Tonight: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Billy Wilder’s comedy Some Like It Hot.
What can I tell you about this picture that you don’t already know?
When we watched it in February 1995, Tony Curtis was here in person to regale us with memories of the picture.
AFI picked it as the Best Comedy in the history of Hollywood and the 14th best film of all time!
Billy Wilder was one of the greatest of Hollywood’s great directors.
He was on a roll in the ‘50s, with Sunset Boulevard (1950), Sabrina (1954), Stalag 17 and The Seven Year Itch (1955), Love In The Afternoon (1957) and Witness for the Prosecution (1958). And he topped them all with Some Like It Hot.
The screenplay was written by Wilder and longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. It was based on an old German film, Fanfares of Love, in which two musicians donned a variety of disguises to get jobs in different bands.
Diamond felt they needed a better reason to motivate Curtis and Lemmon to dress in drag and pretend to be women.
One morning, Wilder said, “Driving home last night, I was thinking about what you said, and I think I have the solution: Chicago, 1929, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre...!”
“And suddenly,” Diamond recalled, “we were in business!”
Curtis and Lemmon witnessed the gangland slaying and needed to disguise themselves to save their lives. And the basic premise of the film — that Curtis and Lemmon would be accepted as women when they were dressed in drag — was hilarious.
The ensemble cast — with Joe E. Brown, George Raft and Pat O’Brien — was perfect.
The screenplay was written with Lemmon in mind, but at one point Frank Sinatra was considered as a replacement.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen — after Marilyn Monroe expressed interest in the picture.
She hadn’t made a movie in two years. Not since the ill-fated The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Lawrence Olivier.
Wilder was happy to have her in the picture, but both cast and crew lived to regret it. Monroe’s reputation for showing up late, forgetting her lines and spending endless amounts of time in her dressing room proved well deserved.
Wilder took to writing her lines on furniture to help her get through a scene. And Tony Curtis, who she had dated earlier in her career, now compared kissing her to kissing Hitler.
But this was a particularly troubling time in Marilyn’s life. Her marriage to writer Arthur Miller was in trouble. Two pregnancies ended in miscarriages.
Marilyn looks particularly voluptuous in this film because she was pregnant.
She would complete only two more films after this one: Let's Make Love with Yves Montand, with whom she would have an affair, ending her marriage to Miller. And The Misfits, a film written specifically for her by Miller.
They divorced in January 1961 — a week before the opening of that picture.
Her last film, aptly named Something’s Got To Give, co-starring Dean Martin, was never completed.
She was suspended by her studio, the film shut down, and she died in the summer of 1962.
Declared a suicide, there are still unanswered questions related to her death.
Ironically, Marilyn’s frequent absences led to the creation of Joe. E. Brown’s classic line. Not being able to count on Monroe’s presence, Wilder took to shooting around her. That is why the film ends with Lemmon’s confession that he’s not a woman, and Brown blithely replying, “Well, no one’s perfect!”
“We wrote that line the night before we had to shoot it,” Diamond said.
“Do you think it’s strong enough for the tag of the picture?” Wilder asked.
“I don’t know,” Diamond replied. “But maybe we’ll think of something better on the set.
Fortunately, we didn’t think of anything better on the set!”
Tony Curtis does a wonderful impersonation of Cary Grant when he is wooing Marilyn in the movie. Tony idolized Cary and, coincidentally, he co-starred with him in his next picture, Operation Petticoat.
When asked who he thought did the best Cary Grant impression, Cary said, “Why, I do!”
“But Tony was good,” he added.
Tonight’s film combines contemporary titillating sexual attitudes with a nostalgic tribute to the gangster movies of the ‘30s.
George Raft and Pat O’Brien reprise roles in Some Like It Hot that made them famous in old Warner Bros. films.
And Raft is killed by Edward G. Robinson Jr., the son of one of Raft’s archenemies in the mobster movies of the ‘30s.
Some Like It Hot opened on February 25, 1959 to rave reviews.
It was a box-office smash, grossing $8 million in its initial release.
The film earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Billy Wilder, but not for Best Picture.
Ben Hur won Best Picture that year. Go figure!
The other nominations included Wilder and Diamond for the screenplay.
Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and an Academy Award for Best Costume.
Noted film critic Pauline Kael wrote of Some Like It Hot: “A comedy set in the Prohibition Era. With transvestism, impotence, role confusion and borderline inversion. And all hilariously innocent. Though always on the brink of really disastrous double entendres.”
Our kind of movie!
“SOME LIKE IT HOT!”