Wednesday, January 11, 2012

best movies ever — some like it hot

Some Like It Hot is one of the funniest movies ever made. It was voted the #1 comedy by the American Film Institute. It has probably the most famous closing line in movie history. Its plot is simple. In 1929 Chicago two down and out musicians, Joe and Jerry (played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) are witnesses to the Saint Valentine's Day massacre. The rest of the film has them hiding out and on the run from gangsters Spats Colombo (played by George Raft). Joe's brilliant idea is for them to hide in plain sight, in an all-girl musical band, which is on its way to a booking in Florida. For this to work, they will have to disguise themselves as women — hello Josephine and Geraldine (a name Jerry hates, so he  changes it to Daphne). They intend to ride to Florida and then run, but a curvaceous complication in the name of Sugar Kane (played by Marilyn Monroe) causes both of them to want to stick around with Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators a little longer. It's probably the best gig they've ever had.

Jack Lemmon as Daphne and Tony Curtis as Josephine
Some Like It Hot is a sex comedy, with gags that are always teetering on the brink from being just full of innuendo to crossing the line. But Marilyn's breathy innocence and all of the actor's wonderful timing with Wilder's and I.A. L. Diamond's funny dialogue keeps everything rollicking along to its punchline finish. As Wilder has said, "If you hit on a thing, which works, there’s that snowball effect of laughter. You get the audience in that rare mood when everything is funny ... The audience doesn’t have a chance to sober up. The picture just keeps going and going."

What makes Some Like It Hot really work, is that for one reason or another, Curtis and Lemmon don't want to get out of drag, which Wilder and Diamond cannily built into the script, "We have to find the ironclad thing so that these guys trapped in women’s clothes cannot just take the wigs off and say, ‘Look, I’m a guy.’ It has to be a question of life and death.' And that’s where the idea for the St. Valentine’s Day murder came."

There are amazing comic bits throughout the film — Curtis and Lemmon's fabulous drag personas, millionaire Osgood Fielding III's (played by a brilliant Joe E. Brown) unexpected affection for Daphne, Curtis's alter alter-ego of "Shell Oil Jr.," done with a right-on Cary Grant impersonation. Also peppered throughout are some really great musical numbers, the highlight Marilyn singing "I Want to be Loved by You" in a gown that is for all intents and purposes see-through (as are many of her costumes in the film), a spotlight, forever threatening and promising, to reveal all.

The movie has fun with its drag elements, but it also plays on the behavior of men and women. Joe has always been a hound, loving and leaving countless women without even a glance back or a single regret. His putting on a dress doesn't affect him at all. His first instinct is to bed the beautiful Sugar. He actually uses the girl talk between Sugar, Daphne, and Josephine to help create the perfect guy to seduce her. He's still a jerk, doing anything he can to get a girl into bed. He's lucky that Daphne has attracted the attention of a bona fide millionaire, Osgood, so he can use his yacht to impress Sugar while Daphne and Osgood are out on the town.

Jerry, on the other hand, is changed by his putting on a wig and heels. He is also attracted to Sugar, "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." But Jerry also listens to her, and empathizes with her stories of always getting "the fuzzy end of the lollipop" in romance. He sees how his and especially Joe's behavior have affected the women in their lives. He's not happy when "Junior" starts to romance Sugar under false pretenses, "What do you think you are doing to that girl, putting on the millionaire act, and where did you get that phoney accent from? Nobody talks like that." Jerry enjoys his role-playing so much that at times he truly becomes Daphne at moments. He considers marrying Osgood, and becomes upset when Jerry takes his gifts from Osgood and passes them along to Sugar.
Joe, "You're not a girl! You're a guy! Why would a guy want to marry a guy?" 
Jerry, "Security!"

When Spats and his minions arrive at the hotel to attend the "Friends of Italian Opera" meeting, Joe and Jerry's deception is revealed. It looks like curtains for the pair, but for the first time, Joe is reluctant to just run out on a girl. Sugar has gotten to him. He wouldn't have seen the aftermath of his dumping her if he hadn't been Josephine. Her rendition of "I'm Through With Love" opens his eyes. As Josephine, he kisses her, "None of that, Sugar. No guy is worth it." Even with Spats hot on his heels, he's willing to risk his life for love.

With the help of Osgood, Joe, Jerry, and Sugar take off together. As they ride off into the sunset towards Osgood's yacht, there is still the matter of Daphne. Jerry can't seem to get through to Osgood that things would never work between them. Finally, in exasperation, he pulls off his wig, "I'm a man!" Osgood glances at him and smiles, unperturbed, "Well, nobody's perfect."

There are plenty of stories surrounding the making of Some Like it Hot. Marilyn's notorious difficulties in nailing a simple line. The possible casting of Frank Sinatra instead of Lemmon. But no matter how difficult filming conditions may have been, it is undeniably a classic, and Wilder had good things to say about his lovely star, "She had a kind of elegant vulgarity about her. That, I think, was very important. And she automatically knew where the joke was. She did not discuss it. She came for the first rehearsal, and she was absolutely perfect, when she remembered the line." Some Like it Hot is as funny today as it was when it first came out. To paraphrase Sugar, it's a real diamond, worth its weight in gold.


Billy Wilder, Conversations with Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond [Part 7]

Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder Trivia and Quotes

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