Some Like It Hot (1959)

Directed by Billy Wilder
Cinematography Charles Lang

When two Chicago musicians, Joe and Jerry, witness the the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, they want to get out of town and get away from the gangster responsible, Spats Colombo. They’re desperate to get a gig out of town but the only job they know of is in an all-girl band heading to Florida. They show up at the train station as Josephine and Daphne, the replacement saxophone and bass players. They certainly enjoy being around the girls, especially Sugar Kane Kowalczyk who sings and plays the ukulele. Joe in particular sets out to woo her while Jerry/Daphne is wooed by a millionaire, Osgood Fielding III. Mayhem ensues as the two men try to keep their true identities hidden and Spats Colombo and his crew show up for a meeting with several other crime lords.

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Billy Wilder’s screwball masterpiece with Curtis, Lemmon and the immortal Marilyn handed the best comedy roles of their careers.

10/10
Author: gary brumburgh (gbrumburgh@aol.com)
18 April 2001

Admittedly biased, “Some Like It Hot” can certainly stand on its own merit with or without my thunderous round of applause. More than a decade ago, I had the privilege of performing both the Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon roles in “Sugar,” the musical adaptation of “Some Like It Hot” which originally starred Tony Roberts, Robert Morse and Elaine Joyce on Broadway in the 70s. Though it hardly compares to the film’s original (how could it???), the musical nevertheless is still a big hit with live audiences. I can’t remember ever having a better time on stage than I did with “Sugar,” and it’s all due to the irrepressible talents that instigated it all.

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In the 1959 classic, Curtis and Lemmon play two ragtag musicians scraping to make ends meet in Prohibition-era Chicago during the dead of winter who accidentally eyewitness a major gangland rubout (aka the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre). Barely escaping with their lives (their instruments aren’t quite as lucky), our panicky twosome is forced to take it on the lam. Scared out of their shoes (sorry), the boys don heels and dresses after they connect with an all-girl orchestra tour headed for sunny Florida. Killing two birds with one stone, they figure why not go south for the winter while dodging the mob? Once they hit the coast, they’ll ditch both the band and their humiliating outfits.

Enter a major detour in the form of luscious Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane, given one of the sexiest (yet innocent) entrances ever afforded a star. Snugly fit in flashy ‘Jazz Age’ threads, a blast from the locomotive’s engine taunts her incredible hour-glass figure as she rushes to catch her train to Florida.

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The boys, stopped dead in their high-heeled tracks by this gorgeous vision, decide maybe the gig might not be so bad after all. As the totally unreliable but engagingly free-spirited vocalist/ukelele player for the band, Sugar gets instantly chummy with the “girls” when they cover for her after getting caught with a flask of booze. As things progress, complications naturally set in – playboy Curtis falls for Monroe but has his “Josephine” guise to contend with, while Lemmon’s “Daphne” has to deal with the persistently amorous attentions of a handsy older millionaire.

What results is an uproarious Marx Brothers-like farce with mistaken identities, burlesque-styled antics, and a madcap chase finale, all under the exact supervision of director Billy Wilder, who also co-wrote the script. Lemmon and Curtis pull off the silly shenanigans with customary flair and are such a great team, you almost wish THEY ended up together! Curtis does a dead-on Cary Grant imitation while posing as a Shell Oil millionaire to impress Marilyn; Lemmon induces campy hilarity in his scenes with lecherous Joe E. Brown (who also gets to deliver the film’s blue-ribbon closing line).

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As for the immortal Monroe, she is at her zenith here as the bubbly, vacuous, zowie-looking flapper looking for love in all the wrong places. Despite her gold-digging instincts, Monroe’s Sugar is cozy, vulnerable and altogether loveable, getting a lot of mileage too out of her solo singing spots, which include the kinetic “Running Wild,” the torchy “I’m Through With Love,” and her classic “boop-boop-a-doop” signature song, “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”

The film is dotted with fun, atmospheric characters. Pat O’Brien and George Raft both get to spoof their Warner Bros. stereotypes as cop vs. gangster, Joan Shawlee shows off a bit of her stinger as the by-the-rules bandleader Sweet Sue, Mike Mazurki overplays delightfully the archetypal dim-bulbed henchman, and, if I’m not mistaken, I think that’s young Billy Gray of “Father Knows Best” fame (the role is not listed in the credits) playing a snappy, pint-sized bellhop who comes on strong with the “girls.”

