Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some Like It Hot

Directed by Billy Wilder and screenplay by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond from a story by Robert Theoren and Michael Logan, Some Like It Hot is the story of two male jazz musicians who witness the St. Valentine’s Massacre in 1929 as they pretend to be women to hide from the mob as part of an all-female band. A remake of a French film from 1935, the film explores men discovering what it means to be a women while hiding from the mob as well as the sexual interplay between men and women where one of them falls for a singer. Starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, and Joe E. Brown. Some Like It Hot is a whimsical yet exhilarating film from Billy Wilder.

The film is a simple story about two penniless jazz musicians who accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Massacre in 1929 Chicago as they have to hide from the mob. Upon hearing that there’s a job in Florida though it’s for an all-girl band, the two men dress up as women so they can hide from the mob and get paid while one of them falls for a singer while the other finds himself the object of affection for a millionaire. It’s a film that has a simple premise yet features a lot of aspects about the roles of men and women where Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are just two men looking for work as musicians so they can pay off their debts. By dressing up as women to hide from the mob and get some money, they are able to have some fun in Florida while Joe falls for the singer Sugar (Marilyn Monroe) who laments over her choices in getting the wrong men.

The film’s screenplay does have a unique structure where the first act is about Joe and Jerry trying to find work as they unknowingly witness the St. Valentine’s Massacre. Since they are now big targets for the mobster known as Spats Colombo (George Raft), they try to figure out what to do as the only job that is available is only for women. With Joe as Josephine and Jerry as Daphne, the two dress up where a lot of hilarity ensues as well as the fact that part of the second act takes place in a train with a bevy of beautiful women including Sugar. Sugar is definitely one of the most interesting characters in the film as she is someone who knows she isn’t the brightest girl in the bunch as she likes to drink and have fun. Yet, she is also someone who just wants to find the right man as she had been with too many bad men where Joe finds himself listening to her as a woman.

The second half, which is set in Florida, is very lively where Jerry as Daphne seems to enjoy himself as a woman playing with Sugar and the girls while Joe decides to pretend to be a millionaire as if he is the ideal man for Sugar. Yet, Jerry has to deal with a millionaire named Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) who is just smitten by Daphne where something strange happens. All of which plays into the idea that Jerry might go along with what Osgood offers despite the fact that Jerry is really a guy. Still, the presence of Spats and the mob would occur in the third act where both men have to make some hard decisions in order to stay alive while still pretending to be women.

The direction of Billy Wilder is definitely exciting through and through where it opens with a chase scene between the police and the mob where the latter is smuggling liquor for a party that is happening that also introduces Joe and Jerry who are playing at the party. It starts off as sort of straightforward with some humor for the ordeal that Joe and Jerry are dealing with as two penniless musicians needing work until they encounter the St. Valentine’s Massacre. Cold, needing work, and in need to hide from the mob, Wilder ups the humor from the moment he presents Josephine and Daphne as these two men pretending women are having a hard time wearing heels and be believable as women which helps the humor. Notably in the way they react to Sugar and her sex appeal where Wilder does use that sex appeal to enhance the humor but also play into the way men react towards women.

Through some gorgeous compositions in the train and in the scenes set in Florida, Wilder creates something that is a comedy but also infuse it with a bit of suspense and drama but also make it a film about the ideas of men and women. Notably as Joe is known for being a gambler and womanizer who manages to grow by being a woman and getting to know Sugar. Jerry’s encounter with Osgood has him thinking about what he needs where Osgood offers a lot to Jerry as Daphne despite the fact that Osgood doesn’t know that Daphne is really a man. More encounters with mob does lead into a sequence that mixes suspense and humor where Wilder maintains that comic energy right to the end where he creates one of the film’s most perfect endings. Overall, Wilder creates a very entertaining and thrilling film about two men posing as women where they learn to become better men as women.

