Original release: March 29th, 1959
Running time: 122 minutes
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond, Robert Thoeren
Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon
There are times in many of our lives when we love nothing better than getting dressed up and having a good old time. The dressing up part can be half the fun alone and I remember back to my formative years when Friday nights were all about showing off my latest mismatched items, slapping on the eye-liner and slicking my hair back, up or sometimes even sideways. Whatever the look, the aim was always to be something other than what I was during my daytime life – namely a quiet and reserved civil servant.
Yet there are also times when dressing up can be the one thing that can save your life when you get into a tricky spot – though I’ve never had to go to the lengths Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon go to in this comedy by Billy Wilder which takes a jab at the gangster era in Chicago at the end of the 1920s.
Set in 1929, Some Like It Hot sees a pair of struggling musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) accidentally witnessing the Saint Valentine’s Day massacre. After being spotted by the gangsters, the unlucky and penniless pair decide to go on the run dressed as the fairer sex in a band full of women on a train headed to Miami. Once onboard the train, “Josephine” and “Daphne” ease into their roles and do their best to evade detection, especially with their obvious attraction to the other women on board – including Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the band’s vocalist and ukulele player. With her perfect figure, platinum blonde hair and alluring personality she immediately strikes a chord with the pair who start to compete for her.
Meanwhile the band’s manager, Beanstock (Dave Barry) takes a liking to “Daphne” and tries to cop a feel of the “girl” without realising there’s more to her than meets the eye. As the guys get closer to Sugar, who confesses that she’d like to find a sweet, bespectacled millionaire, they struggle to keep their libidos in check in case they blow their cover, lose their jobs or the gangsters find them.
As they arrive in Miami it takes no time at all for “Daphne” to attract the advances of an aging millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) who also tries to cop a feel despite the numerous rebuffs he receives. Joe however takes the opportunity to pose as sugar’s dream man – “Shell Junior”. Dressed in a smart blazer, sailor’s hat and complete with a phoney accent he pretends not to be interested to spur her advances. It seems to work like a charm because in no time at all Sugar’s sweet on him, but they still have to keep up the charade – meaning that sooner or later all these identities will eventually start to spill over.
One of their schemes sees Joe convincing Jerry to go as Daphne on a date onshore with Osgood and keeping him occupied so he can pretend to be “Junior” and take Sugar out on Osgood’s yacht. It’s a foolproof plan isn’t it? As the night gets underway, “Junior” tells Sugar that due to a psychological trauma, he’s impotent, but he’d marry anyone who could change that. While Sugar tries to arouse him we see “Daphne” and Osgood tangoing till dawn. Eventually we know this precariously stacked line of dominos is bound to come tumbling down. With Osgood proposing and “Daphne” accepting, and with the arrival of several gangsters at a conference honouring the “Friends of Italian Opera”, the moment finally arrives when Joe and Jerry realise they’re in over their heads and the cats come leaping out of the bag.
Together with Marilyn’s purring performance, the sexual innuendo and the many outrageously funny moments, Some Like It Hot has it all. Who can grow tired of the classic performances that see Jack Lemon giddy at the thought of marrying Osgood or Tony Curtis feigning impotence when kissing Sugar? As it delivers its final side-splitting punch-line I can’t help but wonder what it must’ve been like to see it in a packed cinema back in 1959, but while it balances sexual ambiguity and full-blown silliness the one thing it always keeps in check is its charm, easily making it still one of the greatest comedies of all time – regardless of what you’re wearing!
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .