Some Like it Hot has it all: romance, laughs, men in drag, a couple of massacres and of course Marilyn Monroe, yet for some reason it’s a film that has always escaped my attention. But as I’m currently working my way through a small obsession with the 1950s there seemed like no better choice for this weeks “I’ve Never Seen” than Billy Wilder’s comedy classic.
The plot of Some Like It Hot is far-fetched to say the least. After witnessing a mob shoot out musicians Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis) disguise themselves as part of a women’s jazz band in order to flee Chicago. On the way, they meet Sugar Kane (Monroe) a ukulele player who’s hoping to bag herself a yacht owning husband. When they arrive in Florida, Jerry masquerades as Junior (heir to the shell oil fortune) in an attempt to woo Sugar, while Joe receives some initially unwelcome attention from a handsy millionaire. Though the story is fairly implausible, I found myself getting so caught up in the giddy romance and hilarity of it all that I was happy to suspend any disbelief. The most stand out aspect of the narrative, in fact, is how gutsy it is. For a film released in 1959 to address matters such as cross dressing and same-sex relationships is pretty brave, something which can’t be fully appreciated watching over 50 years later.
When it comes to comedy I have always favoured television over film. I don’t know why, I just find it funnier. So despite any number of polls voting Some Like It Hot as one of the greatest comedies of all time I wasn’t actually expecting many laughs. I was wrong. This film is hilarious, the fact that it was so ahead of its time enables its jokes to remain funny today. The script is so full of wit that I was completely entertained throughout and despite the start being fairly slow there was never a dull moment.
Although they all have pretty questionable intentions, it is hard not to like all three of the main characters. Curtis and Lemmon are both excellent. You could argue that Curtis gets the better end of the stick as it is his character who eventually succeeds in seducing Sugar, but Lemmons part is certainly funnier. His character takes to being a woman with such gusto that he frequently gets carried away resulting in some of the films funniest moments (my personal favourite was his description of men as “hairy beasts”). Monroe’s portrayal of the ditsy Sugar Kane is so sweet and naive that you can’t help but love her. Her doe-eyed innocence mixed with the sheer glee she displays when she finds a man who won’t steal all her toothpaste was a pleasure to watch. Despite having the two central men falling all over her Sugar is seemingly unaware of how sexy she is, this results in her on-screen presence being endearing rather than annoying, particularly throughout the musical numbers.
This central romantic relationship is one which I expected to find problematic, after all Joe is pretending to be rich and impotent in order to sleep with Sugar, which is not so good. Sugar is also using him as all she wants is a bespectacled millionaire husband and a yacht, again not so good. Luckily the relationship is quick to move past this, with the two developing genuine feelings for one another. Given the amount of lies that are told throughout the film it could have had a very bitter ending. But when it comes down to it the characters are all just happy to be together, regardless of gender, wealth or the ability to tell the truth. This was another aspect of the film I really enjoyed. I don’t normally like rom-coms for the simple reason that they are too soppy. I don’t want to watch beautiful women crying over equally beautiful men for hours on end, its boring. Some Like It Hot didn’t get caught up in all this, there was nothing to detract from the cheerfulness and fun of this film.
Having finally watched Some Like It Hot I cannot believe that I ignored it for so long. I can now see it becoming one of the films I constantly go back to as this glamorous, giggly romp through 1920s America provides such an excellent and enjoyable mode of escapism that I think will only get better through repeat viewings.