Some Like It Hot (1959)

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Many consider Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot to be the pinnacle of American comedic cinema. Although Er, Because it does not have the rampant toilet humor prevalent in today’s comedies, the film has aged well and continues to hold up over time. Rather it relies on staples of comedic excellence such as delivery, creative writing, wit, and impeccable timing.

The movie revolves around two down on their luck musicians, played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. After witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, they join a traveling musical ensemble on its way to sunny Miami. The only problem is that the ensemble is an all-girl group. For the balance of the picture Lemmon and Curtis masquerade as Daphne and Josephine, respectively.

Cary?  Junior?
Cary? Junior?

Along the way they befriend both the ensemble’s singer, Sugar (played by Marilyn Monroe), and a womanizing retiree, Osgood (played by Joe E. Brown). Of course Curtis/Daphne develops yet another alter ego- a very Cary Grantesque one – to seduce young Sugar. Lemon/Josephine becomes the target of Osgood’s advances. Add in the reappearing mobsters from Chicago and let the fun begin!

Daphne and Josephine
Daphne and Josephine

The film contains a lot of quite physical slapstick humor, even besides the madcap ending. Although the casting is superb, it is Lemon who really steals the spotlight, whether intentionally or not. You can truly sense his enjoyment for the role though his various facial expressions and physical contortions.

If you are looking for great special effects (even for the era), breathtaking cinematography, or a rousing musical score you’ll need to look elsewhere. But if you are looking for a timeless classic which will leave you smiling – and an occasional audible laugh this film is sure to please.

The film has gone on to be highly rated in almost every poll and survey. For those interested in trivia, the film was originally set to be filmed in color – per Marilyn’s contract at the time. However the makeup used for transforming Lemon and Curtis into Daphne and Josephine fared very poorly on color test shots and, after some debate, Marilyn consented to shooting in black and white.

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One thought to “Some Like It Hot (1959)”

  1. One of the most striking things about this movie — as all Billy Wilder movies and scripts — is that every single character, from the leads to the bit parts (like the super-confident bellboy) has their own motivation and point of view. The individual agendas bouncing off each other are what make for timeless comdedy. I would also suggest that the other key performance is Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding — he makes him almost innocent in his joie de vivre despite his many marriages, where he could have seemed rather creepy in other hands. It makes you root for Osgood and Daphne’s romance, in spite of the, um, difficulties.

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