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Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot(1959)

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

Synopsis

Joe and Jerry are two hapless Chicago musicians who inadvertently witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. While fleeing the scene of the crime, they are seen by the gangland killers so they quickly decide to go on the lam disguised as musicians in an all-female orchestra. Their masquerade works perfectly but there are complications: Joe falls for the band's kooky lead singer, Sugar Kane (but can't reveal his true gender to her), Jerry meets an amorous millionaire who won't accept "no" for his marriage proposal, and the band ends up in Miami where Joe and Jerry encounter the mobsters on their trail.

Producer/Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Set Design: Edward G. Boyle
Cinematography: Charles B. Lang
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Film Editing: Arthur P. Schmidt
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch
Cast: Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane); Tony Curtis (Joe/Josephine); Jack Lemmon (Jerry/Daphne); George Raft (Spats Colombo); Joe E. Brown (Osgood Fielding III).
BW-122m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

Why Some Like It Hot is Essential

When Jack Lemmon died on June 27, 2001, he left behind a legacy of more than 60 film roles, including some of the most indelible portraits of the modern American male ever committed to celluloid. But even given his Oscar®-winning roles in Mister Roberts (1955) and Save the Tiger (1973), one of the images that will forever pop into people's heads is Lemmon in blonde wig, bee-stung lips, and a sequenced flapper dress. In fact, when Lemmon and Tony Curtis appeared together in 1999 for a Vanity Fair photo spread about Hollywood, they did it partially in drag since their roles as Daphne and Josephine in Some Like It Hot are forever linked in the memories of film lovers everywhere.

Running the gamut from broad slapstick to sly sexual innuendo, Some Like It Hot was considered a risky venture when it was released in 1959. This was due to its outrageous sense of humor, which had the potential to offend viewers and risk being viewed as an exercise in bad taste. Yet it was also one of the most successful films of the year and continues to elicit wild laughter, even after repeated viewings. It is certainly the funniest movie ever made by Billy Wilder, a director who was best known (at that time) for dark dramas like Double Indemnit (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). With dead-on performances from Lemmon, Curtis (who also does a perfect Cary Grant imitation) and Marilyn Monroe, Wilder mixed black comedy, nostalgia for the silent era, over-the-top physical humor, and a fine sense of period detail to turn what might have been a smutty one-joke chase movie into a classic of the American screen.

Perhaps because it was so fast and funny, audiences and arbiters of taste and morals didn't notice all the winks toward free love, homosexuality, and reversal of gender roles. Or maybe they were ready for it. In any case, besides producing a film whose humor holds up more than 40 years later, Wilder also prefigured contemporary tastes by presenting the story of two men who cross-dress reluctantly at first but end up discovering entirely new sides to their personalities. In the process, they develop a greater sensitivity toward women but also contemplate their own stereotypical male behavior.

Luckily Wilder and his cast and crew had confidence the film would work, despite some evidence to the contrary. It previewed disastrously in a Pacific Palisades theater in December 1958 on the same bill as Suddenly Last Summer (1959), Tennessee Williams' perverse tale of taboo sexual urges, lobotomy, and cannibalism. Not exactly a laugh-riot opening feature for Wilder's comedy. In the entire audience of 800 people, only one person laughed; it turned out to be comic and TV host Steve Allen. Yet, according to Jack Lemmon, in an interview with TCM host Robert Osborne, Wilder cut only one scene, a brief bit between Curtis and Monroe that had no effect on the overall structure, plot, or humor. The movie was previewed again, this time in Westwood. The audience began laughing at the very first scene and never let up for the entire two-hour running time. They've been laughing ever since.

The inspiration for the film was a German movie musical entitled Fanfares of Love in which two unemployed musicians constantly change costumes in order to get work with different types of bands. In one sequence, the two musicians dress up as girls to play in a women's orchestra and it was this scene which writer/director Billy Wilder lifted as his central premise, adding a gangster subplot which keeps the two musicians on the run. (They accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and are stalked by the killers). Initially, director Billy Wilder envisioned Danny Kaye and Bob Hope as the two male leads. Over time, he dropped this casting idea and toyed with the idea of using two lesser-known but promising young actors: Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Wilder had just seen Lemmon, a relative newcomer, in the comedy, Operation Mad Ball (1957), and thought he would make a great Jerry/Daphne. Curtis, on the other hand, had been acting in films since 1949 but finally proved he was a real actor in Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Wilder thought Curtis might be just right for Joe/Josephine and Curtis jumped at the opportunity to work with the director. Then, Frank Sinatra expressed an interest in playing the Jerry/Daphne role and the Lemmon-Curtis teaming was put on hold. Wilder needed a major star for box office insurance and Sinatra was his ace in the hole. At the same time, Mitzi Gaynor was being pursued for the role of Sugar, the female bandleader, until Marilyn Monroe began campaigning for the part. As luck would have it, Sinatra passed on the project but Monroe officially signed on for the film, giving Wilder the superstar he needed for studio financing and clearing the way for Lemmon and Curtis as the male leads.

