Some Like it Hot (1959)

The American Film Institute, in its list of America’s 100 funniest films, put Some Like it Hot right at the top, at Number 1. Humour, like beauty, is subjective, so I’m not sure how many would agree with that decision. What matters is that this film, total farce from beginning to end and a great entertainer, is definitely one of the funniest I’ve seen.

Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot

Joe (Tony Curtis) and his pal Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are musicians—Joe plays the saxophone, Jerry the bow fiddle—in the gangster-ridden world of Chicago in 1929. The two friends have been having a hard time: they haven’t paid the rent in ages; they owe people money; and all Joe’s bets on `sure winners’ are damp squibs. But he’s optimistic: payday for their current job is coming up, and Joe’s getting ready to place both their salaries on a dog in an upcoming race.

Joe and Jerry discuss their chances for getting rich

The sad part is, Joe and Jerry’s job is at a speakeasy fronted by a Funeral Home called Mozarella’s. The cops get a whiff of what Mozarella’s really deals in (spirits of the wrong kind) and whump! —before you know it, the speakeasy is crawling with cops, arresting everybody in sight. Joe and Jerry manage to sneak away with their instruments, but now they’re without jobs.
The two pals go looking for work, but the music companies and agencies around have no vacancies.

Joe and Jerry do the rounds of the agents

Except one, which needs a sax player and a bow fiddler for a band going for three weeks to Florida—an all girls’ band. Jerry jokingly suggests that Joe and he wear wigs and pass themselves off as ‘Josephine and Geraldine’ but Joe (and the agent) shoot down the idea. The agent, however, tells them about a University of Illinois St Valentine’s Dance for which they could get $6 apiece.

The agent suggests a possible option

These guys are so desperate, Joe agrees and wheedles an ex-flame of his into lending him and Jerry her car. They go down to the garage where her car’s parked. This is a shady place: there’s a bunch of men sitting in one corner, and Joe and Jerry have barely reached the car when another gang bursts in. This one’s headed by the utterly nasty `Spats’ Colombo (George Raft), who narrowly escaped when the police raided the speakeasy. Problem is, he’s discovered that the informer was a certain Toothpick Charlie (George E Stone), who’s among the men at the garage.

The Valentine's Day Massacre

What follows is a Valentine’s Day Massacre of sorts: ‘Spats’ and his men gun down Toothpick Charlie and his men before the horrified eyes of Joe and Jerry, who’re peeking out from behind the car. Our boys try sneaking out, are spotted and chased—but manage to escape.

Joe and Jerry are spotted by `Spats'
Chicago, however, is now too hot for these two, so they need to get out—and where better than that job in Florida?

`Josephine' and `Daphne'

On the train, `Josephine’ and `Daphne’ (Jerry’s decided he doesn’t much care for `Geraldine’ as a pseudonym) are introduced to the stern manager and self-styled chaperone of the band, Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee). They also get to meet the other girls, including the luscious Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), who plays the ukulele and sings—when she’s not sneaking a sip of bourbon from her flask.

Sugar Kane and her flask

Both Joe and Jerry are, unsurprisingly, quite dazzled by Sugar. In fact, after lights out, Jerry ends up sharing a drink with Sugar on his berth—and that single drink snowballs into a mad party with about a dozen girls squeezing into Jerry’s berth.

Midnight party in Jerry's berth

Joe, who wakes up in the middle of the pandemonium, tries to break up the party but doesn’t succeed. Instead, he finds himself helping Sugar break the ice—literally. She sits him down with a drink and pours out her woes to him, girl to girl. Sugar says this is the first girls’ band she’s been in. Till now, she’s always been in male bands, and has had a hard time: she always falls for sax players and they always let her down. She’s candid enough to admit she’s dumb.

Sugar breaks the ice

Mellow with bourbon, Sugar confides further: what she really wants is a millionaire all her own. A man who wears glasses, reads the Wall Street Journal, and is gentle and sweet and helpless. That’s what she needs to get her out of her sax-player fixation.

...and confides

When they get to Florida and the Semoline Ritz Hotel, there’s an entire row of prospective bridegrooms, complete with copies of the Wall Street Journal, lining the porch. They’re all pretty long in the tooth, though, and Sugar (who’s now best buddies with `Josephine’ and `Daphne’) doesn’t give a damn about any of them.
Jerry, however, finds an admirer: an elderly Casanova called Osgood Fielding III (Joe E Brown), who tries to escort `Daphne’ to the room and pinches her en route.

Jerry finds a millionaire admirer

Joe, meanwhile, has also attracted an admirer: a bellboy who’s half his size but calls him `doll’ and admits he likes ‘em “big and sassy”.

...and Joe finds a bellboy

Later that afternoon, while `Josephine’ is soaking in a tub in the bathroom, the rest of the girls go down to the beach for a swim and a game of ball. Sugar, running to fetch the ball back, ends up meeting a young man who: (a) wears glasses (b) reads the Wall Street Journal (c) has a yacht anchored in the harbour, and (d) collects shells, after which the family’s oil company is named:

Why Junior's company is named what it is

Sugar admits he looks familiar, but ‘Shell Oil Junior’ tells her she’s probably seen his photo in Vanity Fair.

