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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)