As soon as the contracts were signed, doubts and problems arose. Jack Lemmon said, "A lot of people thought Billy was crazy to attempt such a film. Friends told me I could be ruined because the audience would think I was faggy or had a yen to be a transvestite. There was no getting around one thing; the picture was a minefield for actors. I finally decided the real trap was to ever think of the trap. If one began to worry about that fine line, to fret over audience reaction, it could be disastrous. The only way to play it was to let it all hang out and just go, trusting that Wilder would say, 'Cut,' if it got out of bounds. I saw this character I was to play as a nut from the moon who never really stopped to think once in his life...How else was it possible to justify a guy who, because he's dressed like a woman, delivers a line like: 'If those gangsters come in here and kill us, and we're taken to the morgue dressed like this I'll die of embarrassment.'"

Tony Curtis had a much more difficult time adjusting to the cross-dressing aspect of his character. According to Wilder, "When we were testing costumes and the boys got into their dresses and wigs, Jack came out of his room floating ten feet high, completely normal and natural. Tony didn't dare to come out, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing. Lemmon had to take him by the hand and drag him out. It was natural to the one; there were inhibitions in the other." But whatever reservations either actor may have had about their roles, they are both hilarious and unforgettable in the film.

The real stumbling block to the movie's shooting schedule was Marilyn Monroe. Her personal problems and doubts about her own acting abilities played havoc with the production. She fought with Wilder over creative aspects (She wanted the film to be shot in color because she didn't like the way she looked in black and white), would arrive late to the set, and demanded constant retakes. Wilder said, "Sometimes this stretched out to three days something that we could have completed in an hour, because after every bad take Marilyn began to cry, and there would have to be new makeup applied." In addition, Marilyn often didn't know her lines and her dialogue had to be written on cue cards or taped on props. A simple line like "Where is that bourbon" might take as many as forty takes. Yet, somehow Monroe successfully completed the film and you'd never suspect from watching her delightful performance that she was a total nightmare on the set.

Some Like It Hot was nominated for six Academy Awards® including Best Actor (Jack Lemmon - he lost to Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. But on the night of the Awards ceremony, it only won one Oscar® - for Best Costume Design by Orry-Kelly, the famous gown fashioner who was a favorite of Bette Davis and other actresses. (He also won Best Costume Design Oscars for An American in Paris (1951) and Les Girl, 1957). In retrospect, some of the Oscar® nominations that year seem unjustified - Doris Day for Best Actress in Pillow Talk? Operation Petticoat for Best Screenplay? But time is the great leveler. Some Like It Hot has developed a hard-core cult audience that grows with each passing year.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

At one point in Some Like It Hot, George Raft asks a coin-flipping thug where he picked up such a stupid trick. Raft had introduced the gimmick in the gangster film Scarface (1932).

Some Like It Hot inspired the Broadway musical, Sugar, directed by Gower Champion, music and lyrics by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. It opened in April 1972 and ran for 505 performances.

In Ski Party (1965), one of several films in the popular Beach Party series for American International Pictures, Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman masquerade as women so they can spy on their girlfriends during a ski lodge getaway. The two actors obviously studied Lemmon and Curtis in Some Like It Hot since many of their mannerisms and vocal inflections are very similar to the stars of Wilder's picture.