A chat on the beach

And the stage is set. For romance, intrigue, lots of completely madcap antics—and crime. Remember Spats? Remember his grudge against our two hero(in)es? Well.

Watch on. It requires a willing suspension of disbelief and critical ability (it’s also slapstick, and sexist), but it’s great fun, fast-paced and with excellent timing. Billy Wilder did a good job with this; cross-dressing was never wilder.

What I liked about this film:
I love this film (I’m fond of stuff that makes me laugh), but if I were to name just a couple of its best features, here goes:

Jack Lemmon. Tony Curtis. They’re superb in drag, and even I wouldn’t be able to race along in high heels at the speeds these guys achieve. Curtis, of course, is absolutely drool-worthy as a man (how on earth did I forget him when I compiled my eye candy list? Next edition, he tops it):

Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot

But Lemmon is, in my opinion, the funnier. Not only is Jerry’s role a more hilarious one, but Lemmon pulls it off with a panache that cracks me up every time he appears onscreen.

Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot

The last line in the film. It is sheer genius.

What I didn’t like:
Marilyn, though beautiful (except for certain scenes where she looks definitely overweight—she was pregnant when Some Like it Hot was being filmed), is the usual dumb blonde. And no, I don’t like Marilyn in dumb blonde roles.

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20 thoughts on “Some Like it Hot (1959)

  1. harvey: Yup, that last dialogue is just the perfect way to end this film! Superb :-)

    bollywooddewana: I’ve seen bits of Rafoo Chakkar years ago, so don’t remember much, but yes, the plot is basically the same, except of course with some Bollywood style subplots added! I must admit, though, that Rishi Kapoor and Paintal don’t make half as believable women as Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon do!
    The DVD of Rafoo Chakkar, by the way, is available on http://www.induna.com. It’s even there on Amazon.

  2. Hildebrand: Absolutely! I saw it just before I wrote the review a couple of days back, and I’m already thinking of seeing it again. Therapeutic :-)

    Ava: Yup, Rafoo Chakkar was based on this – though I don’t think the desi versions of `Josephine’ and `Daphne’ were this convincing. Not that Lemmon and Curtis look like women, but still… apparently, to test the efficacy of the entire look, the two of them entered a ladies’ public restroom and tried fixing their makeup – and nobody guessed they were men. (But that may have been because you don’t expect to see men in drag in a ladies’!)

  3. i also preffered lemmon over curtis and i remember that while watching the movie i was rooting for lemmon to get marilyn. I’m always for the underdogs!

    “But that may have been because you don’t expect to see men in drag in a ladies!”

    in those days, yeah.

  4. I don’t think I ever got around to really rooting for Lemmon, because he actually doesn’t make much of an attempt to get Marilyn. His initial appreciation (“She walks like Jello on springs!”) is about it – after the brief `party’ in his berth, any hopes of a romance between the two of them fall flat.

    But I’m so fond of Tony Curtis (yes, just rediscovered him!) that I didn’t really mind…

    And, I still would be a bit surprised to see a man in drag in a ladies’. ;-)

  5. I like this film a lot too! And I’m definitely more of a Jack Lemmon girl rather than Tony Curtis both acting and appereance wise.

    I like Marilyn in any role really since I believe she can give the role its worth. She is an actor with such on screen presence and charisma. But this film is more about the two male leads and they both give it all they got.

    Strangely enough reading this review made me want to watch The Apartment…

  6. As far as appearance is concerned, I’d settle for Tony Curtis over Jack Lemmon any day! ;-) Acting… well, I’d have said Lemmon, until I saw the excellent Curtis-Poitier starrer The Defiant Ones. Curtis is very good in that.

    I’ve nothing against Marilyn; I think she looked awesome, and she could do the dumb blonde act perfectly. I just wish she’d gotten more roles that allowed her to show off her acting abilities better, to prove that she wasn’t just a lovely face and a great figure.

    Okay, I have a confession to make: haven’t seen The Apartment yet, and though the imdb ratings are good, I’ve lost my faith in those. Worth the watch?

  7. What a funny, sexy film, so much fun to watch – one of my all-time favourites. Tony Curtis was so hot, and Jack Lemmon so damn funny! I love it – this makes me want to watch again – I think I will do so tonight.

  8. Hi all,
    Yes, this must be one of the funniest, speediest comedies of all time, with Jack Lemmon creating a perfection-level role.
    Still, I wonder: which one would you prefer as far as Marilyn is concerned? Some like it hot, or The seven year itch?

  9. Oh dear, as far as I’m concerned, I have to admit I haven’t seen The Seven Year Itch yet. I’d started seeing it years ago when it was being shown on TV – and got to the famous point where her skirt billows up – and then our TV connection went kaput. :-(

    That has to be remedied, I know. Will see it and let you know ASAP!

  10. My little boy absolutely loves it. He has watched it many times from aged seven up . To hear him laugh is so wonderful. He laughs at Monty Python to . Adoring John Cleese.

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting! Your little son sounds so cute. And I am completely ‘with’ anyone who adores John Cleese! That man is simply hilarious. :-)

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