''Some Like It Hot'' Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary This Year, so Here Is the Story of This Comedy Classic.
It's St Valentines Day, 1929 in Chicago and gangsters rule and prosper in the times of the great depression. Spats Columbo played by George Raft, and his gang pull into a garage where a rival gang are playing cards and two musicians Joe played by Tony Curtis and Jerry played by Jack Lemmon, witness Spats and his gang shoot out the rival gang. Shocked and scared at what they had just seen they try to leave but Spats turns and sees them so he orders his men to kill them too, so they run, run as fast as they can away from the garage and away from Chicago.
To escape they take a job in florida in an all girl band ''Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators'', and the catch is that Joe and Jerry have to pass themselves off as Josephine and Daphne and convince the girls that they are one of them.
They all take an overnight train to beautiful Florida where millionaires go to play and relax and the band are booked to entertain them with their upbeat jazz.
On the train Joe falls for lead singer and ukulele player Sugar Kane Kowalczyk played by Marilyn Monroe. But Joe hears straight away that she is off ''saxophone players'' which is what Joe plays, and she is ''fed up of getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop'', so she is looking to meet and fall in love with a millionaire.
When they all get to the hotel we meet millionaire Osgood Fielding played by Joe E. Brown and he falls for Daphne immediately which is all good for Joe and his pursuit of Sugar.
So Joe/Josephine has to come up with another disguise, this time he is Junior, Shell Oil Magnat, and Junior owns a yacht, Osgoods yacht.
Everything is going swimmingly until Spats and his gang turn up at the hotel, for a gangsters convention. How's ya luck!
All laughs break out as this madcap story unfolds right up to the end when all four, Joe/Josephine/Jr, Sugar, Jerry/Daphne and Osgood make their escape in Osgood's speed boat to his yacht. Joe tells Sugar all about what he has been up too, to win her heart, which Sugar decides is all ok with her even though he isn't a millionaire and Jerry then comes clean to Osgood that he can't marry him as he is a man, to which Osgood replies with the classic final line,
''Well, Nobody's perfect''.
Monroe and Curtis
Not Tonight Josephine
''Not Tonight Josephine'', was the working title of ''Some Like It Hot''.
It was filmed in Monochrome as 'Colour would have made it look phoney'. Wilder claimed.
Wilder and his writing partner I.A.L. Diamond built a tightly constructed screenplay which is loosely inspired by a 1951 German film ''Fanfaren der Liebe'', which was inspired by a 1935 french film called ''Fanfare d'amour''.
Wilder said of both films that they are, ''deliriously bad''.
Also, the now legendary final line spoken by Joe E. Brown (Osgood III), ''Well, Nobody's Perfect'' was only meant for the working script. They were going to add in something later that was ''funny''.
''Some Like It Hot'' goes for maximum comic effect and a very witty dialogue, with Jerry in his dizzy Daphne way, shakes his maracas as he is telling Joe about Osgood's marriage proposal, and Joe's ''Jr'' voice is strangely like Cary Grant.
David O' Selznick was shocked by the black humour and mayhem. After reading the script, the legendary producer said to Wider, ''Oh my god, you're not doing a comedy with murder. They're going to crucify you. They're going to walk out in droves! It's just going to be embarrassing!''
Wilder disagreed, recalling, ''We were pretty sure it would be a good comedy. What we did not know was that it would be a great comedy''.
When it came to casting for the picture, Wilder cast Tony Curtis first. He meet Tony at a Hollywood party, so he asked him to play one of the musicians. Tony asked why he wanted him and Wilder laughed and said, ''You're the handsomest kid in town, who else am I going to use?''
With Tony Curtis being the first actor signed onto Wilders ground breaking, murderous madcap comedy caper, Wilder intended to cast Frank Sinatra as Jerry and the musical acting beauty Mitzi Gaynor as Sugar. But the director soon had second thoughts about Sinatra, telling Curtis, ''He's going to be too much trouble. He'll have to dress as a woman everyday and I just can't see Frank doing that.
