Some Like it Hot (1959)

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Some Like It Hot

black and white, comedy
released: 1959
director: Billy Wilder
starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe
rated: not rated (PG)
length: 2 hrs, 1 min

Age: 12+

Interests: comedy, jazz, romance, history, Prohibition, gangsters, gender roles

It’s the height of Prohibition, Chicago 1929. Down-and-out jazz musicians Joe and Jerry witness a gangland killing and barely escape with their lives. Their only way out of town is to pose as women and join an all-girl band on their way to a Florida resort. Shenanigans ensue. Joe (aka Josephine) scrambles back into men’s clothes to pose as a millionaire in order to woo the band’s singer, Sugar Kane – played by Marilyn Monroe. And Jerry (aka Daphne) is being pursued by an eccentric millionaire, Osgood Fielding III. When the Chicago mob descends on their resort the boys are on the run again. Joe reveals his true identity to Sugar and Jerry has to break the news to his fiancé Osgood. (The film ends with one of the most famous last lines in cinema.)

american-actors-tony-curtis-and-jack-lemmon-and-american-actresses-picture-id158747513This is a fast-paced and funny film. There are musical selections, but it’s not strictly speaking a musical. And even though most films by 1959 were in colour, it’s in black and white, which suits the 1929 period perfectly. This is a great pick for kids curious to see Marilyn Monroe in probably the best movie she ever made. And since it’s helmed and co-written by the great Billy Wilder, it’s bristling with snappy dialogue and sparkling character turns. Lemmon and Curtis are great, Lemmon in particular throwing himself into his role with giddy abandon. Apparently Monroe had a harder time making the movie, struggling during shooting to remember her lines and causing endless takes and production delays. It doesn’t show onscreen however, as her character is sweetly vulnerable and charming throughout. The supporting players are all terrific as well, from tough-talking policeman Pat O’Brien and suave gangster George Raft to Joe E. Brown as the irrepressible goofball Osgood.

Con+faldas+yaloco2248099There are a lot of inside jokes for film geeks here. Tony Curtis impersonates Cary Grant when he poses as the Shell oil millionaire, though Grant reportedly protested “I don’t talk like that.” George Raft says to a young hood flipping a coin, “Where did you learn that cheap trick?” when it was Raft himself who invented it in 1932’s Scarface. And the hood flipping the coin is Edward G. Robinson Jr., son of the great Edward G. who played Little Caesar in 1930.

The cross-dressing storyline was extremely daring in 1959, and the film was banned outright in Kansas as “too disturbing”. Of course drag is so mainstream these days that this movie seems just quaint and tame. It’s amazing in fact, that the movie still stands up as well as it does after all these years. It’s still hilarious, and still has something to say about gender roles and the way that men treat women – in the past and today.

31220287703_a07ed3313d_bThere is nothing really inappropriate for younger viewers, other than some sexual innuendo that will probably fly over their heads. In fact they may be bored by the love scenes. The romantic tryst on the yacht between Curtis and Monroe consists only of fully-clothed kissing, but it’s still pretty steamy. (Steamy enough to cause a ten-year-old I know to cringe right out of his seat.) Other than that, there is an awful lot of drinking, as befits a Prohibition-era setting and party-heavy plot. So while it’s not terrible for younger viewers, the situations and humour will be more thoroughly understood and enjoyed by viewers aged about twelve and up.

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.