There are movies that everyone is “supposed” to watch. Sadly, most of us waste our time watching the thoroughly “meh” Gilmore Girls and other time filler series. Well, this girl has decided to watch some classic cinema instead.
Everybody knows who Marilyn Monroe is, but I for one had never actually seen her in action (outside of All About Eve). Some Like It Hot is the 1959 romantic comedy that is arguably one of Monroe’s most famous films. And you know what? It’s bloody good and in many aspects, remarkably modern.
Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are two jazz musicians, trying to make a buck and have a bourbon in the era of prohibition. Joe is a saxophonist who enjoys gambling and women, meanwhile Jerry the double-bass player is a bit more down to Earth. The two work in a speakeasy, that is until the joint is shut down in a violent police raid. Joe and Jerry escape unscathed but witness the execution of an informant by the gangster Spats Colombo (George Raft). Fearing for their lives, the musicians must flee Chicago ASAP. Their only way out is with an all-female band called the Society Syncopators who are on their way to Miami for a job. Joe and Jerry recreate themselves as Josephine and Daphne, and take an immediate liking to the bodacious lead singer Sugar Cane (Marilyn Monroe).
Sugar has a soft spot for saxophonists, but she’s done with getting screwed over and instead aims to meet a sensitive millionaire (pronounced “Million. Air.”). Joe/Josephine, a saxophone player who loves screwing women over, leaps at the opportunity and creates a third identity – this time claiming to be Shell Oil Jnr. While this is happening, an actual millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) takes a liking to Jerry/Daphne and the two plan to elope. On top of this, it just so happens that the mobsters they were avoiding have their annual meeting at the hotel the Syncopators are performing at. Calamity ensues. Monroe sings. Audiences laugh. The end.
To be honest, I literally had no idea what Some Like It Hot was about. I randomly started watching it, completely out of context and was blown away. Incase you missed it – this is a film where the two leading men spend most of their time in drag, and one of them willingly gets engaged to another man (who, spoiler alert, does not care that his wife-to-be is a man). Stop the press!!
Some Like It Hot is very good and very funny. It is genuinely an entertaining watch that isn’t distractingly dated. Having said that, I couldn’t imagine it being made (well) today. There is a charm to the casts’ accents and the almost clipped manner in which they talk. And I honestly think the fact that the film is in black and white works in its favour. I suppose the conclusion I’m reaching is that the film works because it isn’t camp. There’s nothing wrong with campy movies, but I think if Some Like It Hot were campy it would be overkill. My one qualm with Some Like It Hot was that some of the musical performances felt arbitrary. (Particularly when the Syncopators were rehearsing on the train.) But then again, I’m probably the only person in the world who fast forwarded through the musical numbers in Glee…
A small aspect of the film that surprised me was that fact that it was almost feminist at times? If you put aside the obviously old-fashioned views of marriage, Some Like It Hot allows its leading men to experience life as women. There are a few comments here and there about the sexual harassment and objectification that women experience. I’m not saying this movie is an ode to feminism, but it was nice to see that these issues made the cut.
I almost don’t want to write this next paragraph, because I’m sure at some point in the future I will kick myself for it, but (here goes nothing) I didn’t “get” Marilyn Monroe. Disclaimer: she clearly played the role of Sugar Cane well and I should mention this is the first film I’ve seen her star in. But I don’t understand the hype around her – not as an phenomenon but as a performer in this movie. I’ve read all the comments about her natural comedic timing and line delivery, and I feel like I’m missing something. I thought her performance was good, but nothing to write home about. Monroe worked well to deliver a solid movie with a solid ensemble, but in my eyes she was far from the knock-out star the films reputation would have you believe.
Some Like It Hot is a classic that somehow feels fresh. If you, like me, have it on your list of movies to watch “one day”, make that day today.
Some Like It Hot (1959): 8/10