Some Like it Hot (1959) - Illustrated Reference

Some Like it Hot was directed by Billy Wilder and premiered on the 29th March 1959. Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft and Joe E. Brown. Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L Diamond. Music by Adolph Deutsch.

It’s 1929, after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry, flee for their lives after being spotted by Spats Colombo and his gang. To avoid being killed they dress up as women and join an all-girl band.

Some Like it Hot is loosely based on a French farce from 1935 – Fanfare D’Amour (Fanfare of Love) directed by Richard Pottier, which had already been remade in the early fifties by German director Kurt Hoffmann.

The working title for Some Like it Hot was - Not Tonight, Josephine! Billy Wilder (1906-2002) and his screenwriting partner I.A.L Diamond (1920-1988) added gangsters and sex to their version of the story and that magic ingredient – Marilyn Monroe - giving the film legendary status.

Sugar: All the girls drink but I'm the one that gets caught. Story of my life I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) / Sugar Kane Kowalczyk. The band’s vocalist and ukulele player. Monroe won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress Musical/Comedy for her role in Some Like it Hot. Hard to believe now but Billy Wilder had Mitzi Gaynor in mind for the part of Sugar Kane.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Marilyn Monroe is a Hollywood Icon and was for a while the most famous actress on the planet, not the best, the most famous. Her films include Niagara (1953). Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), River of No Return (1954), The Seven Year Itch (1955) , Bus Stop (1956) and The Misfits (1961). She died of a drug overdose in 1962. She was 36.

Sugar: Water polo? Isn't that terribly dangerous?
Junior: I'll say. I had two ponies drowned under me.

Tony Curtis (1925-2010) / Joe, a saxophone player he uses the name Josephine when joining the all-girl band and picks the name Junior when he’s posing as the heir to Shell Oil in his efforts to woo Sugar. Danny Kaye was considered for Joe.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Tony Curtis, like Monroe, was more famous for his looks than his acting ability but he was a good actor and the three different personas he exhibits in Some Like it Hot was proof of that.

Curtis was Oscar nominated for Best Actor for The Defiant Ones (1958) and was nominated for Sweet Smell of Success (1957) by the British Academy Awards. Other films include The Vikings (1958), Spartacus (1960) and The Boston Strangler (1968).

Jerry: Have I got things to tell you!
Joe: What happened?
Jerry: I'm engaged.
Joe: Congratulations. Who's the lucky girl?
Jerry: I am!

Jack Lemmon (1925-2001) / Jerry, a bass fiddle player who changes his name first to Geraldine and than to Daphne. Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis were considered for the role of Jerry.

Born in Massachusets, USA, Jack Lemmon was Oscar nominated for his role in Some Like it Hot. He won a Golden Globe and a British Academy award for playing Jerry / Daphne. Lemmon and Curtis would team up again for the Blake Edwards comedy The Great Race (1965).

Lemmon was Oscar nominated 8 times, winning Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973).

Spats: I don't like no witnesses.
Joe: We won't breathe a word!
Spats: You won't breathe nothin' - not even air.

George Raft (1901-1980) / Spats Colombo, a Chicago mobster. Raft was one of the great Hollywood gangsters, his films include Scarface (1932), The Bowery (1933), Each Dawn I Die (1939) and They Drive by Night (1940).

Born in New York City, George Raft was more famous for the films he turned down than the films he appeared in, he turned down the lead roles in High Sierra (1941), The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Casablanca (1942), the three films that turned Humphrey Bogart into a Hollywood legend.

Joe E. Brown (1892-1973) / Osgood Fielding III, a millionaire who takes a fancy to Daphne.

Born in Ohio, USA, Joe E. Brown was a popular comedy star of the 1930’s, one of the top ten moneymaking stars of 1933, 1936 and 1937. His infectious grin, loud yell and cavernous mouth made him popular with moviegoers. In Some Like it Hot he gets to speak one of the most famous last lines in movie history.

Pat O’ Brien (1899-1983) / Detective Mulligan, he suspects Spats was involved in the St. Valentine’s Massacre and is out to get him.

Born in Wisconsin, USA, Pat O’ Brien appeared in many WB classics of the 30’s and 40’s usually playing a cop or priest. A close personal friend of James Cagney’s they appeared in seven films together.

Little Bonaparte: Let us now observe one minute of silence in memory of seven of our members from Chicago, North Side Chapter, who are unable to be with us tonight on account of bein' rubbed out. You too Spats. UP!

Nehemiah Persoff (1919-) / Little Bonaparte, a mob boss. Nehemiah was a veteran character actor with many movie and TV credits.


Jerry: Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It's like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it's a whole different sex!

Some Like it Hot was filmed in black and white because the special make up for Curtis and Lemmon when posing as Josephine and Daphne did not look good in colour, their faces had a greenish tinge.

