Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American black and white romantic comedy film set in 1929, directed and produced by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O'Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, and Nehemiah Persoff. The screenplay by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond is based on a screenplay by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan from the French film Fanfare of Love. The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.
Some Like It Hot opened to critical and commercial success and is today considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs poll in 2000, and was selected as the best comedy of all time in a poll of 253 film critics from 52 countries conducted by the BBC in 2017. In 2005, the British Film Institute included this film on its list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14.
The film was produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code because it plays with the idea of homosexuality and features cross dressing. The code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s, due to greater social tolerance for previously taboo topics in film, but it was still officially enforced until the mid-1960s. The overwhelming success of Some Like It Hot is considered one of the final nails in the coffin for the Hays Code.
In February 1929 in Prohibition-era Chicago, Joe (Tony Curtis) is a jazz saxophone player and an irresponsible gambler and ladies' man; his sensible friend Jerry (Jack Lemmon) is a jazz double bass player. They work in a speakeasy (disguised as a funeral home) owned by gangster "Spats" Colombo (George Raft). Tipped off by informant "Toothpick" Charlie (George E. Stone), the police, led by treasury agent Mulligan (Pat O'Brien), raid the joint. Joe and Jerry flee, only to accidentally witness Spats and his henchmen exacting revenge on "Toothpick" and his own gang (inspired by the real-life Saint Valentine's Day Massacre). Broke and desperate to get out of town, Joe and Jerry disguise themselves as women named Josephine and Daphne so they can join Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee) and her Society Syncopators, an all-female band headed to Miami. They board a train with the band and its male manager, Bienstock (Dave Barry). Joe and Jerry notice Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the band's vocalist and ukulele player.
Joe and Jerry become enamored of Sugar and compete for her affection while maintaining their disguises. Sugar confides to Joe that she has sworn off male saxophone players, who have stolen her heart in the past and left her with "the fuzzy end of the lollipop". She has set her sights on finding a sweet, bespectacled millionaire in Florida. During the forbidden drinking and partying on the train, Josephine and Daphne become intimate friends with Sugar, and must struggle to remember that they are supposed to be girls and cannot make passes at her.
Once in Miami, Joe woos Sugar by assuming a second disguise as millionaire Junior, the heir to Shell Oil, while feigning indifference to her. An actual millionaire, the much-married aging mama's-boy Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), tries repeatedly to pick up Daphne, who rebuffs him. Osgood invites Daphne for a champagne supper on his yacht, New Caledonia. Joe convinces Daphne to keep Osgood occupied onshore so that Junior can take Sugar to Osgood's yacht, passing it off as his. Once on the yacht, Junior explains to Sugar that psychological trauma has left him impotent and frigid, but that he would marry anyone who could change that. Sugar tries to arouse sexual response in Junior, and begins to succeed. Meanwhile, Daphne and Osgood dance the tango ("La Cumparsita") till dawn. When Joe and Jerry get back to the hotel, Jerry announces that Osgood has proposed marriage to Daphne and that he, as Daphne, has accepted, anticipating an instant divorce and huge cash settlement when his ruse is revealed. Joe convinces Jerry that he cannot actually marry Osgood.
The hotel hosts a conference for "Friends of Italian Opera", which is in fact a major meeting of the national crime syndicate, presided over by "Little Bonaparte" (Nehemiah Persoff). Spats and his gang from Chicago recognize Joe and Jerry as the witnesses to the Valentine's Day murders. Joe and Jerry, fearing for their lives, realize they must quit the band and leave the hotel. Joe breaks Sugar's heart by telling her that he, Junior, must marry a woman of his father's choosing and move to Venezuela. Joe and Jerry evade Spats' men by hiding under a table at the syndicate banquet. "Little Bonaparte" has Spats and his men killed at the banquet; again, Joe and Jerry are witnesses and they flee through the hotel. Joe, dressed as Josephine, sees Sugar onstage singing that she will never love again. He kisses her before he leaves, and Sugar realizes that Joe is both Josephine and Junior.
Jerry persuades Osgood to take "Daphne" and "Josephine" away on his yacht. Sugar runs from the stage at the end of her performance and jumps aboard Osgood's launch just as it is leaving the dock with Joe, Jerry, and Osgood. Joe tells Sugar that he is not good enough for her, that she would be getting the "fuzzy end of the lollipop" yet again, but Sugar wants him anyway. Meanwhile, Jerry lists reasons why "Daphne" and Osgood cannot marry, ranging from a smoking habit to infertility. Osgood dismisses them all; he loves Daphne and is determined to go through with the marriage. Exasperated, Jerry removes his wig and shouts, "I'm a man!" Osgood, unfazed, simply responds: "Well, nobody's perfect."
|Some Like It Hot: Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Released||24 February 1998|
The soundtrack features four songs performed by Marilyn Monroe for the movie, nine songs composed by Adolph Deutsch, as well as 2 songs performed by jazz artist Matty Malneck.