Although not directly related, there are enough similarities between Some Like It Hot and Tootsie (1982) to note the obvious influences the Wilder comedy had on the later film: an entertainer cross-dresses in order to get a job; a blonde performer treated like a sex object always falls for the wrong man; while disguised as a woman, a man learns what the object of his desire really wants in a man, and when he appears before her as a man he tries to use that information to win her; a man disguised as a woman ends up nervously sharing a bed with the sexy woman performing in the same show; a man becomes a more sensitive, caring person as a result of his cross-dressing experience.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

Various estimates have put the cost of making Some Like It Hot at anywhere from $2.8 to 3.5 million. Recent figures say the film has earned about $25 million in domestic rentals alone. In its first year of release, it made between $7 and 8 million (in the U.S.) and was 1959's third-highest-grossing movie (behind Auntie Mame (1958) and The Shaggy Dog, 1959). It was the all-time top-grossing comedy up to that point.

For her participation in the film, Marilyn Monroe received $100,000 plus an historic ten percent of the gross profits.

Censors in Kansas decided the film contained material "regarded as too disturbing" for people of the state. They didn't object to the cross-dressing but wanted to cut some of the more intimate scenes between Monroe and Curtis.

The Florida section of the film was shot at Coronado Beach, California, and the Coronado Hotel, an old Victorian structure with big verandas. The location is evident in some scenes in which mountains can be discerned behind the beach. There are no mountains in Florida.

In Some Like It Hot, George Raft's character, Spats Colombo, is killed by Edward G. Robinson, Jr., son of the Warner Brothers star who memorably portrayed such movie gangsters as Little Caesar (1930).

Jack Lemmon owed Columbia Pictures one more movie on his contract. In order to be released to do Some Like It Hot, he had to promise the studio four more pictures.

Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond collaborated on one film, Love in the Afternoon (1957), before this one. After Some Like It Hot they made 10 more movies together, including the Best Picture Oscar® winner The Apartment (1960). In fact, for the remainder of his career, Diamond worked with Wilder on all but one film, Cactus Flower (1969).

Lemmon called Wilder one of the greatest influences on his career. The two made a total of seven pictures together.

Once they got their drag look down, Lemmon and Curtis decided to test it by going to the ladies room at the studio commissary. According to Lemmon, "not one of the girls going in or out ever batted an eyeball! They thought we were extras doing a period film on the lot."

During the filming of Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe preferred a dress designed for Jack Lemmon over one of her own, so she claimed it for herself. Designer Orry-Kelly flew into a rage and ran screaming to Lemmon, "She took your dress! The bitch has pinched your dress!"

Memorable Quotes from SOME LIKE IT HOT

Sugar (Marilyn Monroe): "I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop."

Jerry (Jack Lemmon): "Dirty old man. ... I just got pinched in the elevator."
Joe (Tony Curtis): "Well, now you know how the other half lives."

Jerry: "I'm not even pretty."
Joe: "They don't care, just so long as you're wearing a skirt. It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull."
Jerry: "Well, I'm sick of being a flag. I want to be a bull again."

Jerry: " I'm engaged."
Joe: "Congratulations. Who's the lucky girl?"
Jerry: " I am!"

Joe: "You're not a girl! You're a guy! Why would a guy wanna marry a guy?"
Jerry: "Security!"

Joe: "What are you gonna do on your honeymoon?"
Jerry: "He wants to go to the Riviera but I kinda lean towards Niagara Falls."

Sugar: "Water polo, isn't that dangerous?"
Joe: "It sure is. I had two ponies drowned under me."

Jerry: "Now you've done it! Now you've done it! You tore off one of my chests."

Jerry: "I tell you, Joe, they're on to us. And they're going to line us up against the wall ... then the cops are going to find two dead dames and they're going to take us to the ladies' morgue and when they undress us, I tell you, Joe, I'll die of shame."

Jerry (explaining why he can't marry Osgood): "You don't understand, Osgood! Aaah... I'm a man!"
Osgood (Joe E. Brown): "Well, nobody's perfect!"

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

In 1955, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond met at a Writers Guild dinner. Wilder had collaborated on scripts with a number of other writers since splitting with his longtime partner Charles Brackett in 1950. He was impressed with Diamond's skits for the guild dinner, and since Diamond already had more than a dozen film scripts to his credit, including the Cary Grant-Ginger Rogers-Marilyn Monroe comedy Monkey Business (1952), Wilder asked him if he would be interested in co-writing a movie. They were very different men - Wilder the extrovert, Diamond the shy, quiet one - but they found they shared the same sense of humor and a penchant for chain-smoking, liberal politics, bridge, and old movies. Their first project was the Audrey Hepburn-Gary Cooper romance Love in the Afternoon (1957). When Wilder began work on his next picture, Witness for the Prosecution (1957), he chose Harry Kurnitz, a writer he thought more suitable for the very British whodunnit. But he came back to Diamond with a project he'd been kicking around for years.