Marilyn Monroe would fluff her lines throughout the shoot, requiring retake after retake. And she would always arrive late to the set, sometimes refusing to leave her dressing room leaving the actors and crew fuming. Everyone started to hate her including the director Billy Wilder.

Wilder would write her lines on a blackboard behind the camera because she would forget what to say, one example was her looking through some drawers and saying “Where’s the bourbon?” instead she would say “Where’s the bonbon?” or “Where’s the bottle?” or “Where’s the whiskey?”

Exasperated the director wrote the line on pieces of paper in each drawer. It took 40 takes for her to say that one line properly and in the end she wasn't even facing the camera when she said the line so it may have been dubbed later.

Sugar: Oh, Daphne, how can I ever repay you?
Jerry: Oh, I can think of a million things.
[Sugar gets into bed with him]
Jerry: And that's one of them!

Billy Wilder had also directed Marilyn in The Seven Year Itch (1955). He said “I’m the only director to make two Marilyn Monroe pictures I should be awarded the Purple Heart for this.”

He later said about Marilyn, "I have never met anybody as mean as Marilyn Monroe. . . nor as utterly fabulous. She has a certain indefinable magic that comes across, which no other actress in the business has.” He added. “They've tried to manufacture other Marilyn Monroe's and they will undoubtedly keep trying. But it won't work. She was an original."

Most of Tony Curtis dialogue as Josephine was dubbed by voiceover artist Paul Frees. Curtis found it hard maintaining the high pitched voice for too long.

Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! Ooh... I'm a man!
Osgood: Well, nobody's perfect!

The famous last line spoken by Joe E. Brown was only added in the script temporarily until Wilder and Diamond could come up with something better, they didn’t and it became a classic.

Look out for a George Raft injoke – Raft passes a young mobster flipping a coin in the air, he stops and says “Where did you pick up that cheap trick?” In his early gangster roles Raft was always flipping a coin. Incidentally the young hood flipping the coin is the son of Edward G. Robinson.

Tony Curtis famously said “kissing Marilyn Monroe was like kissing Hitler” in later interviews he admitted "I said it as a joke. I mean, it was such a darn stupid question, so I gave a stupid answer."

In an interview in April 2008 with the UK newspaper The Daily Mail Curtis says that he and Marilyn were romantically involved when they were both struggling actors, he tells the paper, "We were both inexperienced, 22 or something. It was a messy business."

Later when they worked together on Some Like It Hot, he says she had "gone funny. Her mind was all over the place. She had lost confidence".

Jerry: And where did you get that phony accent? Nobody tolks loike thet!

It was Tony Curtis idea to parody the voice of his idol Cary Grant when he’s posing as a millionaire in the film. "I was really proud of that," he says. Billy Wilder was happy with it too though Cary Grant always maintained that he didn’t talk like that.

Cary Grant and Tony Curtis starred together in Operation Petticoat directed by Blake Edwards and released the same year as Some Like it Hot. "They are all dead now.” Curtis says sadly. “Cary, Lemmon, Sinatra, all my Hollywood friends. Sometimes I feel so lonely."

Some Like it Hot ranked #1 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Funniest Movies list, and #14 on the AFI’s Greatest Movies list. “Well, nobody’s perfect” ranked #48 on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Quotes list.

Marilyn Monroe sings three songs in Some Like it Hot, they are - "Runnin' Wild", "I Wanna Be Loved by You", and "I'm Through With Love".

Some Like it Hot was nominated for 6 Academy Awards – Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and winning for Best Costume Design.

It won 3 Golden Globe Awards - Best Motion Picture Comedy, Best Actor Musical/Comedy (Jack Lemmon) and Best Actress Musical/Comedy (Marilyn Monroe)

The Roman Catholic Legion of Decency gave the movie a “condemned” rating, one of only about 80 American films to get this rating.

The movie was retitled in some countries -

Half Joking, Half Serious (Poland)
Wearing Skirts and Running Wild (Spain)
Some Like Jazz (Roumania)
Only Girls Are Allowed in Jazz (Russia)
Nobody is Perfect (Denmark)

More than 50 years after it's release Some Like it Hot is still one of the funniest films in Hollywoods rich history and this writer's favourite comedy. It's one of those films where everything comes together perfectly. An unmissable gem.

The Critics Wrote –

"Probably the funniest picture of recent memory. It’s a whacky, clever, farcical comedy that starts off like a firecracker and keeps on throwing off lively sparks till the very end... one or two scenes skirt the limits of good taste. But who'll care?