Cinematographer Charles Lang does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from the low-key yet dark look for the scenes set in Chicago to the mixture of lighting styles in the train scenes that would later play into the beauty of Florida as it‘s definitely one of the film‘s technical highlights. Editor Arthur P. Schmidt does excellent work with the editing with its use of rhythmic cuts to play into the film‘s humor and suspense as well as some unique transitions in a scene where both Joe and Jerry go on their respective dates. Art director Ted Haworth and set decorator Edward G. Boyle do superb work with the set pieces such as the look of the train cars as well as the Florida hotel the characters are in for the film‘s second half.

The costume work of Orry-Kelly is fantastic for the look of the dresses that Sugar wears to play into her beauty. The sound work of Fred Lau is terrific for some of the sound work that occurs in the St. Valentine‘s Massacre scene as well as some of the moments in the beach where Daphne plays with Sugar and the girls. The film’s music by Adolph Deustch is a wonderful mixture of somber orchestral pieces and lively jazz cuts while the film also features some songs sung by Marilyn Monroe that really adds to the sense of entertainment as well as to help to tell the story.

The casting by Phil Benjamin is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable appearances from Mike Mazurki and Harry Wilson as a couple of Spats’ henchmen, Al Breneman as a bellboy who tries to woo Josephine, George E. Stone as Spats’ rival mobster Toothpick Charlie, and Nehemiah Persoff as the mob leader Little Bonaparte. Other noteworthy yet memorable small performances include Dave Barry as the band manager Beinstock, Joan Shawlee as the bandleader Sweet Sue, and Pat O’Brien as the police detective tailing Spats. George Raft is excellent as the mobster Spats who tries to regain control of his turf after a raid only to deal with the fact that Joe and Jerry had witnessed his attack on Toothpick Charlie as he tries to find them. Joe E. Brown is amazing as Osgood Fielding III as this very sweet millionaire who tries to woo Daphne as he gives her all sorts of gifts where Brown has some of the best moments that includes the word “zowie”.

Finally, there’s the trio of Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe as they give very remarkable performances. Monroe brings a sense of energy and charm to her role as the very dim-witted but fun Sugar as this woman just trying to find the right man as she is someone full of hope but is also very vulnerable that just adds depth to Monroe’s performance which is one of her best. Lemmon is great in the dual role of Jerry/Daphne as a man who is frustrated by what is happening as he later finds joy having fun with women while giving in to the idea of being married to a man for security and such. Curtis is phenomenal in a trio of role as Joe, Josephine, and the fake millionaire Shell Oil Jr. where Curtis adds a lot of humor and energy to his performances as the three characters while also displaying some growth and understanding as a man who is in love and just wanting to do what is right despite the trouble he’s facing.

Some Like It Hot is an outstanding film from Billy Wilder that features fantastic performances from Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. The film is truly one of the funniest films ever made as it’s a comedy that still holds up after being released more than half a century. It’s full of moments that are very memorable as well as some great one-liners and antics that manages to still entertain. In the end, Some Like It Hot is a spectacular film from Billy Wilder.

Billy Wilder Films: (Mauvaise Graine) - (The Major and the Minor) - (Five Graves to Cairo) - Double Indemnity - The Lost Weekend - (The Emperor Waltz) - (A Foreign Affair) - Sunset Boulevard - Ace in the Hole - Stalag 17 - (Sabrina) - (The Seven Year Itch) - (The Spirit of St. Louis) - (Love in the Afternoon) - (Witness for the Prosecution) - The Apartment - (One, Two, Three) - (Irma La Douce) - (Kiss Me, Stupid) - (The Fortune Cookie) - (The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes) - (Avanti!) - (The Front Page) - (Fedora) - (Buddy Buddy)

© thevoid99 2013


Luke said...

Catch me on any other day and I'll say that this is the movie that has makes me laugh consistently more so than any other. Wilder is a director whose filmography I'm working my way through. He is faultless here. As is Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon.

Nice review!

thevoid99 said...

It's one of his finest and certainly a comedy that I think still holds up. Especially the ending.