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SOME LIKE IT HOT (director/writer: Billy Wilder; screenwriter: I.A.L. Diamond; cinematographer: Charles B. Lang; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane); Tony Curtis (Joe/Josephine); Jack Lemmon (Jerry/Daphne); George Raft (Spats Colombo); Joe E. Brown (Osgood Fielding III), Pat O’Brien (Det. Mulligan), George E. Stone (Toothpick Charlie), Billy Gray (Sig Poliakoff), Dave Barry (Beinstock); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Billy Wilder; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1959)
“It’s a smart farce that has a high-energy pace, sparked by stunning performances by the stars.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Billy Wilder (“Buddy Buddy”/”Kiss Me, Stupid!”/”One, Two, Three”) directed this black-and-white shot comedy about cross-dressers on the run from the mob that stars Marilyn Monroe, in her most realized role as a comedienne. Some Like It Hot is considered one of the best comedies ever by AFI; it was cowritten by Wilder and regular collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. It’s forever remembered for having one of the greatest curtain lines ever: Joe E Brown’s retort of “Nobody’s perfect” when his fiancée (Jack Lemmon) finally fesses up to being a he rather than a she.

Sax player Joe (Tony Curtis) and bass player Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are jazz musicians in the “Prohibition Era” Chicago of 1929, who lose their gig when the mortuary front for a speakeasy they work at is raided by the police. The broke musicians get a one-night gig in the college town of Urbana, but when borrowing a car in a Chicago garage witness Spats Colombo (George Raft), the owner of the speakeasy, and his gang massacre by machine gun squealer Toothpick Charlie and many others after lining them up against the wall. It’s known as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. When Spat spots them, the boys flee and don disguises as girls to join an all-girl band heading by train to Miami. Their masquerade works, but there are numerous problems such as when Jerry now called Daphne meets the band’s kooky and luscious ukulele player, lead vocalist (the sexy singer is adorned in a backless evening gown while singing “I wanna be loved by you”) and boozer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and parties with her in his Pullman sleeper, in Miami being pursued by Spats and later a persistent harebrained eccentric playboy millionaire (Joe E. Brown) who won’t take no for his marriage proposal to Daphne–wanting her/him for his seventh.

It’s a smart farce that has a high-energy pace, sparked by stunning performances by the stars, snappy lines to match the hot action scenes and a healthy nod to free love, homosexuality and other socially unacceptable behaviors of the uptight America of the 1950s. The broad slapstick juxtaposed against the hard-hitting gangland scenes, worked amazingly well even if some scenes seemed forced. Lemon has one of the film’s funniest lines saying “If those gangsters come in here and kill us, and we’re taken to the morgue dressed like this I’ll die of embarrassment.” Curtis proves his mettle in a comedy role playing the character Josephine in drag and also does a perfect Cary Grant imitation, who happened to be the actor he always idolized. The inspiration for the film was a German movie musical entitled Fanfares of Love, in which Wilder lifted the film’s central premise. The enormously popular film has maintained its favor with viewers as it has grown into a cult favorite; it won an Oscar for Best Costume Design by Orry-Kelly and was nominated for six Academy Awards.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”