Wilder wanted to make a film based on the German movie musical Fanfares of Love (1935), co-authored by Robert Thoeren, a friend of his in pre-Hitler Berlin. The story involved two unemployed musicians who disguise themselves in various ways as black men, gypsies, women to get work in different orchestras. Wilder bought the rights to the broadly comic property, but the only thing he and Diamond kept was the premise of two male musicians joining an all-female band. By the time he was ready to make Some Like It Hot, Wilder had dropped his original idea of casting Bob Hope and Danny Kaye in the leads and was leaning toward an up-and-coming young actor. Spotting Jack Lemmon at a restaurant one night, Wilder walked up to him, explained the basic story and asked if the actor was interested. Lemmon said "okay."

Wilder had already approached Tony Curtis after seeing his performance in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), and Curtis jumped at the chance. For the role of Sugar Kane, the ditzy blonde singing star of the orchestra, Wilder initially pursued musical star Mitzi Gaynor. But since none of the three actors under consideration were proven box office stars at the time, Wilder and Diamond thought about tailoring the part of Daphne for Frank Sinatra, who liked the story when he first heard it. Luckily, nothing came of that. In the meantime, Marilyn Monroe, who was without a doubt a superstar at the time, became available and was interested. With Monroe committed to the project, Some Like It Hot finally had the marquee value it needed, and Wilder went forward with Lemmon and Curtis.

In the minds of many people in Hollywood, marquee value was the least of Wilder's problems. When he described the plot to David O. Selznick, the prestigious producer of Gone With the Wind (1939) told him he was nuts to consider making a movie that started with the St. Valentine's Day Massacre then segued into broad gags. "Blood and jokes do not mix," Selznick insisted, having little effect on Wilder's determination.

Although the two always had a strict rule about who wrote which line, Wilder always credited Diamond with the film's justly famous closing line. The original ending, suggested by Monroe, was to have been a fade-out with Sugar and Spats (George Raft) doing a tango together. But Monroe's unpredictability made Wilder seek a solution that wouldn't require shooting ONE MORE SCENE with her. The night before the ending had to be shot, Diamond came up with the idea of having Jerry (Lemmon) as Daphne on a motorboat speeding away from Miami with his rich older suitor, played by veteran comic Joe E. Brown. Daphne tries a number of ways to explain to Osgood why "she" can't marry him, but the undaunted millionaire overlooks them all. Finally Jerry tears off his wig and says in exasperation, "Aah, I'm a man." Osgood amiably replies, "Well, nobody's perfect!" "This line is entirely from the brain of I.A.L. Diamond," Wilder said. "I had nothing to do with it. Not even the exclamation point!"

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

Stories about Marilyn Monroe's erratic behavior and difficulty on movie sets are so numerous and legendary that it's no surprise that Some Like It Hot was an equally problematic shoot for her. But no look at the behind-the-camera production of Some Like It Hot would be complete without at least mentioning some of the frustrations experienced by Monroe's co-stars and compatriots. Monroe was known for frequently being late - very late - or not showing up at all due to illnesses, nerves, etc. She also had problems remembering lines, which required numerous retakes on several occasions. Simple dialogue like "Where's the bourbon?" or "It's me, Sugar," had to be done again and again, with Wilder resorting to taping bits of her dialogue to props and furniture.

"We were in mid-flight, and there was a nut on board," said Wilder in reference to working with Monroe on Some Like It Hot. The director had worked with Monroe before on The Seven-Year Itch (1955) but either she was easier to work with then or Wilder's memory was short. Or, perhaps her box-office value as Sugar was so important that Wilder thought the aggravation would be worth the final result. Whatever the rationale for hiring Monroe as Sugar, problems began almost immediately on the set of the film. Wilder wanted to shoot the film in black and white because he was afraid that Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, in their female disguises, would look too ghoulish in color. Plus, their garish appearance would also require a great suspension of disbelief by the audience in assuming that other characters in the story were not wise to their drag act. On the other hand, Monroe preferred to be photographed in color but she reluctantly gave in when a color test of the male stars revealed the director was right. Still, the incident planted the seeds of mistrust, and Monroe soon became convinced Wilder was her enemy. She was positive his professed health problems were concocted to mock her own string of illnesses. In retaliation, she would silence Wilder when he tried to give direction, telling him he would make her forget how she was going to play the scene. Other times, she'd cry when she did a bad take and run to her drama coach Paula Strasberg, holding up production for minutes, even hours, at a time. Contrary to what other directors and co-stars have said, though, Wilder didn't blame Strasberg for any of this behavior, saying she was "most cooperative in trying to pull the girl together."

