moves, like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motor. I tell you, it's a whole different sex."
Sugar: "I come from this musical family. My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a conductor."
Joe: "Where did he conduct?"
Sugar: "On the Baltimore and Ohio."
Sugar: "There, that'll put hair on your chest."
Jerry/Daphne: "No fair guessing!"
Osgood: "I am Osgood Fielding the Third."
Jerry/Daphne: "I'm Cinderella the second."
Joe: "What happened?"
Jerry: "I'm engaged."
Joe: "Congratulations. Who's the lucky girl?"
Jerry: (blissfully) "I am."
Joe: "But you're not a girl. You're a guy. Why would a guy want to marry a guy?"
Sugar: "I don't care how rich he is, as long as he has a yacht, his own private railroad car, and his own toothpaste."
Joe: "There's another problem."
Jerry: "Like what?"
Joe: "Like, what are you going to do on your honeymoon?"
Jerry: "We've been discussing that. He wants to go to the Riviera but I kind of lean towards Niagara Falls."
Sugar: "Water polo? Isn't that terribly dangerous?"
Joe: "I'll say. I had two ponies drowned under me."
(Here are the final lines of the movie, whited out. Highlight to read.)
Jerry: "Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all."
Osgood: "Why not?"
Jerry: "Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde."
Osgood: "Doesn't matter."
Jerry: "I smoke! I smoke all the time!"
Osgood: "I don't care."
Jerry: "I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player."
Osgood: "I forgive you."
Jerry: (dramatically) "I can never have children."
Osgood: "We can adopt some."
Jerry: "But you don't understand, Osgood! (tears off his wig) I'm a man!"
Osgood: (shrugs) "Well, nobody's perfect."
Dum da-da-da-da-da-dum. Olé!
Four out of four sweet ends of the lollipop,
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.
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