There is also another tale in as to why Wilder rethought ''Ol Blues'', he never turned up to the audition.
Wilder also thought about Danny Kay for the role of Jerry/Daphne but Wilder eventually went with Jack Lemmon, a relative newcomer at the time who was face achingly funny. (Thank god Jack Lemmon got the role, who could do Daphne better).
United Artists wanted a big star for Sugar and threatened not to carry on funding the project. Just as these words were spoken Marilyn wrote a letter to Billy Wilder saying how much she had enjoyed working with him on the most memorable picture of the 50's, The Severn Year Itch, and would love to recreate that magic and do it again. Production leapt at the offer and Sugar was Marilyn's.
And again, there is another tale in that Marilyn had read the script and exercised a star's prerogative, and claiming the role of Sugar as her own. Either way, as soon as Marilyn was on board, they has a comedy classic on their hands.
The other story is that with the mounting costs of Marilyn's third husband Arthur Miller's court case with ''The House of Unamerican Activities'', which had became a communist witch hunt, and where Arthur had refused to give names. So Marilyn was forced to sign on the dotted line and to take work to pay the bills.
Marilyn also had a clause in her contract which basically said that she would not appear on film in black and white, only colour. But when the situation with how the guy's Tony and Jack looked when they became Josephine and Daphne with a full face of make-up, they looked awful. A grey, greenish hue emminated and even Marilyn had to agree, black and white was the only way to go, so she agreed to star even though it was black and white.
The last film project Marilyn had completed was in England on ''The Prince And The Showgirl''in 1956 with the thespian actor Sir Laurence Olivier.
So it had been almost two years since Marilyn had stepped foot on to a set to make her 27th picture, and the second time of working with the legendary director Billy Wilder.
Poor Marilyn had been through hell over the past few years.
In the August of 1957 Marilyn suffered a miscarriage which led her into a deep depression, which lead her to suffer from insomnia, so drinking helped her to sleep. But when sleep would not come and with her losing her much wanted baby, Marilyn took a barbiturate overdose, twice in 1958.
All of this unfortunately put a lot of stress and pressure on the Miller marriage.
Marilyn had not been on set for quite some time, and she also didn't want to play anymore ''dumb blonde'' roles but with amounting legal fee's she signed on, but with all of the things that had been going on hospitalisation, loss of babies this probably was not the best time for Marilyn to be performing in a ''happy-go-lucky'' kind of way.
Wilder vs. Monroe
As the years had rolled on, Billy Wilder had softened when he recalled on his time with Marilyn on both the 'Seven Year Itch', and 'Some Like It Hot' sets, ''An absolute genius as a comedic actress, with an extraordinary sense for comedic dialogue''. - Billy Wilder
Working with Marilyn during 1958 on the set of ''Some Like It Hot'' are very well known and have been well documented.
Marilyn had health issues and personal problems. She would frequently be late on set, if she made it at all. This would really annoy her co-stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, and most of all Wilder.
When Marilyn actually made it on set, she would sometimes have trouble remembering her lines.
One story tells of the day it took 59 takes for Marilyn to recite the line, consisting of just three words, ''Where's the bourbon''?
Instead Marilyn said, ''Where's the bonbon''?, ''Where's the bottle''?, and ''Where's the whisky''?
So Wilder put Marilyn's line in the drawer that she opened, as well as any other drawer as a ''just in case'', situation.
Every take had to be perfect, no matter how many times they did it because Wilder said, ''regardless of how well you perform, when she gets it right, that's the one we're using so don't have your fingers anywhere you don't want them''.
But Marilyn also got it right and she would perform a three minute scene letter perfect, but then all of a sudden would need lines written on blackboards and hand held cards.
Another thing that drove Wilder crazy, but was not new for Marilyn, was that she would look to her acting coach Paula Strasberg. This with all the arguments put a lot of stress and enormous pressure on the whole cast and crew.
