1950s humor did not let me down.
American Film Institute’s Ranking: #14/100
Awards: Nominated for 8 winning 7 including Best Picture, Director, and Actor.
I was more apprehensive about this movie than most — there was no way cross-dressing male leads would make their way into my heart. I prepared myself for a cringe fest of low-hanging gay jokes that would be distasteful by today’s standards. The only mystery was if this movie would be pretty offensive to females, too.
I was mostly wrong.
Sure, there are a couple quips here or there you have to let go, but the movie is actually a scream. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon should get all the praise for making such a ridiculous film seem so pure. This movie is notable for Marilyn Monroe’s major role, but just like everything else she’s in, I find her completely replaceable. I’ll never understand what made her so interesting.
Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemon) are professional musicians. When the place they currently work at gets busted for selling alcohol (prohibition problems y’all), they look for work. The only available gig is a trip to Florida, but it’s for an all female performance thus excluding them from participating. They end up witnessing an execution-style murder by Spats (George Raft), a mafia leader. A hit is put on their heads so there aren’t any witnesses alive to testify.
To avoid an early end, they take the job in Florida by dressing up as women with the personalities of Josephine and Daphne. They make friends with the lead singer Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) which puts both Joe and Jerry in a difficult position; they want to jockey for her attention, but they have to remain undercover.
Albeit complicated, Joe and Jerry are at least safe in Florida. That is until Spats shows up for a mafia meeting and begins to suspect something isn’t quite right with the saxophonist and bassist of the band.
The film derives its humor from two sources: the more classic/traditional and the gender swap.
I knew early on that this movie would actually be fun. There is an older man in the speakeasy who carries through with pretending he’s drinking coffee even in the process of the place being busted. Like any good comedy, he returns later when you’ve all but forgotten him to get sucker-punched again:
This traditional fun carries through the rest of the movie. While there aren’t any vaudevillian acts, it’s still pretty loosey goosey with a variety of gags.
OMG! It’s a Guy Dressed as a Girl!
What is it about this set up that just works so well? Every ten years, there is some comedy that is adored for this from Tootsie all the way to White Chicks (calling White Chicks adored seems like a sin, but I’ve met more than a handful of people who report this as their favorite comedy — yikes). It’s not like it even takes that much effort; the one-liners just write themselves.
When Joe and Jerry first apply for the all woman’s band, the job recruiter fires off this one:
Sig Poliakoff: The instruments are right but you’re not…
Jerry: Wait a minute. What’s wrong with us?
Sig Poliakoff: You’re the wrong shape. Goodbye!
Joe: What are you looking for — hunchbacks or something?
Sig Poliakoff: Oh, it’s not the backs that worry me…
Or how about when Jerry starts to take his role as Daphne too seriously:
Jerry: Have I got things to tell you!
Joe: What happened?
Jerry: I’m engaged.
Joe: Congratulations. Who’s the lucky girl?
Jerry: I am!
There must be 10 other goodies like this spread throughout the film.
A big part of this film is that Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe kiss. At the height of her sex appeal, the lead gets to make out with her on a couch as every straight male lives out their voyeuristic fantasy. Unfortunately, the reality wasn’t good: Tony Curtis reported that “kissing Marilyn was like kissing Hitler.”
While that quote might be apocryphal, I share this sentiment about her in general. She performed a small part in All About Eve which garnered her such emphatic praise. I didn’t notice who it was until the credits. I just don’t get her appeal — she is sure pretty, but I never see her do anything spectacular.
An actually pretty funny movie.
Other People’s Takes:
- Cinema Ocean: “I thought the whole idea of the screenplay was great and is still relevant today. To combine a mobster and romantic comedy genre together made this film different and interesting to watch.”
- The Wonderful World of Cinema: “I said to myself the other day, that it would be intelligent to write a review of my favourite movie of all times. So, there it is, my Some Like it Hot‘s review, a movie that I can watch over and over always with a great pleasure.”
- Bored and Dangerous: “OK, comparing it to anything the Wayans’ brothers have ever done and declaring it “very not funny” is being way too harsh. Because Some Like it Hot does have more than few funny moments.”