My Seven Days of Marilyn Monroe film for day five is Some Like It Hot. I was going to save it for last, but just couldn’t wait any longer to watch it. This film features some of my favorite actors of all time with Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, Jack Lemmon as Jerry/Geraldine/Daphne and Tony Curtis as Joe/Josephine/Junior. This is one of my favorite films, it has everything there is to love in a movie, car chases, shootouts, mobsters, comedy, cross dressing, romance, intrigue, sexual innuendo, trains, a ukelele, a fantastic story and of course, Marilyn. I fell in love with Jack Lemmon’s sense of humor in this film, not to mention this is where my love of the stand-up bass started, which I have adopted and have been learning over the past few years. Needless to say Some Like It Hot is my favorite Marilyn film hands down. For that matter it’s my favorite Lemmon film as well.
The cast of characters in this film is beyond compare. Of course the main actors are a force to be reckoned with, but the supporting cast is second to none. Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III, Joan Shawlee as Sweet Sue and her partner in crime, Dave Barry as Beinstock and Helen Perry as Stella make for some of the most memorable minor characters in any film. George Raft is the consummate old school gangster as “Spats” Colombo, and Pat O’Brien is his perfect adversary in Detective Mulligan.
Some Like It Hot is a story about a couple of musicians who are barely making it from gig to gig with enough money to feed themselves. They witness a gangster execution of several men in a garage and have to go on the run and in hiding. What better disguise than a couple of women who tag along with an all woman band that is heading to Florida, away from the cold winter. It just so happens that the band is in need of a bass player and a saxophonist, the two instruments played by our heroes, Curtis and Lemmon. Daphne fits in famously with the other women and becomes a fast favorite of the band. Upon their arrival in Florida, Daphne (Lemmon) is set upon by wealthy Osgood Fielding III who continues to pursue the “woman” throughout the film.
Some of the best moments of the film are when these gentlemen are truly mistaken for women. This was a film from a time when these moments, no matter how absurd, were forgiven. These scenes weren’t questioned and over analyzed as we seem to do so much these days. We expect so much more from our films now, complicated story lines and detailed plots, when the best story is sometimes the simplest. It’s from a time when films were purely enjoyable and it was never absurd that no one caught on that Superman and Clarke Kent were the same person just as no one catches on that Junior and Josephine are the same person.
Curtis is definitely no slouch in the comedic arena, though he gained acclaim initially as a dramatic talent he is fantastic as his Joe competes with Lemmon’s Jerry for the attention of Sugar. He steps up his game by imitating a billionaire while imitating a woman, doubly hiding his true identity as Joe the poor musician. Paying attention to all the details that Sugar reveals to him about her dream man while he is Josephine and integrates all the details in to his character. It takes talent to pull off three different characters in one film, each one just as good as the last and I don’t think anyone would deny that Tony Curtis had more talent in his little finger than many actors demonstrate in their whole career.
Neither man makes the most stunning woman, but they both pull it of relatively well. Jerry works hard to put Sugar off of Junior, continuing the competition by trying to catch Joe off-guard and out of character, but Joe or Josephine stays one step ahead. Lemmon does remind me of the Joker from time to time with his facial expressions, it’s a bit creepy, but not out of character. Brown continues to play Osgood as the billionaire mama’s boy and a dirty old man that we love to watch harass Daphne. Poor Jerry has to go along with it in order not to give up his and Joe’s true identities. Jerry starts losing it once Osgood proposes to him. Joe has to snap him back to reality and remind him he’s a guy, not a doll.
The lounge number, “I Wanna Be Loved By You” gives us Marilyn in another one of those killer gowns that just knocks you out with how amazing and sensual she looks in it. I could hear this rendition a hundred times and never get tired of it. I’m even jealous of Curtis and Lemmon’s gowns in this number. Another favorite and ongoing scene of mine is Curtis’ quick change moments from Josephine to Junior and back again. Especially when he forgets little details, as in earrings that he keeps on even as the billionaire playboy, noticing them at the last minute, barely saving himself from being discovered. All the lengths that he must go to in order to pull off his charade really culminate to give us an ideal comedic experience and great romance all in one.
Soon Spats catches up to the two musician’s by coincidence at a Friends of Italian Opera gathering used as a front for the family to get together without tipping off the law.. Mulligan follows the mobsters down to Florida as well. Jerry and Joe don’t know how the men ended up there, but think they’ve been found out, but have to continue to hide in plain sight. When Joe has to break Sugar’s heart as he tells her goodbye, I find myself feeling her disappointment. Watching Curtis speak as Junior while dressed as Josephine makes me appreciate him that much more. We find that in the midst of all this trickery, Joe really did fall for Sugar and is just as disappointed as she at having to leave, as it should be if they plan too pull off any kind of decent love story. The two men out themselves to the mobsters as they try to make their getaway and probably could have pulled it off had they played it cool a little longer. That’s the beauty of the simple nature of this story. The poor guys don’t have chance being in a hotel full of their nemeses.
The two men are trapped in a room with all of the family men, hiding under a table. The Italians bring up the capture of the Jerry and Joe, making them realize how much trouble they really are in. They get caught once again in the line of fire again as Spats is ambushed. Mulligan shows up just as the two men hightail it, and man can Jerry move in a pair of heels. Sugar’s last number of the film is a sultry lounge number in another revealing, gorgeous dress. I can never get enough of her costumes in any of her films. Joe’s kiss that he bestows on Sugar as he is still dressed as Josephine may be the closest thing to a lesbian scene anyone had ever seen in a film at this point in time. A very Benny Hill-esque chase scene follows his little slip-up which ends with Osgood becoming an unwitting get-away man. Sugar puts aside all of Joe’s protests as to why she shouldn’t be with him and continues to fall for him as he is. Similarly, Osgood dismisses all of Jerry’s reasons why the two of them can’t be together, ending with “Nobody’s perfect” after Jerry finally reveals himself as a man, and…scene.
Curtis and Lemmon’s partnership is one for the ages and one that could only be rivaled by that of Lemmon and Matthau. The comedic timing in this film leaves nothing to be desired and still makes me laugh out loud. You couldn’t ask for a better team. Marilyn and Curtis have the best chemistry and I forget at moments that Lemmon isn’t just one of the girls. To have had the opportunity to meet these men would have been an honor. There is so much heart in this film that I just can’t stand it! I can’t say I miss this time in film as I wasn’t around back then, but I long for what it represents, an innocence and love of entertainment that has long passed. I’ve still seen inklings of it here and there, particularly in the past year and still have hope that there are still purely enjoyable films to be made.
Extras: There is an amazing commentary featuring an interview with Tony Curtis, archived interview with Jack Lemmon and commentary by Paul Diamond (son of I.A.L. Diamond) and Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.
To see more of my series, Seven Days of Marilyn Monroe Click Here. Share your favorite Jack Lemmon or Tony Curtis movie in the comments.