There are few comedies that have stood the test of time as well as Some Like it Hot. With Billy Wilder’s writing and direction, the pacing is as snappy as the gags. With Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as a pair on the run resorting to disguising themselves as women, the laughs come frequently and easily. And with the unforgettable Marilyn Monroe steaming up the screen and complicating the duo’s plan, we are in for a wild and delightfully screwy ride.
Joe and Jerry (Curtis and Lemmon) are two musicians who had just found work in Chicago, but when the police bust a speakeasy run by the notorious mobster Spats Colombo (George Raft), they are out looking for work again. They hear of a band heading to warm sunny Florida looking for a bass and a saxophone, perfect! Only problem is they are looking for women. Then Joe and Jerry witness Spats and his boys whack a few guys off. Desperate to get far from Chicago, they disguise themselves as a couple of chicks and take jobs in the all girl band, where Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe) is the lead singer/ukulele player.
Watching Curtis and Lemmon try to be girls is a hoot. Just the image of their man-shaped calves trying to stay afloat in heels puts me in stitches. When Lemmon realizes he is a disguised rooster in the hen house, the temptation is almost too much. The slumber party side of these girls suddenly coms out, and suddenly he is not too happy about having a dozen pretty ladies in his bunk. Down in Florida, the shoe goes on the other foot and the boys have to deal with men pursuing them. Lemmon on his tango date with the short millionaire Osgood (Joe E. Brown) are some of the funniest moments in the film. And the bellboy who hits on Curtis is wonderfully outrageous, “That’s the way I like ‘em, big and sassy!”
But the greatest treat in Some Like it Hot is Marilyn Monroe. She is the perfect woman, complete with a flask strapped to her thigh, a weakness for saxophone players and can lob back one liners with natural ease. Her presence on the train makes our boy’s disguises much more difficult and inspires further identity deception when Curtis disguises as a young millionaire to lure her in. Isn’t it funny how a girl can seem so innocent to sex, yet the very icon of it. That is the hook of Monroe’s charm, especially in the scene where she sings, “I want to be loved by you.” Her dress is practically see through, just barely covers and the spotlight hovers just above her neckline, tantalizing those trying to get a better look. She is what boys dream of and acts like she doesn’t even know it.
Really, the film is all about sex, but Wilder could not just come out and say in in 1959, so it is disguised with this tale of men in hiding. Whatever, Spats and his gang are only really interesting if they kill our heroes or bring in new girls. Joe lusts for Sugar. Jerry is being lusted over by Osgood. And sweet Sugar seems to think she only wants money, oh silly girl.
When it came down to the Academy Awards, Some Like it Hot came up with six nominations (Best Writing, Cinematography, Director, Art Direction and Lemmon for Best Actor), winning one award (Costume Design). But for the Best Picture category, things were kept to a more serious crowd. That has not effected this film’s fame or love, however. AFI ranks Some Like it Hot at the top of their 100 Laughs list. Today, all generations are still busting their guts over this glorious gem of classic comedy.
“Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.”