Marilyn had other things on her mind, too. She learned she was pregnant when production started, and because she had miscarriages in the past, she became extra cautious about how early she arrived on the set and how long she remained there. And she was having marital problems that would eventually lead to her divorce from third husband, playwright Arthur Miller, a frequent and some say disruptive presence on the set. She was also acutely aware that at least one of her co-stars was none too happy about working with her. Tony Curtis hated that his own performance deteriorated over the course of the 30 or more takes often needed to get a good scene out of Marilyn; as a result, Wilder ended up having to use more footage of Marilyn than him. And Curtis and Lemmon, who had to kick off their shoes and soak their painful feet the second Wilder said "Cut," were usually forced to stand around in painful high heels for long periods while their co-star flubbed her lines. Curtis was quoted as saying Monroe was "a mean little seven-year-old" and that he would rather be kissing Hitler than her in their love scenes. "I think Marilyn was mad as a hatter," he said later. "If she hadn't had that sexy look and the 38-inch bust, she'd have been locked up for sure." Not that Curtis was a model of stability himself. He had been going to analysis as much as four times a week for several years. And when the time came for him to appear on the set in drag for the first time, Lemmon had to take him by the hand and literally pull him out of his dressing room.

By all accounts, Lemmon was the bright spot in the whole mess. He even got along with Monroe and forgave her eccentricities. He believed Marilyn simply couldn't go in front of the camera until she was absolutely ready. "She knew she was limited and goddamned well knew what was right for Marilyn," he said. "She wasn't about to do anything else." He also said that although she may not have been the greatest actor or singer or comedienne, she used more of her talent, brought more of her gifts to the screen than anyone he ever knew.

As for his own performance, Lemmon totally threw himself into it, spending hours with makeup technician Harry Ray to get the right look, taking tango lessons (from co-star George Raft), frustrating the professional female impersonator brought in to teach him and Curtis how to act like women (Lemmon felt that too much regal perfection would be wrong for the character and dangerously unfunny). As filming progressed, Wilder became more and more impressed with the young actor. "His unabashed forwardness was making that preposterous situation work, elevating, removing the taint of transvestism," the director remarked. Wilder said he and Diamond decided right there to work with Lemmon again and began planning for the trio's next venture, The Apartment (1960). The feeling was mutual. Lemmon praised Wilder for coming up with an ingenious bit of business for the scene where Jerry/Daphne tells Joe/Josephine he has become engaged to a millionaire. To allow for the long laughs they knew would follow each of Lemmon's outrageous remarks, Wilder handed the actor a pair of maracas and had him dance around and shake them after every line.

After shooting was completed, Wilder threw a celebration dinner at his home for cast members and friends. Marilyn Monroe was not invited. The crushed star had to have it explained to her that she had cost the production roughly half a million dollars with her delays and unprofessional behavior. Wilder had generally unkind things to say about her after this film. When asked if he would do another project with her, he replied, "My doctor and my psychiatrist ... tell me I am too old and too rich to go through this again." After reading some of the things Wilder said about her in print, Monroe called his home and told his wife to please give her husband the message - "to go f*** himself." But time and boffo box office heals all wounds. Wilder changed his tune later, commenting, "It takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did." A year later, at the premiere of The Apartment, Monroe threw her arms around him, told him how much she loved the picture, and whispered that she would like to play the lead in Irma la Douce (1963), a role that eventually went to Shirley MacLaine.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

It's hard to imagine a more perfect movie than Some Like It Hot (1959). For once, the ideal script, director, and cast came together at the right time and place to create an enduring comedy classic. Yet, Some Like It Hot came dangerously close to being a totally different movie.

