Some Like It Hot, Hollywood Comic Perfection

Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon
Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon
Costume designer Orry-Kelly fitting Curtis for a scene
Costume designer Orry-Kelly fitting Curtis for a scene

Introduction to Perfection

Some Like It Hot is an exceptional film comedy, a real classic that has been voted the best comedy film of all time by the American Film Institute and is one of the all-time highest-grossing comedies ever. It is finely crafted, expertly scripted, brilliantly acted and directed, and has been referred to as the 'perfect' film comedy. Oh, and it is extremely funny.

It received six Academy Award nominations including Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (co-scripting by I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder from a story suggested by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan), Best B/W Cinematography, and Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration - with its sole Oscar awarded for Best B/W Costume Design (Orry-Kelly, for costumes including Marilyn Monroe's shimmering gowns). Unfortunately, in 1959, it was competing against a triumphant Ben Hur, one of the biggest winners in Oscar history.

It won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. Marilyn Monroe won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in Musical or Comedy, and Jack Lemmon for Best Actor in Musical or Comedy.

It has been acclaimed worldwide as one of the greatest film comedies ever made and in 1989, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

"Some Like It Hot" came in at a total cost of $2.8 million, unusually expensive for a comedy in 1958. But it earned back $15 million and made history. 

Josephine and Daphne
Josephine and Daphne

Original Trailer

Basic Story Line

The story centres round two struggling jazz musicians in Chicago, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), who witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and have to try to find a way out of the city before they are found and killed by the Chicago mob, led by 'Spats' Columbo (George Raft).

They have to disguise themselves as women, calling themselves Josephine and Geraldine, in order to join Sweet Sue's Society Syncopators, an all female jazz band on board a train bound for Forida. Dressed as women, they both fall for Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the band's sexy vocalist and ukulele player, and fight for her affection while trying to maintain their disguises.

Once they arrive in Florida, Joe tries to woo Sugar by assuming another disguise, this time as a millionaire named "Junior", the heir to Shell Oil. Curtis achieves this by doing a brilliant imitation of Cary Grant's voice. An actual millionaire appears on the scene, (played by Joe E Brown), and falls for Jerry in his female guise.

In true screwball fashion the Chicago mobsters arrive at the same hotel for a conference honoring "Friends of Italian Opera". They find Joe and Jerry and several humorous chases ensue.  Finally Jerry, Joe, Sugar, and Osgood, the millionaire, escape to Osgood's yacht. A romantic ending is assured as Sugar tells Joe that she loves him and the unforgettable last line occurs after Jerry, trying his best to deter Osgood's advances finally removes his wig and yells, "I'm a man!", prompting Osgood to memorably retort: "Well, nobody's perfect."

Main Cast List

 

Tony Curtis - Joe -'Josephine' / 'Junior'

He was born Bernie Schwartz in New York in 1925. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Curtis took advantage of the GI Bill to study drama. He earned good reviews in an off-Broadway production of Golden Boy, and was almost immediately offered a contract with Universal Studios who renamed him Tony Curtis.

He was already a box-office star when Wilder signed him and is remembered for a long list of good work on screen, including the epic Spartacus and the successful comic romp The Great Race, again with Lemmon. His impersonation of his long-time idol, Cary Grant, in Some Like It Hot is one of the film's standout features.

Married four times, Curtis lost his oldest son Nicholas (whose mother was Curtis' third wife Lisa Allen) tragically to a heroin overdose at the age of 23. One of his two daughters from his first marriage to Janet Leigh is the actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

Marilyn Monroe - Sugar Kane Kowalczyk

The most famous and iconic actress of the twentieth century, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926, in Los Angeles.

Her mother was mentally unstable and the young Norma was placed with foster parents for the first 7 years of her life, then in a series of orphanages. Escape came at the age of sixteen with an arranged marriage. Norma Jean then began modeling bathing suits and, after bleaching her hair blonde, began posing for pinups and glamour photos.