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For those headscratchers who can’t figure out why the so-called “mild” humor of “Some Like It Hot” is considered such a classic today, I can only presume that they have been brought up on, or excessively numbed by, the graphic, mindless toilet humor of present-day “comedies.” There was a time when going for a laugh had subtlety and purity – it relied on wit, timing, inventiveness and suggestion – not shock or gross-out value. It’s the difference between Sid Caesar and Andrew “Dice” Clay; between Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and Chris Farley and David Spade; between “I Love Lucy” and “Married With Children”; between Lemmon’s novel use of maracas in the hilarious “engagement” sequence, and Cameron Diaz’s use of hair gel in a scene that ANYBODY could have made funny. Jack Lemmon could do more with a pair of maracas than most actors today could do with a whole roomful of props. While “Some Like It Hot” bristles with clever sexual innuendo, today’s “insult” comedies are inundated with in-your-face sexual assault which, after awhile, gets quite tiresome — lacking any kind of finesse and leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. I still have hope…

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Having ultimate faith in my fellow film devotees, THAT is why “Some Like It Hot” will (and should be) considered one of THE screwball classics of all time, and why most of today’s attempts will (and should be) yesterday’s news.

The funniest movie ever made?

10/10
Author: Mike Salvati (mikesalvati@yahoo.com) from New Jersey, USA
9 July 1999

One of the all time great screen comedies, Some Like It Hot stars Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon at their best. Billy Wilder, one of the all time great directors, co-wrote and directed this fantastic movie.

Set in 1929, Lemmon and Curtis are out of work musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Fleeing for their lives, they disguise themselves as female musicians in order to get to Florida and away from the mob. This is where the fun begins.

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Renamed “Daphne” and “Josephine” they try their best to keep their secret. But when “Josephine”(Curtis) meets sexy ukulele player Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) you know he’s going to blow his cover somehow. While Curtis tries to woo Monroe by pretending to be her dream man as she has told him, Lemmon is courted by Osgood Fielding (Joe E. Brown). Curtis adapts a Cary Grant accent and pretends to be frigid in the movie’s funniest scenes. Lemmon seems to forget he’s a boy and has so much fun with Fielding and adores the things he buys him. Between the cases of mistaken and pretend identities, the mobsters come to Florida for their Opera Lovers Meeting. It all winds up with a hilarious ending.

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This movie is a gem from start to finish. Curtis, Monroe, and Brown are great in their parts. Monroe brings a funny and sexy vulnerability to Sugar and Curtis is great with his performance as “Josephine” and the stuffy millionaire who talks just like Cary Grant. Lemmon really steals the movie here. He invests Daphne with such enthusiasm that we can understand why he’s falling for Osgood. He’s having way too much fun and it’s great to watch him. This is a true classic from start to finish. It’s recommended for anyone who likes to laugh.

Grade:A+

A gender-bending comedy ahead of its time

Author: Nathan (psionicpoet@hotmail.com) from Troutdale, OR
30 April 2004

What Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis do in “Some Like it Hot” would be par for the course in modern movies – every other month, similar fish-out-of-water movies premiere with men posing as women (“Tootsie”), women posing as men (“The Associate”), black people posing as white people (“White Chicks”), and on and on. What makes “Some Like it Hot” different is two things: the strength of its comedy, and the presence of Marilyn Monroe, then at the height of stardom.

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Lemmon and Curtis turn in admirable performances both as Joe and Jerry, and as Josephine and Daphne. Tony Curtis does Lemmon one better by creating a third identity, “Junior”, in order to woo Sugar Kane (Monroe).

Tying the pair’s story into the Chicago Valentine’s Day Massacre, where a gang war spilled over into a parking garage, leaving a number of people lined up against the wall and shot, is a deft touch (though the serious tone of these gang sequences contrasts sharply with the bulk of the movie).

The movie does an excellent job building the far-fetched stakes of the movie ever-higher, from their finding refuge from vengeful gangs in a women’s jazz band, to their showdown in the Florida hotel, to the eventual revealing of Curtis’ and Lemmon’s identities.

