In my opinion, Some Like It Hot (1959) is easily one of the greatest comedies ever made. I’m even willing to argue that it is a perfect film. With a top-notch cast, brilliant writing, and a spritely score, this hilarious comedy is sheer, cheeky bliss–and even more fun to watch in today’s day and age. Having very recently revisited this film in September 2021 at one of Cinespia‘s outdoor screenings at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, this film is not only still a massive delight to behold–but is also edge-of-your-seat comedy at its finest. Amidst the comical chaos are terrific musical numbers, an intriguing peek into Jazz Age Chicago, mistaken identities, and–of course–a dash of romance.
Some Like It Hot tells the story of two musicians who witness a murder. In order to save their lives, they run off and impersonate two women and find work in an all-female orchestra. Complications ensue as they struggle to navigate their wacky situation, with the mafia hot on their tracks.
Naturally, the film did not receive Motion Picture Production Code approval, featuring cross-dressing, a sultry Marilyn Monroe in risqué costumes, and LGBT themes. The major success of the film and gradual increase in social tolerance helped to herald an end to the Hays Code.
The film was directed and produced by Billy Wilder, with a screenplay by Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond. The cast of this film is as follows:
- Marilyn Monroe as Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk
- Tony Curtis as Joe/”Josephine”/”Shell Oil Junior”
- Jack Lemmon as Jerry (Gerald)/”Daphne”
- George Raft as “Spats” Colombo
- Pat O’Brien as Agent Mulligan
- Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III
- Nehemiah Persoff as “Little Bonaparte”
- Joan Shawlee as Sweet Sue
- Dave Barry as Mister Bienstock
- Billy Gray as Sig Poliakoff
- Barbara Drew as Nellie Weinmeyer
- Grace Lee Whitney as Rosella
- George E. Stone as “Toothpick” Charlie
- Mike Mazurki as Spats’ henchman
- Harry Wilson as Spats’ henchman
- Edward G. Robinson Jr. as Johnny Paradise
- Beverly Wills as Dolores
- Al Breneman as the bellboy
The plot was based upon a French film called Fanfare of Love (1935), which did not have a script that could be easily traced. As a result, Wilder and the Mirisch Company turned to the German remake Fanfares of Love (1951), purchased the rights, and worked to reimagine the story. Wilder would draft the gangster subplot of the film.
The film itself posed unique acting opportunities for Curtis and Lemmon, who spend much of the film in drag. The actors worked with a female impersonator named Barbette and wore makeup and costumes around the studio lot to see if they could pass as women. When none of the women complained as Curtis and Lemmon made it into the public restroom to fix their hair and makeup, they knew they would be convincing.
Prior to casting, many actors were considered for the lead roles. Frank Sinatra was Wilder’s top choice for Jerry/Daphne as was Mitzi Gaynor for Sugar, while Curtis was his ideal pick for Joe/Josephine. Ultimately, Curtis blended the personalities of Grace Kelly, Eve Arden, and his mother to bring life to the Josephine character. Anthony Perkins was among the actors who auditioned for Jerry/Daphne. Jerry Lewis was offered the role of Jerry/Daphne, which landed Lemmon an Oscar nomination, leading Lemmon to send Lewis chocolates annually around the holidays in thanks for turning down the role. Danny Kaye and Bob Hope were also considered for the lead roles.
The film was shot in California, with many scenes being filmed at the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California. The film opened with positive reviews and was a hit at the box office. Some Like It Hot received six Oscar nominations, winning one for Best Costume Design. It went on to be one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry.
To this day, the performances of this cast are just as enjoyable as ever. In particular, the writing is still extremely fresh, aging beautifully over the years. Monroe offers an electric performance, Lemmon and Curtis are fantastic, and Brown’s Osgood Fielding III is nothing short of hilariously naughty. This film is truly one of the absolute best.