The inspiration for the film was a German movie musical entitled Fanfares of Love in which two unemployed musicians constantly change costumes in order to get work with different types of bands. In one sequence, the two musicians dress up as girls to play in a women's orchestra and it was this scene which writer/director Billy Wilder lifted as his central premise, adding a gangster subplot which keeps the two musicians on the run. (They accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and are stalked by the killers). Initially, director Billy Wilder envisioned Danny Kaye and Bob Hope as the two male leads. Over time, he dropped this casting idea and toyed with the idea of using two lesser-known but promising young actors: Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Wilder had just seen Lemmon, a relative newcomer, in the comedy, Operation Mad Ball (1957), and thought he would make a great Jerry/Daphne. Curtis, on the other hand, had been acting in films since 1949 but finally proved he was a real actor in Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Wilder thought Curtis might be just right for Joe/Josephine and Curtis jumped at the opportunity to work with the director. Then, Frank Sinatra expressed an interest in playing the Jerry/Daphne role and the Lemmon-Curtis teaming was put on hold. Wilder needed a major star for box office insurance and Sinatra was his ace in the hole. At the same time, Mitzi Gaynor was being pursued for the role of Sugar, the female band leader, until Marilyn Monroe began campaigning for the part. As luck would have it, Sinatra passed on the project but Monroe officially signed on for the film, giving Wilder the superstar he needed for studio financing and clearing the way for Lemmon and Curtis as the male leads.

As soon as the contracts were signed, doubts and problems arose. Jack Lemmon said, "A lot of people thought Billy was crazy to attempt such a film. Friends told me I could be ruined because the audience would think I was faggy or had a yen to be a transvestite. There was no getting around one thing; the picture was a minefield for actors. I finally decided the real trap was to ever think of the trap. If one began to worry about that fine line, to fret over audience reaction, it could be disastrous. The only way to play it was to let it all hang out and just go, trusting that Wilder would say, 'Cut,' if it got out of bounds. I saw this character I was to play as a nut from the moon who never really stopped to think once in his life...How else was it possible to justify a guy who, because he's dressed like a woman, delivers a line like: 'If those gangsters come in here and kill us, and we're taken to the morgue dressed like this I'll die of embarrassment.'"

Tony Curtis had a much more difficult time adjusting to the cross-dressing aspect of his character. According to Wilder, "When we were testing costumes and the boys got into their dresses and wigs, Jack came out of his room floating ten feet high, completely normal and natural. Tony didn't dare to come out, he was so embarrassed by the whole thing. Lemmon had to take him by the hand and drag him out. It was natural to the one; there were inhibitions in the other." But whatever reservations either actor may have had about their roles, they are both hilarious and unforgettable in the film.

The real stumbling block to the movie's shooting schedule was Marilyn Monroe. Her personal problems and doubts about her own acting abilities played havoc with the production. She fought with Wilder over creative aspects (She wanted the film to be shot in color because she didn't like the way she looked in black and white), would arrive late to the set, and demanded constant retakes. Wilder said, "Sometimes this stretched out to three days something that we could have completed in an hour, because after every bad take Marilyn began to cry, and there would have to be new makeup applied." In addition, Marilyn often didn't know her lines and her dialogue had to be written on cue cards or taped on props. A simple line like "Where is that bourbon" might take as many as forty takes. Yet, somehow Monroe successfully completed the film and you'd never suspect from watching her delightful performance that she was a total nightmare on the set.

Some Like It Hot was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor (Jack Lemmon - he lost to Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. But on the night of the Awards ceremony, it only won one Oscar - for Best Costume Design by Orry-Kelly, the famous gown fashioner who was a favorite of Bette Davis and other actresses. (He also won Best Costume Design Oscars for An American in Paris (1951) and Les Girls, 1957). In retrospect, some of the Oscar nominations that year seem unjustified - Doris Day for Best Actress in Pillow Talk? Operation Petticoat for Best Screenplay? But time is the great leveler. Some Like It Hot has developed a hard-core cult audience that grows with each passing year.

Producer/Director: Billy Wilder
Screenplay: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Set Design: Edward Boyle
Cinematography: Charles B. Lang
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Film Editing: Arthur P. Schmidt
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch
Principal Cast: Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane); Tony Curtis (Joe/Josephine); Jack Lemmon (Jerry/Daphne); George Raft (Spats Colombo); Joe E. Brown (Osgood E. Fielding III)
BW-122m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

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teaser Some Like It Hot (1959)

Awards & Honors

Orry-Kelly won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design of a Black-and-White Picture. Accepting his Oscar for Some Like It Hot, he thanked Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, "who, as Louella (Parsons) would say, never looked lovelier."

