Movie Review – American Film Institute Rates Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” As the Best Comedy Ever

Some Like It Hot – 2 Stars (Average)

In its day, “Some Like It Hot” was a hot ticket, being nominated for six Oscars and winning one. Released in 1959, this black-and-white film also served as the greatest comedy platform for its three main characters-Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), Joe as “Josephine” (Tony Curtis) and Jerry as “Daphne” (Jack Lemon). Lemon was the actor, Monroe was the sex symbol, and Curtis was the looker.

The plot found two down-on-their-luck musicians (Joe and Jerry) witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre by the mob gangland-style in 1929 during Chicago’s Prohibition Era. Joe and Jerry narrowly escape death, then disguise themselves as women to become “Josephine” and “Daphne”, and hook up with an all-girl band headed for a gig in sunny Florida.

Complications set in when the two discover that Sugar Kane is part of the troop. Playboy Curtis falls for Monroe but must deal with his role as Josephine, and Lemon’s Daphne must deal with the amorous attentions of Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), an older millionaire. Things really heat up when mob boss Spats Colombo (George Raft) and his gang show up at the same place for a “convention” of mob bosses.

Billy Wilder directed this film and, while having some fun doing so, also had his patience tested. Apparently Marilyn Monroe gave new meaning to the phrase “dumb blonde”. She took 47 takes in one scene to get “It’s me, Sugar” correct; after 30 takes Wilder had the phrase written on a blackboard for her.

After 40 takes of her saying, “Where’s the bourbon?” when Monroe was rummaging through some drawers, Wilder pasted the correct line in one of the drawers. Monroe was still confused, so Wilder pasted the line in every drawer. It took 59 takes for Monroe to get it right. Tony Curtis said publicly that Monroe was routinely 2 to 3 hours late to the set, and occasionally refused to leave her dressing room.

Despite it all, Some Like It Hot won an Oscar for Best Costume Design by Orry-Kelly, and had Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Jack Lemon), Best Art Direction (Ted Haworth and Edward G. Boyle), Best Cinematography (Charles Lang), Best Director (Billy Wilder) and Best Writing (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond)-and don’t even ask about I.A.L. (a pseudonym for Romanian-born Itec Domnici when he was a student at Columbia University).

When Orry-Kelly was measuring all three stars for dresses, he half-jokingly told Marilyn Monroe that “Tony Curtis has a nicer butt than you.” Monroe responded by pulling open her blouse and saying, “Yes, but he doesn’t have tits like these!” This was Hollywood in 1959.

Some Like It Hot also won three Golden Globe Awards-Best Motion Picture Comedy, Best Actor (Jack Lemon) and Best Actress (Marilyn Monroe). It is a good thing that the voters were not on the set for the filming.

The American Film Institute voted Some Like It Hot as the Funniest Movie of all time. The film is No. 14 on AFI’s List of the 100 Greatest Movies of all time.

At the end of the film, Daphne informs Osgood-“her” future millionaire husband-that she will not be able to have children. “We can adopt,” says Osgood. “But you don’t understand, Osgood!” replies Daphne, “I’m a man!” Osgood replies, “Well, nobody’s perfect!” The line “Well, nobody’s perfect” was vote as the 48th most famous quote in movie history by the AFI.

And, in the truth is stranger than fiction category, a California man found a little black dress in his closet (what was it doing there?) and was stunned when appraisers determined  monroe roofing contractor t hat it was worn by Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot and had an estimated worth of $250,000.

Meanwhile, back in Kansas in 1959 (the place made famous by Dorothy and Toto in “The Wizard of Oz”), the film was banned from showing in Kansas because cross-dressing was “too disturbing for Kansans.”

I suspect that Some Like It Hot may have been one of the first films with high viewership to include cross-dressing in the script. My, how times have changed. In today’s liberal environment, we are exposed to much more much more often.

I personally would not rate Some Like It Hot as the best comedy ever made. In my book of great films, that honor goes to “Waking Ned Devine”, which offered superb entertainment and also delivered a very meaningful message about relationships not only among individuals but also an entire village.

 

 

 

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