So Wilder's nightmares and worries over having the alluring, sensual, and the most beautiful woman in the world Marilyn on the project all came true, but (there's always a But), not having Marilyn would have been a whole lot worse, instead of hot, hot, hot, you would of had a drab, drag picture with no Mmmmmmm girl, Marilyn Monroe.
Cropped screenshot of Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe from the trailer for the film Some Like It Hot
Man... I Feel Like A Woman
How Marilyn, Jack and Tony Got The Look
Tony and Jack wanted to look good as women and convincing so they put their foot down (or heel down) and said no to the ''off-the-rack'' selection from the costume department and they wanted Orry-Kelly, who was dressing Marilyn.
This gave Jack and Tony their female alter egos in Daphne and Josephine a personality.
Jack as Daphne was ditzy, high spirited, and an all round good time gal. Tony as Josephine on the other hand was more lady like. He based her on his mother and Grace Kelly, but, he also has a third persona to get into, Junior. Junior was based on Cary Grant, and apparently Cary when he had watched the movie and he saw Tony, he asked him; "I don't talk like that, do I?
Jack totally embraced his feminine side with fabulous comedic timing.
Jack was a firm favourite with the legendary director Wilder as he said 'he had this natural ability to over act that needed to be toned down'.
In Billy Wilder's biography which was called "Nobody's Perfect", he says, "I would describe him as a ham, a fine ham, and with ham you have to trim a little fat".
It is said that the renowned costume designer Orry-Kelly knelt at Marilyn's feet, and he filled his little note pad with measurements of her body, but as he got to Marilyn's perfect posterior, he stopped, and then said, ''Tony has a better looking ass than you do''. Marilyn with her quick wit and thinking turned to face him head on, smiled and unbuttoned her blouse and said, ''Yeah, but he doesn't have tits like these!''
Marilyn Monroe from the trailer for the film Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot Movie Trailer 1959
The Song's Marilyn Sings.
Marilyn sings three numbers in this picture:
- Running Wild - by Joe Grey and Leo Worth.
- I Wanna Be Loved By You - by Bert Kilmar, Harry Ruby, and Herbert Stothart.
- I'm Through With Love - by Gus Kahn, Matty Malneck, and F. Livingston.
What The Cast And Director Had To Say About Marilyn.
- ''Marilyn Monroe was magic. You just could not take your eyes off her. Every guy wanted to take her home in his pocket. She was absolutely adorable, because she had that quality of sexiness mixed with innocence''. - Sandra Warner, cast member in band.
"She was naughty. She was like a mean seven year old girl. She would fall on me and grind me, not only with her mouth but in a few other places, and she would wait until I would get aroused then she'd get up off me''. - Tony Curtis on his love scenes with Marilyn.
- ''She suggests sex. It must be better to be subdued, seduced and screwed by Marilyn Monroe - What could be better? - Billy Wilder explaining why Sugar Kane is the aggressor in her love scenes with Junior (Tony Curtis).
- Curtis, who later retracted on this comment, ''Kissing Marilyn was like kissing Hitler''. It was meant as a joke, a stupid joke answer to a stupid question posed by a crew member, but he also compared working with her to serving in the Foreign Legion. - Tony Curtis, Co-Star.
- Wilder sympathized with his frustrations as he said of the situation with Marilyn, ''We had many takes over the shoulders of guys and they had to be standing on those high platform shoes. That hurts if you're not used to it. - Billy Wilder, Director.
Jack, Marilyn and Tony in a scene from Some Like It Hot.
Principle Cast of Some Like It Hot
- Joe/Josephine/Junior, played by Tony Curtis 1925-2010,
- Jerry/Josephine, played by Jack Lemmon 1925-2001,
- Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, played by Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962,
- Sweet Sue (band leader) played by Joan Shawlee,
- Spats Colombo, played by George Raft 1901-1980,
- Mulligan, played by Pat O'Brien, and
- Osgood Fielding played by Joe E. Brown 1892-1973.