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The movie’s surprisingly suggestive and risque content is at odds with the time frame of the movie, and even with the period of the movie’s creation. The many smart double-entendres and plays on words are very well-written, and alternate between lowbrow and highbrow comedy,

The films only fault might be a couple of overlong musical numbers, performed either by the whole band or soloed by Sugar Kane. Though to be expected in a Marilyn Monroe film, these musical acts are literal “show stoppers” that bring the comedic momentum of the film to a screeching halt. However, it is easy to over look these minor defects in the movie as a whole, because by and large it is quite funny – no wonder it s considered a classic – and after all, “nobody’s perfect”.

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As hot as it gets

Author: Vlad B. from United States
20 April 1999

A Comedy that has it all, and lacks absolutely nothing. “Nobody’s perfect” may be an inherent truism, but “Some Like it Hot” is a definite somebody in the universe of cinema, thus it IS perfect in every sense. Swing, sex and slapstick, (three words that immediately come to mind when trying to describe it) , are a mix so delicious, so fruitful in its possibilities that one cannot imagine a film which can live up to them, and yet this one does. Marilyn, her trademark, displeasingly infantile voice aside, is a bombshell of thermonuclear dimensions, whose powers of titillation will not expire so long as there are hormones and/or Viagra. The sexual content, for socio-historical reasons cannot be as explicit as we’ve come to expect, but there’s still plenty of it, from Monroe’s see-through outfit to the double entendre worthy of the Farelli Brothers (“What do I do if it’s an emergency ? – Pull the emergency break!” ), including overtly gay themes that have a cult following of their own.

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The Lemmon/Curtis duo operates with gleeful, unrestrained vitality that can only be likened to Chaplin in his heyday. Though not a Musical, the combustive energy of this movie is so stimulating it almost makes you get up and dance.

Two musicians dressed as women join an all-girl band to escape the mobsters’ vendetta

8/10
Author: ma-cortes
30 October 2012

Legendary comedy masterpiece from filmmaker Billy Wilder and IAL Diamond that Won Oscar and another 13 wins & 8 nominations . Immensely charming comedy set among Chicago and Miami , being starred by an all-star-cast . When two unemployed musicians witness a mob hit , the St Valentine massacre in Chicago carried out by mobster chief (George Raft) they flee the state in an all female band disguised as women and headed for Florida , but further complications set in. There appears a gorgeous singer , Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) , who is object of pursuit by the musicians (Jack Lemmon , Tony Curtis) who cannot reveal their identity because are dressed as women in order to getaway from killer gangsters’ retaliation .

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Rightly enjoyable and fun-filled , milestone comedy which neatly combines humor , mirth , entertaining situations and amusement . This noisy comedy is intelligently and pleasingly written to gives us lots of fun , laughters and smiles . Mordantly funny , though by time of premiere was rated as bad taste and some discomfort ; however , is todays considered a real classic movie . Billy Wilder kept the studio Paramount happy , the picture consistently made money and was hit at box office . Flawless comedy with a trio of sensational protagonists , including an unforgettable Marilyn who parades sexily at her best and more relaxed and enticing than ever . The hit of the show is undoubtedly for the fetching Marilyn Monroe who gives one of the best screen acting and sings marvelous songs as ¨Running wild¨, ¨I’m through with love¨ and the immortal ¨I wanna be loved you¨.

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Magnificent performances from Jack Lemmon as angst-ridden musician dressed in drag and sensational Tony Curtis as a philander young , playing his Gary Gray Grant impression . Furthermore , a splendid secondary cast , a variety of notorious actors who make sympathetic interpretations such as Pat O’Brien , George Raft , Mike Mazurski , Nehemia Persoff and , of course, smitten Joe E Brown , including his now-classic closing line .

The motion picture was very well directed by Billy Wilder who includes several punchlines . Billy was one of the best directors of history . In 1939 started the partnership with Charles Bracket on such movies as ¨Ninotchka¨ , ¨Ball of fire¨ , making their film debut as such with ¨Major and the minor¨ . ¨Sunset Boulevard¨ was their last picture together before they split up . Later on , Billy collaborated with another excellent screenwriter IAL Diamond . Both of them won an Academy Award for ¨Stalag 17¨ dealing with a POW camp starred by William Holden . After that , they wrote/produced/directed such classics as ¨Ace in the hole¨ , the touching romantic comedy ¨Sabrina¨ , the Hickcoktian courtroom puzzle game ¨Witness for the prosecution¨ and two movies with the great star Marilyn Monroe , the warmth ¨Seven year itch¨ and this ¨Some like hot¨.

