By Amy Tetreault
Some Like It Hot – dir. Billy Wilder – 1959 – Original Theatrical Trailer
Some Like It Hot was uncouth and hilarious in 1959. These days it’s … somehow still hilarious, but also somewhat refreshing.
Sure, the comedy features overplayed modern Hollywood staples like men dressing in drag, popular starlets showing skin, abrasive sexual innuendos and explosive car chases, but it’s also significant to note that it’s one of the first comedies featuring men dressing in drag, one of the most popular starlets ever showing skin, clever and carefully delivered sexual innuendos, and perpetually classic Chicago mobster scenes.
It’s these differences, alongside the film’s comedic writing and performances, that make Some Like It Hot timeless. I mean, just try and compare the groundbreaking classic with modern day films like White Chicks or Big Momma’s House. No wait – don’t even try. It’s futile.
So what is it about this film that makes it so funny, even today? Jack Lemmon’s almost perfect performance? The naughty, and persistent, double entendres? The physical comedy of two Chicago musicians dressed as women? Or maybe it’s just the whole package.
Personally, I like the one-liners. When Jack Lemmon, as Daphne, says that Marilyn Monroe walking in her high heels looks like “Jell-O on springs,” I can’t stop laughing. And when Monroe herself watches Lemmon fall off a bunk and immediately asks, “How’s the bottle?” I can virtually see myself repeating that line at every party I attend.
Watching these exchanges is like a form of self-indulgence, at least for me. I feel nostalgic for a time I never knew. I wish my voice was as lilting as Monroe’s. I’d love to be as sure as Lemmon (as a woman, of course) and I sure as hell wish I was as sexy as Monroe. And let me just take this moment to mention Monroe and her wardrobe. (Or lack thereof, as the case may be.) Monroe’s performance scene, you know the one, pushes the edge of wardrobe attire and flirts with a sense of inappropriateness. And yet all that little clothing somehow managed to win Some Like It Hot an Oscar for Best Costume Design in 1960. I mean, imagine a time when Oscars were given to movies were both well done, popular and, gasp, showed a little skin. What a concept.
When I ask others their opinion of why “Some Like It Hot” manages to stay relevant, and still hilarious, I get a variety of responses:
“I think it’s still relevant because it was the first of its kind. And also because Marilyn was such a female and the other two were…not. And that contrast? It’s delicious. And it always will be. Nobody will get it like those three did.”
“It was the basis for all the other movies to play off of. And you can’t beat an original.”
“Marilyn Monroe is a goddess.” (I got that answer fairly often)
The fact of the matter is, Some Like It Hot is a classic, and in a time when most corporate movie theatre multiplexes are chock full of “comedies” featuring bad actors known for their relationships more than their films, it’s good to know that films like Some Like It Hot can always provide a cinematic oasis.