- Produced and directed by Billy Wilder,
- Screen Play by Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond.
- Taken from a story by R. Thoeren and M. Logan,
- Photography by Charles Long, Jr,
- Background Music by Adolph Deutsch,
- Songs Supervised by Matty Malneck,
- Edited by Arthur Schmidt.
Some Like It Hot Credits and Information
- A United Artists Release.
- A Mirisch Company Presentation of an Ashton Picture 1959.
- Filmed in MonoChrome/Back & White.
- Run Time: 121 Minutes.
What The Critics Said...
''Monroe steals it, as she walked away with every movie she was in. It is an act of will to watch anyone else while she is on the screen''.
A. H. Weilter for the New York Times:
Mr Wilder, abetted by such equally proficient operatives as Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis, surprisingly has developed a completely unbelievable plot into a broad farce in which authentically comic action vies with snappy and sophisticated dialogue... As the bands somewhat simple singer - ukulele player, Miss Monroe, whose figure simply cannot be overlooked, contributes more assets than the obvious ones to the madcap romps. As a pushover for gin and the tonic effect of saxophone players, she sings a couple of whispery numbers (''Running Wild'', and ''I Wanna Be Loved By You'') and also proves to be the epitome of a dumb blonde and talented comedian.
Archer Winsten for the New York Post:
To get down to cases, Marilyn dose herself proud, giving a performance of such intrinsic quality that you begin to believe she's only being herself and it is who fits into that distant period and this picture so well.
Hift for Variety:
''Some Like It Hot''. directed in masterly style by Billy Wilder, is 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...
To coin a phrase, Marilyn has never looked better. Her performance as ''Sugar'', the fuzzy blonde who likes saxophone players and men with glasses has a deliciously naive quality. She's a comedienne with that combination of sex appeal and timing that just can't be beat.
Taken from 'The Films of Marilyn Monroe', by Michael Conway and Mark Ricci.
What Sugar thinks!
"I have this thing about Saxophone players, especially tenor sax. They just curdle me. I don't know what it is, all they have to do is play eight bars of ''Come to me, My melancholy baby'', and my spine turns to custard. I get goose pimply all over, and I come to em''. - Sugar Kane.
''Some Like It Hot'' Facts:
The box office was very positive, as ''Some Like It Hot'' racked up $8.3million in rentals for United Artists. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Screenplay (based on material from another medium) and Best Actor (Lemmon), it also won one for Orry-Kelly's costumes.
The Golden Globe awards were more generous, naming the film the Best Motion Picture - Musical or comedy and Lemmon and Monroe the Best Actress prizes in the musical or comedy category.
In 1989, The National Film Preservation Board added ''Some Like It Hot'' to the National Film Registry.
In 1998, The national film Preservation Board added the movie to the National Film Registry.
Marilyn and Jack
Some More Hot Facts About ''Some Like It Hot''.
In 1998, the American Film Institute named ''Some Like It Hot'' the number 14 movie of all time, in 2000, the AFI named Wilder's film the 'Greatest comedy of all time'. It's also the most beloved of Monroe's movies and an ideal showcase for her inimitable combination of sensual abandon, innocence and perfect comic timing.
In late 2017, BBC polled the world's film critics to discover the ''greatest comedy of all time''. They were Dr Strangelove (a great film, but is it that funny?), His girl friday (three hours of dialogue in 92 minuets), Airplane! (the jokes, the jokes!). But none was in doubt as to what would take the top spot..... of course it was, I was teasing you ''Some Like It Hot'' got the No1 spot of ''The Greatest Comedy Of All Time''.
United Artists refused to edit the love scene with Marilyn and Tony so the film was released without the censorship boards approval and gave it restricted viewing to 'Adults Only', and the Hays Production Code refused to give the movie their very moral production 'seal of approval' because of the 'rique subject matter', so the movie was released anyway without any of the governing bodies agreeing or liking it.
Some Like It Hot DVD 1959
© 2019 Lisa-Marie Kavanagh