|1.||"Runnin' Wild" (Marilyn Monroe)||1:07|
|2.||"Medley: Sugar Blues/Running Wild" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||1:32|
|3.||"Down Among the Sheltering Palms" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||1:59|
|4.||"Randolph Street Rag" (Adolph Deutsch)||1:28|
|5.||"I Wanna Be Loved By You" (Marilyn Monroe)||2:58|
|6.||"Park Avenue Fantasy" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||3:34|
|7.||"Medley: Down Among the Sheltering Palms / La Cumparsita / I Wanna Be Loved By You" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||2:20|
|8.||"I'm Thru With Love" (Marilyn Monroe)||2:34|
|9.||"Medley: Sugar Blues / Tell the Whole Damn World" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||3:25|
|10.||"Play It Again Charlie" (Adolph Deutsch)||1:49|
|11.||"Sweet Georgia Brown" (Matty Malneck & His Orchestra)||2:57|
|12.||"By the Beautiful Sea" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||1:22|
|13.||"Park Avenue Fantasy (Reprise)" (Adolph Deutsch & His Orchestra)||2:10|
|14.||"Some Like It Hot" (Matty Malneck & His Orchestra)||1:46|
|15.||"Some Like It Hot (Single Version)" (Marilyn Monroe)||1:21|
Billy Wilder wrote the script for the film with writer I.A.L. Diamond. The plot is based on a screenplay by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan from the 1935 French film Fanfare of Love. However, the original script for Fanfare of Love was untraceable, so Walter Mirisch found a copy of the 1951 German remake Fanfares of Love. He bought the rights to the script and Wilder worked with this to produce a new story. Some Like It Hot is partly a remake of Fanfare of Love, as both films follow the story of two musicians in search of work, but Wilder created the gangster subplot which keeps the musicians on the run.
The studio hired female impersonator Barbette to coach Lemmon and Curtis on gender illusion for the film. Monroe worked for 10-percent of the gross in excess of $4 million, Curtis for 5-percent of the gross over $2 million, and Wilder for 17.5-percent of the first million after break-even and 20-percent thereafter.
Tony Curtis was spotted by Billy Wilder while he was making the film Houdini (1953), as he thought Curtis would be perfect for the role of Joe. "I was sure Tony was right for it," explained Wilder, "because he was quite handsome, and when he tells Marilyn that he is one of the Shell Oil family, she has to be able to believe it". Wilder's first idea for the role of Jerry was Frank Sinatra, but he never came to the audition. Jerry Lewis and Danny Kaye were also considered for the role of Jerry. Finally, Wilder saw Jack Lemmon in the comedy Operation Mad Ball and selected him for the role of Jerry. Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon made numerous films together until 1981, among them The Apartment and several films with Walter Matthau.
According to York Film Notes, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond didn't expect such a big star as Marilyn Monroe to take the part of Sugar in fact, Wilder said, "Mitzi Gaynor was who we had in mind. The word came that Marilyn wanted the part and then we had to have Marilyn." Wilder and Monroe had already made the film The Seven Year Itch together in 1955.
The film was made in California during the summer and autumn of 1958. Many scenes were shot at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California which appeared as the "Seminole Ritz Hotel" in Miami in the film, as it fit into the era of the 1920s and was near Hollywood.
There were many problems with Marilyn Monroe, who lacked concentration and suffered from an addiction to pills. She was constantly late to set, and could not memorize many of her lines, averaging 35-40 takes for a single line according to Tony Curtis. The line "It's me, Sugar" took 47 takes to get correct because Monroe kept getting the word order wrong, saying either "Sugar, it's me" or "It's Sugar, me". Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon made bets during the filming on how many takes she would need to get it right. Three days were scheduled for shooting the scene with Shell Jr. and Sugar at the beach, as Monroe had many complicated lines, but the scene was finished in only 20 minutes. Monroe's acting coach Paula Strasberg and Monroe's husband Arthur Miller both tried to influence the production, which Wilder and other crew members found annoying.
Billy Wilder spoke in 1959 about filming another movie with Monroe: "I have discussed this with my doctor and my psychiatrist and they tell me I'm too old and too rich to go through this again." But Wilder also admitted: "My Aunt Minnie would always be punctual and never hold up production, but who would pay to see my Aunt Minnie?" He also stated that Monroe played her part wonderfully.
The film's iconic closing line "Nobody's perfect" is ranked 78th on The Hollywood Reporter list of Hollywood's 100 Favorite Movie Lines, but it was never supposed to be in the final cut. Diamond and Wilder put it in the script as a "placeholder" until they could come up with something better, but they never did.
