It was great to see Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder) on a big screen and get such a positive reaction from the audience. From Jack Lemmon’s waltz with Joe E. Brown, to the slightly breathless response from men and women every time Marilyn got a close-up. Wed 30th November 2011
Back in February I went to see Sue Glover’s play ‘Marilyn’ at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. It contained a zinger of a line about Some Like it Hot. Now I am not sure if Marilyn Monroe ever said this or it is Glover’s invention, but it went something like this.
“Nobody would believe Jack Lemmon as a woman, but Tony Curtis? That’s a different matter.”
It wouldn’t surprise me to find this line came from Marilyn. She was always smarter than people realise. Jack Lemmon’s performance is funny but he looks like one of The Golden Girls. Often men dressing up as women are treated as a visual joke but you get the feeling Tony Curtis really wanted to look nice.
Set during Prohibition Some Like it Hot sees two broke jazz musicians (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) dress up as women to hide from the Mob after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. They join an all-girls band but their new found femininity is sorely tested by the charms of Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), a lush with a taste for bourbon and sax players.
Cast and Crew
Hailing from the Bronx with a name like Bernie Schwartz, Curtis never had it easy. Underrated as an actor because of his good looks and strong New York accent, Curtis was at his best in films which required him to be a fast talker with hurt feelings, like his PR huckster in The Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Some Like it Hot shows his comic timing and his subtlety, as well as being one of the most convincing drag acts in film – Curtis wears his ladies clothes like he means it.
Billy Wilder had worked with Marilyn Monroe on The Seven Year Itch (1957) so he knew she could be maddening – taking forever to get a line right, not turning up on time. But Wilder also knew how good she was when she got it right. Marilyn wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, never living long enough to understand her great talent was for comedy.
Comic actor who excelled at playing neurotics and made several films with Wilder including The Apartment (1960) and Avanti (1972). Some Like it Hot was his first major role.
Vienna-born writer/director with a cynical worldview and a talent for witty dialogue, Wilder’s recurring interest was in emotionally weak and flawed male characters. Some Like it Hot is one of his least embittered films – and his funniest.