Review by Rebecca J Madrigal
HEARD the one about two men who dress up as women, join a band, fall in love
and sail off into the sunset?
So, for those of you who haven't lived let us begin.
Two jazz musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) inadvertently witness the Valentine's Day massacre in Chicago 1929. To avoid being detected by the gangland boss Spats Columbo (a cameo by the talented George Raft), the pair join Sweet Sue's Society Syncopaters. This being an all-girl band, you can guess what comes next.
The pair, now renamed Josephine (Curtis, posing as a bass player) and Daphne
(Lemmon), head off, crossed-dressed, made-up and ready to make sweet music
with the girls.
From the first glimpse of Lemmon teetering along the station platform with Curtis in all their garb, you know it's up hill all the way. And, just when you think it can't get any better, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) sways into shot and the fun really begins.
As the band arrives in Florida and Daphne catches the eye of millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) lined up on the hotel terrace with the other 'women hunting millionaires', you know Lemmon will not disappoint - and the actor flies with the script and the character.
The courtship between the two is as hysterical as it is touching and, like Daphne, you nearly forget that she is in fact a HE! Lemmon is just perfect in the scene when he excitedly returns from dancing with Osgood (Daphne always leads), shaking his maracas, and informs Curtis of the wonderful news of Daphne's engagement - a revelation which forces Curtis to bring 'Daphne' back to reality with the facts concerning his/her sexuality.
Curtis, meanwhile, has problems of his own, having fallen for the stunning Sugar, a woman who, by her own confession, has had enough of bass players (having worked through a few!). In a bid to seduce her, he sheds the make-up, dons a seafaring cap and blazer, stares out to sea at a yacht and, while clutching a shell and sporting the best Cary Grant voice since Grant himself, tricks Sugar into thinking he is a millionaire with money in oil who fails to get excited by women.
The bait is taken and Sugar gets on the case to search for a cure that includes lots of kissing (scenes which Curtis later likened to kissing Hitler, surely he was joking?).
It would be cruel to even hint at the ending, suffice to say that the last line is one of the best in motion picture history.
All the performers are on top form and Lemmon is faultless; energetic, funny, touching and with a perfect comic timing (witness the scene with Monroe in her bunk at night, wonderful!). His handling of both sides of his character's sexuality is pure genius and was rightly rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
Curtis, as ever, swaggers through the movie and, while no match for Lemmon, comes into his own with the millionaire, 'Grant-talking' while Monroe is total perfection - sexy, vulnerable, childlike, and funny. Whatever her off-screen problems at the time, her performance rates as one of her best. (The scene in which she explains why bass players just do it for her is pure Monroe and she gives the film vitality and sex appeal).
And if the plot alone isn't enough to recommend it, then viewers are further spoilt with some truly memorable musical numbers - with Monroe's 'I Wanna Be Loved By You', 'I'm Through With Love' and 'Running Wild' among the highlights.
Eagle-eyed movie buffs will also spot gangster movie legends George Raft, as Mafia boss 'Spats Columbo', and Pat O'Brien, as the policeman on the gangster's trail.
The film, made in black and white, fits well into the era it is set. Monroe
had wanted the movie to be in colour but director Billy Wilder had problems
with Curtis and Lemmon's make-up - it was so thick and very obvious that colour
would not have worked. It has been well documented that Monroe had lots of
problems on the set, often forgetting even simple lines and often just not
turning up for filming at all. Wilder once said that he deserved some kind
of medal for working with her.
But now that Wilder has joined the great casting couch in the sky, he can rest assured that even if 'nobody's perfect' (watch the film, then you'll get it), this film comes damn near to being so.
Some Like It Hot (1959)
CAST: Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Pat O' Brien, George Raft, Joan Shawlee
DIRECTOR: Billy Wilder
SCREENPLAY: Billy Wilder, IAL Diamond
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