#83: Some Like It Hot [1959]


I should start this post with a confession: I didn’t watch Some Like It Hot in 2012. I watched it in December 2011, before this blog was even a twinkle in my eye. It’s fresh enough in my memory to review and I am extremely busy and important, so I skipped it. You’ll forgive me, right? Cheers.
Anyway, Some Like It Hot was released in 1959 and has been much loved ever since. Billy Wilder wrote, produced and directed this hilarious American comedy which stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and the latter’s unforgettable impression of Cary Grant. Monroe is an interesting mix of cutesy and smouldering as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, which I’m led to believe impresses the opposite sex. She is a great comic actress, but to me she’s such an iconic figure that I can’t think of her as any character. But still, she’s pretty sassy. Tony Curtis, as Joe/Josephine, is often listed before Jack Lemmon, who plays Jerry/Daphne, which must be due to his commanding role in their bromance (for want of another word), as for me the latter is the star of the show. My love for Lemmon’s mannerisms is what made The Apartment brilliantly comic, which makes sense as Wilder was so impressed with him in Some Like It Hot that he built The Apartment around him.
Wilder does a wonderful job in that he doesn’t go for the easy laugh. I watched this film with my dad and brother, and we all agreed that it was not nearly as scandalous or seedy as it could have been. Before I explain this, I should probably outline the plot for those who aren’t familiar with it: Joe and Jerry are musicians who have travelled and played together for years. They flee a Chicago mob’s fury by disguising themselves as women in an all-female band. When they meet the beautiful and heart-broken Sugar Kane hilarity is unavoidable, as they seek to woo her in spite of the other’s attempts and their respective disguises. You can see where it might have all unravelled into chaos. Nevertheless, Wilder keeps a firm grip on the plot, pacing and propriety of this film with laudable dexterity. Every joke lands and no gesture is wasted as men fall left, right and centre for the now glamorous Josephine and Daphne.
While the cross-dressing makes for a form of humour familiar since Shakespeare reigned over the world of entertainment, it also provides for an undertone of social commentary. Don’t get me wrong; Wilder is most certainly focusing on the comical side of things, but there is also a sensitivity to the identity of modern women. Frequently, we hear the two disguised friends ask ‘How do they do it?’, referring either to the discomfort of high heels, the knack to a delicate swaying of the hips, or putting up with advances of less than acceptable male company. In finding comedy in performing as women, Wilder pushes gender performativity to the forefront of this movie, though it was not called that at the time. Then again, it could be that I’m too accustomed to reading into things. Blame my education. Still, I stand by this film, admiring both its fun and its little comment.

Although we didn't know it at the time, my dad and brother were my challenge assistants, so here is their summary (just supplied via text): No film is perfect. But this one is pretty close.

Comments

  1. Special mention too for George Raft as 'Spats' Colombo & Joe E Brown as Osgood Fielding III. Wonderful cameo roles.

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