Marilyn has never looked better. Her performance as Sugar, the fuzzy blonde who likes saxophone players and men with glasses has a deliciously naïve quality. She’s a comedienne with that combination of sex appeal and timing that just can’t be beat." (Variety)

"It does not sound a good idea to mix that gangster mass-murder in Chicago on Saint Valentine's Day in 1929 with a a comic idea that draws its inspiration from two men, witnesses of the killing in the garage, disguising themselves as members of a female orchestra; nor is it." (Times)

"Some Like It Hot is in very blue taste. There's no excuse - not even the hoary one of entertaining the lowest common denominator." (Ellen Fitzpatrick, Films in Review)

"A comedy classic. The plot construction is meticulous, the dialogue is witty, and the amusing male performances are augmented by Marilyn Monroe at her most stunning - gorgeous, sexy, innocent and vulnerable." (Chris Tookey)

"Billy Wilder's new piece - a farce blacker than is common on the American screen - whistles along at a smart, murderous pace. Mr Curtis, whom one used to think of as simply a haircut, gets better and better.

A touch of the ridiculous is provided by Marilyn Monroe, as the singer in the band, both physically and spiritually at her ooziest." (Dilys Powell)

"Wilder's 1959 comedy is one of the enduring treasures of the movies, a film of inspiration and meticulous craft, a movie that's about nothing but sex and yet pretends it's about crime and greed." (Roger Ebert)

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Comments 34 comments

laurathegentleman profile image

laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

This is wonderful! Some Like it Hot is one of my all-time favorite movies, and Marilyn Monroe is one of my favorite actresses, as well! :) A lovely read!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thank you laurathegentleman, appreciate the comment. Monroe gave them hell during filming but she made the film timeless.


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Now I'm interested...thanks for the hot heads up Steve.;)


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Hey come on that didn't even rhyme! :)

You've seen this film haven't you Acer?


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

First, I want to talk about Billy wilder hating Monroe:

Not everyone who ever worked with her hated Marilyn. Most people were frustrated, yes, and many refused to work wit her, but felt sorry for her as they knew she was unwell and terrified of her costars. Jane Russell felt sorry for her. Richard Widmark, for example, said working with her on Don't Bother To Knock drove him nuts, but he knew that the reasons she created problems were not ego, but illness and stage fright. Contrast that with Brando, for example, who couldn't be bothered to show up for any of his costars close-ups because it was beneath him and made his costars wear lines of his script so it would appear more "natural" - your costars are not billboards!


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Flora they 'disliked her' during filming, they loved her when it was all over. Fair enough? Wilder did say some nasty things about her. I've read that 50th Anniversary book.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Now, about the movie:

I love this film. There is nothing I don't like about the movie. It is one of the few comedies not starring Cary Grant or Buster Keaton that I rewatch on a regular basis. Usually, I do not find comedies funny the second time around.

Steve: I was referring more to Wilder's comment you quote and how it reminded me that some people really do hate each other for real such as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Regarding troubled stars in general, I do know that Fred Astaire, for example, refused to work with Judy Garland a second time because she was unreliable in her illness.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Well Billy Wilder did make two films with Monroe but she might have been a lot easier to work with on Seven Year Itch.

But than Wilder originally had Mitzi Gaynor in mind for this film when Monroe was available they naturally went with her instead.

hmmm I think Gaynor and Monroe appeared in a musical together, There's no business like show business?


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Though this movie has passed time,

Then too young to understand the rhyme,

I will delight in these stars acting their lines,

From the golden age of their prime...

hot,Hot,Hot....I can now read um,er the opulent signs...


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Hey Acer good stuff

But that's enough. :)

Hey did you see what I did there? I thought I hated poetry, I do surprise myself sometimes.


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Never enough said,

My toast and breaking of bread,

To your poetry of stead.;)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Yes, they did do that film together. Later on Mitzi laughed about the experience, saying that she and Donald O'Conner were dancing all over the place -really great choreography-in a scene and Marilyn sits on the settee in front of them just singing and no one looks at them. They all look at her. I wonder what Ethel Merman thought of her. Merman was used to being THE star.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, Acer has got me writing poetry, tell him off!

You know I think Some Like it Hot might have been a lot different if Ethel Merman played Sugar Kane. "There's NO business Like SHOW BUSINESS..." That was my Ethel Merman impression.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Bad, Acer, Bad! Steve doesn't like us poets making him one of us....


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

"One of Us! One of Us!" Which film anyone?


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Although I haven't seen the movie, I am familiar with the quote. It is Freaks.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Correct, Flora.

There's a poster below the comments here, how it got there I'm not sure. I can't delete it. At least it's related to the film. :)


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very well done Mr. Lensman. This is easily a classic awesome movie. I am sure that at the time it was very funny, but I do not think the humor has carried very well over the last 50 years. That being said awesome performances everywhere in the movie. I especially like Curtis doing the Grant voice.