She was noticed by Ben Lyon of 20th Century-Fox who signed her up to a film contract and changed her name. She was a natural in front of the camera and she was voted the top star of 1953 by American film distributors. Her personal problems, with failed marriages to baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller and increasing reliance on drugs to combat depression and physical ailments, prevented her from succeeding as a serious actress.

Her personal demons, and delicate involvement with the Kennedys, eventually overwhelmed her. On August 5, 1962, she was found dead of an overdose of sleeping pills.

Jack Lemmon - Jerry/'Daphne'

Jack Lemmon was born in 1925. He took up acting professionally at age 22 after graduating from Havard University and serving as an Ensign in the Navy.

He worked on radio, television and Broadway before being noticed by Hollywood in the 1954 comedy, It Should Happen to You.

He made two films with Tony Curtis and eleven with Walter Matthau. Lemmon had a great talent for both dramatic and comic roles and he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1956 and then for Best Actor in 1973.

Some Like It Hot marks the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon. He was Oscar-nominated for his roles in Some Like It Hot and Wilder's next picture, The Apartment (1960), with Shirley MacLaine.

Lemmon was married twice. He died of cancer in 2001 and is buried in Los Angeles next to his friend and great acting partner, Walter Matthau.

Joe E. Brown - Osgood Fielding III

Born in 1892 in Ohio, Joe E Brown joined a circus as a tumbler at the age of 10, and worked in show business for the rest of his life. In 1920 he debuted on Broadway and he signed with Warner Brothers in 1929 to do comedy roles in the film adaptations of Broadway shows such as Sally (1929) and Top Speed (1930).

Joe was one of the top ten moneymaking stars for 1933 and 1936 but only a few of his subsequent films were successful and when his film career became almost nonexistent, he worked on radio and in television. He starred as the clown in the drama "The Buick Circus Hour" (1952) from 1952 to 1953 and made guest appearances on a number of other shows in the 1950s and early 1960s. He died of a stroke in 1973, aged 80.

George Raft - 'Spats' Columbo

Raft's career as a movie mobster was possibly influenced by his associations with real-life gangsters like Bugsy Siegel. Born and raised in New York's Hell's Kitchen, Raft tried prizefighting before becoming a dancer on Broadway and in Prohibition-era nightclubs, where he got to know some of the biggest racketeers in the city. He was twice married and he died in1980.

Pat O'Brien ... Det. Mulligan

Nehemiah Persoff ... Little Bonaparte

Joan Shawlee ... Sweet Sue

Billy Gray ... Sig Poliakoff

George E. Stone ... Toothpick Charlie

Dave Barry ... Beinstock

Mike Mazurki ... Spats' henchman

Harry Wilson ... Spats' henchman

Beverly Wills ... Dolores

Barbara Drew ... Nellie

Edward G. Robinson Jr... Johnny Paradise

Marilyn - I Want To Be Loved By You

Poster 16 in. x 12 in.
Poster 16 in. x 12 in. | Source

Shell Oil Junior

The famous last scene

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Comments 6 comments

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick

A truly excellent film. I have not seen it for about 10 years now it is time.


gunsock profile image

gunsock 7 years ago from South Coast of England Author

Thanks Bob, yes its one of those films which is funny first time round and where you still find something new with every viewing.


Zabbella profile image

Zabbella 7 years ago from NJ-USA

I loved this movie as a kid. My daughter loves this movie too. Thank you for this article.


gunsock profile image

gunsock 7 years ago from South Coast of England Author

Thanks for the comment, Zabbella, and its nice to know the younger generation can still appreciate quality!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I love this movie! It's one of my favorite comedies and is so clever! Wonderfully written hub!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

This is a fun movie to watch. Marilyn Monroe had a great role in it. She always played comedy so "innocently," and had fantastic delivery and timing. This month is the month of Marilyn Monroe's death and one of the channels ran quite a few of her movies all day. I didn't see Some LIke It Hot in the line up but I'm sure it must have been there.

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were none to shabby, either. You delivered an excellent write up on the movie. Thanks for the work you put into this. Voted up.

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