With regards to sound design, there is a "strong musical element" in the film, with the soundtrack created by Adolph Deutsch. It has an authentic 1920s jazz feel using sharp, brassy strings to create tension in certain moments, for example whenever Spats' gangsters appear. In terms of cinematography and aesthetics, Billy Wilder chose to shoot the film in black and white as Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in full drag costume and make-up looked "unacceptably grotesque" in early color tests. Despite Monroe's contract requiring the film to be in color, she agreed to it being filmed in black and white after seeing that Curtis and Lemmon's makeup gave them a "ghoulish" appearance on color film. Orry-Kelly who was in charge of costume design created the costumes for both Marilyn Monroe as well as Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, after the stock costumes the studio provided for the male leads fit poorly.
Some Like It Hot received widespread acclaim from critics, and is considered among the best films of all time. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 59 reviews, with an average rating of 9.02/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Some Like It Hot: A spry, quick-witted farce that never drags." Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 97 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Roger Ebert wrote about the movie, "Wilder's 1959 comedy is one of the enduring treasures of the movies, a film of inspiration and meticulous craft." John McCarten of The New Yorker referred to the film as "a jolly, carefree enterprise". Richard Roud, writing for The Guardian in 1967, said with this film Wilder comes "close to perfection".
Though sometimes said to have been "condemned" by the Roman Catholic Church's Legion of Decency, that body gave the film its less critical rating as "morally objectionable".
The film opened in the week ended March 24, 1959 in several cities in the United States; the highest grossing of which were in Chicago, where it grossed $45,000 at the United Artists Theatre with Monroe making an appearance, and in Washington D.C. where it grossed $40,000 at the Capitol Theatre. With results from just 6 key cities, Variety listed it as the third highest-grossing film in the United States for the week.
The film then expanded to 100 theatres around the country for the Easter holidays including at the newly renovated State Theatre in New York City on Sunday, March 29, 1959 and the film became number one in the country and remained there for three weeks before being knocked off the top by Imitation of Life. Imitation of Life was top for two weeks before being replaced again by Some Like It Hot, which remained there for another four weeks before being replaced by Pork Chop Hill.
By 1962, the film had grossed $14 million in the US.
In July 2018, it was selected to be screened in the Venice Classics section at the 75th Venice International Film Festival.
Awards and honors
|Date of ceremony||Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|August 23 – September 6, 1959||Venice Film Festival||Golden Lion||Some Like It Hot||Nominated|
|December 1959||National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||Some Like It Hot||Won|
|February 6, 1960||Directors Guild of America Award||Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film||Billy Wilder||Nominated|
|1960||British Academy Film Awards||Best Film from any Source||Some Like It Hot||Nominated|
|Best Foreign Actor||Jack Lemmon||Won|
|March 10, 1960||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Jack Lemmon||Won|
|Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical||Marilyn Monroe||Won|
|Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Some Like It Hot||Won|
|April 4, 1960||Academy Awards||Best Director||Billy Wilder||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jack Lemmon||Nominated|
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography – Black-and-white||Charles Lang||Nominated|
|Best Art Direction – Black-and-white||Ted Haworth (Art Direction), Edward G. Boyle (Set Decoration)||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design—Black and white||Orry-Kelly||Won|
|May 6, 1960||Writers Guild of America Awards||Best Written Comedy||Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond||Won|
|September 28, 1960||Laurel Awards||Top Female Comedy Performance||Marilyn Monroe (2nd place)||Won|
|Top Male Comedy Performance||Jack Lemmon (2nd place)||Won|
|Top Comedy||Some Like It Hot (3rd place)||Won|
|1960||Bambi Awards||Best Actor—International||Tony Curtis (2nd place)||Nominated|
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #14
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #1
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- Osgood Fielding III: "Well, nobody's perfect." – #48
- 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #22
An unsold television pilot was filmed by Mirisch Productions in 1961 featuring Vic Damone and Tina Louise. As a favor to the production company, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis agreed to film cameo appearances, returning as their original characters, Daphne and Josephine, at the beginning of the pilot. Their appearance sees them in a hospital where Jerry (Lemmon) is being treated for his impacted back tooth and Joe (Curtis) is the same O blood type.
In 1972, a musical play based on the screenplay of the film, entitled Sugar, opened on Broadway starring Elaine Joyce, Robert Morse, Tony Roberts and Cyril Ritchard, with book by Peter Stone, lyrics by Bob Merrill, and (all-new) music by Jule Styne. A 1991 stage production of this show in London featured Tommy Steele and retained the film's title. Tony Curtis, then in his late-70s, performed in a 2002 stage production of the film, this time cast as Osgood Fielding III, the character originally played by Joe E. Brown.
On 5 January 2019, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman in an interview with Graham Norton on BBC Radio 2 confirmed a new updated version is being written with themselves writing the music. The version is aimed for a broadway release in 2020.
- List of American films of 1959
- Cross-dressing in film and television
- List of films considered the best
- Rafoo Chakkar, 1975 Bollywood remake
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