The photos are awesome as well and in color....even more impressive. I did not realize that Edward G. Robinson's son had a small part. I liked Ebert's review that you attached he obviously wrote that review many years after the movie came out.

I have done movie hubs on two of the three lead actors...and Some Like It Hot ranked as the best movie for Lemmon and Monroe....and I would be shocked if it was not the number one movie for Tony Curtis as well.

#99....good job reaching that number, but now we can look forward to your 100th. Voted up and awesome and interesting.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Mr. Cogerson, your comments and observations are always appreciated.

This is the 2nd 1959 film I've 'illustrated and referenced" one more to go, possibly two. :)


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

Steve, Another great hub. This is still one of my favourite films mainly for Jack Lemmon who I absolutely adore in this movie. He is all terror and energy rolled into one - a perfect foil for Tony Curtis' Cary Grant impersonation & confident swagger. Voted up, etc,etc.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks Jools, appreciate that. Just looking at Lemmon in those pictures makes me smile. He was a great comedic actor and a great dramatic actor too, look at him in The China Syndrome and Missing. Amazing actor.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

Oh my gosh, I loved Missing. I remember seeing it as soon as it came out on VHS I think and being blown away by the storyline. Lemmon and Sissy Spacek are brilliant in that movie. You've made me want to see it again. I like him in anything he's in with Walter Matthau too - they were so in vibe with one another.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Yep, Lemmon got an Oscar nomination for Missing. 8 acting nominations in all, pretty impressive.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi Steve; I may be in the minority, but I think "Some Like it Hot" is over-rated. Funny, yes. There are some memorable moments by Lemmon and Marilyn was at her sexiest here, but overall, I don't get the reverence some people have for this one. I was very surprised when the AFI rated it as the number one comedy of all time. I don't think it's anywhere near as funny as "Duck Soup" or "Annie Hall" or "the Producers" or "the Life of Brian". Maybe if I'd seen it first when it originally came out I would have a higher opinion of it but whenever I watch it, I only get an occasional chuckle, not a big, belly laugh.

As for Marilyn, I think her behavior was a cry for help. Many people hope someone will notice they're in pain and do things to get people to notice. It generally doesn't work because most of the time, others will only see the bad behavior and not the reason for it.

Another fun hub,

Rob


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Well certainly funnier than Annie Hall which I didn't find funny at all in my one viewing of it. Was that a comedy?

As you know humour is very subjective, I adore the Marx Bros but never found Chaplin particularly funny or Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope yes.

Monroe had problems but I don't think 40 takes to say Where's the Bourbon was a cry for help. What was she crying help for? Acting lessons? Fame has it's price.

Thanks for posting Rob.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Re - comedies on multiple viewings: my thoughts on this in general

With the exception of the witty dialogue in the Thin man films, I have NEVER laughed all the time the second time through watching a comedy. In fact, most comedies I don't laugh at all the second time through and instead simply smile. As such, it is rare for me to watch comedies a second time unless I am watching them for something other than them being comedies. Musical comedies like this one I watch for the music -this is also a crime film, another bonus. I will watch because of mystery, dancing, singing, etc. but not to laugh. As far as actors in comedies are concerned, the *only* ones that I enjoy watching *all* of their comedies multiple times are Buster Keaton and Cary Grant. I'm just not a fan of the genre, I guess. Although from what I understand of professionals, they don't laugh at comedies because they are too busy studying technique -i.e "how did they do that?" - to laugh at comedies.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I'm trying to guess what your 100th hub movie will be. I know you said it is an old one. If you hadn't already done Trip to the moon, I'd guess it was that one. Is there a movie you haven't done that turned 100 this year? European films did start earlier than in United states, although 1904 was the first American short film. I wonder...


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Flora, there's a clue to my 100th hub movie in my reply to Cogerson's comment. I've started writing it now, it's a big one. :)

Regarding comedies, it also depends on your mood at the time. I can watch a favourite comedy and barely work up a smile, but if I'm already in a silly mood or with the right company I'll be laughing like a hyena. :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

ah, it's from 1959!hmmm. I think it an epic with lots of horses....


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

I think you've guessed what it is, look at my profile (ain't I pretty no wait that's not me) profile page for more clues.

I might not finish it tomorrow so you still have time to beat me to the 100 hub finishing line [Flora starts typing furiously]. :-)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Oh, no. Not with my rehearsal schedule. I've started hub 100 because it will take a long time and I don't want to rush it. I might get hub 98 done before you hit 100, though.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England Author

Looking forward to it (100th)! Let me guess, favourite movies, songs, mysteries, pets, hubbers etc with a dash of acrostic poetry? :)


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Close! I'm saving favourite hubbers for my sixth month hub on December 7th. But I will be talking about the world of movies, music, books, art and television...and I just published a hub on cats.


Johnc116 2 years ago

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