Some Like It Hot also scored Oscar® nominations for Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography (black and white), and Art Direction - Set Decoration (black and white). Marilyn Monroe was reportedly heartbroken over not being nominated. It was rumored that executives at Fox (her studio) suggested to their bloc of Oscar® voters that since Some Like It Hot was a United Artists film, it would be better not to vote for her.

The film also won Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture (Comedy), Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy (Lemmon), Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy (Marilyn Monroe).

Lemmon won the Best Foreign Actor award from the British Academy, which also nominated the picture for Best Film from Any Source.

The Italian Cultural Institute awarded Marilyn Monroe its David di Donatello prize for Best Foreign Actress of the year.

Some Like It Hot received a third place Golden Laurel Award in the list of Top Comedies from Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine. Lemmon and Monroe were runners-up for Best Male and Female Comedy Performances.

The Writers Guild of America chose the picture as the year's Best Written American Comedy.

Some Like It Hot was voted into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry of greatest American films in 1989 by the National Film Preservation Board. In 2000, it was installed in the Producers Guild of America's Hall of Fame.

The movie was ranked Number 6 in the British Film Institute members' list of the top 30 films of all time, compiled in 1983.

The Critics' Corner: SOME LIKE IT HOT

"One of the most uninhibited and enjoyable antics to come out of Hollywood in years. ... Miss Monroe is not only superb as a comedienne but is also the answer to any red-blooded American boy's dream." Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, 1959

"Lipsticked, mascaraed and tilting at a precarious angle ... actor Lemmon digs out most of the laughs in the script." Time, 1959

"As the band's somewhat simple singer-ukulele player, Miss Monroe, whose figure simply cannot be overlooked, contributes more assets than the obvious ones to this madcap romp...and proves to be the epitome of a dumb blonde and talented comedienne." A.H. Weiler, The New York Times, 1959

"A jolly, carefree enterprise in which some old phrenetic nonsense of Mack Sennet is restored to the screen." The New Yorker, 1959

"Female impersonation is a risky enough comedy subject; attempting to make the St. Valentine's Day massacre seem funny is even riskier. Co-author-director Billy Wilder, however, succeeds so well in some instances with his difficult, self-imposed assignment that the picture's subsequent lapses from taste and common decency (mostly involving leading lady Marilyn Monroe) can be presumed to be deliberate rather than the result of ineptness." Moira Walsh, America, April 25, 1959

"As for Miss Monroe, she is, as usual, an extremely effective female impersonator herself." Newsweek, 1959

"Look at Some Like It Hot closely again and you start to notice how for every raucous and/or ribald masquerade joke there is another that involves a transvestite leer, a homosexual "in" joke or a perverse gag. Here is the prurience, the perversion, the sexual sickness that is obsessing the characters and plots of our films" Judith Crist,The Private Eye, the Cowboy and the Very Naked Girl (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967).

"The film can be perceived in part as a good-natured dream of sexuality as a sliding scale from male to female, from straight to gay, from potent to impotent, on which every human being dances an endlessly variable jig." Brandon French, On the Verge of Revolt (Ungar, 1978).

"Lemmon is demoniacally funny he really gives in to women's clothes and begins to think of himself as a sexy girl. ... Brown is inspired, the way he was years before in Max Reinhardt's movie of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935), when he made us weep from laughter." Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies (Henry Holt, 1982). "Billy Wilder has made many films that have walked the line of bad taste. With its references to homosexuality, lesbianism, sadomasochism, oral sex ("The fuzzy/sweet end of the lollipop"), transvestism, impotence, and sex change, with MM scandalously dressed, and with its numerous double entendres, it was bound to offend some critics. But most critical reaction was in favor of Some Like It Hot. That's because, quite simply, it is one of the truly great Hollywood comedies. It is endlessly clever, briskly paced, deliciously acted, daring." - Danny Peary, Cult Movies 2.

"Billy Wilder, content to let the spectator chuckle privately at the sly innuendoes of Sunset Boulevard, sharpens his comic genius to the point of burlesque in Some Like It Hot, giving the film an outrageous, hectic tone admirably suited to the period - 1929, with jazz and bootlegging in full swing." - Peter Cowie, Eighty Years of Cinema.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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