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All of them include screenplays that sizzle with wit . But their biggest success and highpoint resulted to be the sour and fun ¨¨The apartment¨. Subsequently in the 60s and 70s , the duo fell headlong into the pit , they realized nice though unsuccessful movies as ¨Buddy buddy¨ ,¨Fedora¨ , ¨Front page¨ and ¨Secret life of Sherlock Holmes¨, though the agreeable ¨Avanti¨ slowed the decline . The team had almost disappeared beneath a wave of bad reviews and failures . ¨Some like hot¨ rating : Above average , essential and indispensable watching ; extremely funny and riveting film and completely entertaining . It justly deserves its place among the best comedy ever made . One of the very funniest films of all time and to see and see again . It’s the kind of movie where you know what’s coming but , because the treatment , enjoy it all the same .

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One Big Wink!

9/10
Author: Holdjerhorses from United States
21 November 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yep — the poster, with Marilyn winking over the shoulders of Lemmon and Curtis, says it all.

Sometimes, the whole is LESS than the sum of its parts. For there may be no more delightful PARTS in the history of film, than these scenes. Yet the whole, curiously, doesn’t quite add up.

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Probably because the entire premise — two male jazz musicians passing as women to escape the Mafia — devolves into the notorious final, utterly improbable, line: “Nobody’s perfect!” But by then any pretext at reality has been dropped. We are immersed in some Neverland of movie-making which, really, has never been attempted before or since.

Namely, a thoroughly ridiculous vanity film for the director, writers, cinematographer and actors that remains utterly delightful nearly half a century later — and always will.

About halfway through, audiences realize they’re not watching anything resembling real life. Instead, they’re watching some of the best talents in the business having fun! And fun it is! The script is tight as a drum: the direction is flawless (particularly in light of the on-set problems with Miss Monroe): the cinematography is luscious (never has Monroe been lit and photographed so successfully; not even in “The Prince and the Showgirl.”).

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Yet what we’re given is scene after scene with two masterful actors — Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis — masquerading as women. And Marilyn Monroe — masterful in her narrow range — also masquerading as a woman.

Let’s face it: without her voluptuous body (and Orry-Kelly’s jaw-dropping costumes), Miss Monroe would have been NOTHING had she been Kate Moss. Or any other actor. Imagine ANYBODY else “breathing” those lines and slinking around in those gowns and getting by with it.

You can’t.

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Every scene “works.” Lemmon and Curtis are priceless — particularly Curtis — in female drag. Not for one second do they condescend to “playing” women. Sure, the plot demands it. But there’s not a moment where they’re “putting down” the “weaker” sex. That would have been an easy “comedic” choice back in the day. That nobody chose it says a lot about the talents and sensibilities at work here.

Only Joe E. Brown could have been cast as Osgood, perhaps. So obliviously innocent is he that he makes his love for “Daphne” work without a hint of homosexual subtext.

It may be a small miracle, in fact, that a film of this era, dealing with two men in drag, and an older wealthy man in love with one of them, has absolutely NO hint of homosexuality, much less anti-gay sentiment. The film is, truly, beloved in homosexual circles for precisely that reason.

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But forget all that. “Some Like It Hot” becomes a tour-de-force for everybody involved: a film about the joys of acting and pretending, rather than a film to be believed or taken seriously — since it’s so preposterous.

One finally yields to the audacious conceit that Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are “believed” as “Josephine” and “Daphne” and simply lets the deliciousness of their playing wash over audiences.

The tidal wave that is Marilyn Monroe (though nearly impossible to work with, by this point: her lines being pasted inside bureau drawers and anywhere else on the set that couldn’t be seen, because she couldn’t recall even the simplest of them), is perhaps the ultimate in feminine pulchritude on screen. (Monroe was reportedly pregnant during filming, though she miscarried.) Forget that she’s written (and plays) a woman as dumb as a post. She looks like nothing anybody ever saw before or since.

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So “Some Like It Hot” works, scene by scene. Yet, curiously, if fails in the end because it’s so patently phony.

No matter the era, when a man proposes to another man (thinking he’s a woman), and that fiancée pulls off his wig and confesses, “I’m a man,” the last line is NEVER, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” No matter how funny. No matter ANYTHING. By then we’re in Neverland and all that’s left is to relish the performers relishing performing.

That, we do.

Billy Wilder strikes gold!

Author: bondboy422 from United Kingdom
17 November 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“Some Like It Hot” has to be one of the cleverest comedies.Billy Wilder’s comic ideas were always a cut above. Two musicians, Joe and Jerry by chance go to pick up a car which just happens to be the garage where the St Valentine’s Day massacre is taking place.How do you make a comedy on that idea? Talk about broad and brave.Tony Curtis as Joe and Jack Lemmon as Jerry are likable and brash.

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When they become women to escape the gangsters they become sensitive, vulnerable and extremely funny. They join an all girl swing band to get out of Chicago and travel by train down to Florida.Marylyn Monroe appears as Sugar Kane and the film becomes even more special.Not only is she sweet,vulnerable,sexy and funny — she is the core to what makes the film great.There is no one to touch her.Talk about rehearsed spontaneity!They always talk about how she kept everyone waiting and how unreliable she was — Well you can see from every frame in this film that Billy Wilder could not in any way have been easy to work for– He expected perfection– the comedy in this film is so precise bordering on genius.Joe E Brown is hysterically funny as Osgood — and Jack Lemmon has a brilliantly funny transformation from harassed male in drag to goldigging future fiancé of Osgood after there passion filled tango.Tony Curtis has a difficult job as Joe , it is a generously straight performance.I especially liked his suppressed fierce reaction as he clambers out of the bath when riled by Jerry.This film is “perfect”

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Maybe not the greatest ever but still quite good

7/10
Author: hall895 from New Jersey
13 November 2007

Some Like It Hot is often hailed as the greatest comedy film of all time. That’s probably a stretch. It may not be the greatest ever but it’s still very good and thoroughly enjoyable. Driven by the outstanding performances of three top-notch stars in Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and the one and only Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot will make you smile, make you laugh and maybe even make you cry but only because you’re laughing so hard at times. If you go in expecting the greatest movie ever, you may end up being a touch disappointed. If you go in with more reasonable expectations you can’t help but enjoy this delightful screwball comedy.

The setup of this film’s plot almost guarantees comic gold and sure enough it pays off. Curtis and Lemmon play Joe and Jerry, two musicians in Prohibition-era Chicago who witness a mob hit and have to get the heck out of town before they end up dead. They end up donning dresses, posing as women and joining an all-girl orchestra headed for Florida. Reborn, so to speak, as Josephine and Daphne the pair plan to ditch the band and resume their normal, non-dress wearing, lives as soon as they hit Florida. But on their new orchestra’s train ride to the Sunshine State there is a complication.

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That complication comes in the shape (and oh what a shape!) of singer/ukulele player Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, played by the incomparable Monroe. Needless to say our two men find themselves very much attracted to the bubbly, beautiful Sugar. Of course the fact that they are “women” very much complicates things. Hilarity ensues.

Once the orchestra hits Florida this film really takes off. Joe, or Josephine if you prefer, decides he and Jerry/Daphne should stick around for a while. Taking a break from being disguised as a woman, and now posing as a Shell Oil millionaire, Joe tries to woo Sugar. Meanwhile an actual millionaire falls for “Daphne” which obviously causes all kinds of complications for Jerry. Much of what ensues is simply priceless. There are a few jokes and gags which fall flat but there is so much here that works you forgive the film for the moments which don’t quite measure up. And given the rather juvenile nature of so many modern comedies the more subtle nature of the comedy here is a blessed relief. This movie presents a truly ridiculous situation but it’s never over the top.

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Director Billy Wilder found just the right tone to make the film work and the truly remarkable cast brings the story to life. There are some terrific supporting performances but it is the big three of Monroe, Curtis and Lemmon who really make this film work. What can you say about Marilyn Monroe that hasn’t already been said? She simply owns the screen. Watch her perform the song “I Wanna Be Loved by You” and I dare you not to fall in love. If this film has a straight man, Curtis is it. He’s suave, reserved, and altogether perfect no matter which disguise he happens to be in at any given moment. But in this film it may be Lemmon who shines most of all. He pours his heart and soul into being “Daphne” and it is an absolute treat to watch. Curtis and Monroe are both terrific and certainly have their share of moments and witty one-liners but the best moments and best lines seem to be reserved for Lemmon. It’s obvious Lemmon had a lot of fun making this film. You’ll have a lot of fun watching it. So what if it’s not the “best comedy ever”? It’s a wonderfully written, brilliantly performed, incredibly enjoyable film. That’s more than enough to make it well worth your while.

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