Some Like It Hot (1959)

I Always Get the Fuzzy End of the Lollipop

My roommate seems to only be interested in watching movies from right around the time our parents were born recently.  That’s about 90% of what he watches these days.  In fact, the combination of me watching shitty action movies and him watching 60 year old comedies seems to make my Netflix recommendations very confused.  But I’m okay with it, because I do feel like I need to catch up on the old classics as much as I need to watch the new stuff.  Today, he got me to sit down and watch an old comedy classic called Some Like It Hot, written by I. A. L. Diamond and Billy Wilder, directed by Billy Wilder, and starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Pat O’Brien, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray, Nehemiah Persoff, and George E. Stone.

Two down-on-their-luck musicians named Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) witness a gang hit lead by “Spats” Columbo (George Raft), but narrowly manage to escape.  They concoct a plan to leave town in a group of other musicians.  The problem is: they need to be women.  They become Josephine and Daphne to infiltrate the group.  In the group, they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and both kind of fall for her.  But, then again, so do we.  They take up a gig playing at a Florida resort.  Joe decides to take on yet another persona to try to woo Sugar, that of a make-believe millionaire named Junior, heir to Shell Oil.  Jerry is not so lucky, getting propositioned by Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown).  Joe and Jerry need to work with their double and triple personalities, and I’m guessing their mob problems aren’t over either.

I feel like this is certainly a fine film, but one that has lost it’s luster over the years.  I found it to be a fairly charming film with an interesting story and good performances, but the problem was that it is a comedy that just wasn’t very funny.  There are parts of the movie that are very dark, and the rest is pretty light-hearted.  It starts off with a big car chase and shootout, then goes into Joe and Jerry trying to find a gig, then back into the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, then into cross-dressing.  The middle is all more light-hearted, but it dips back into some darkness near the end, though it leaves us on a cheerful note.  The movie was probably hilarious back when it came out, but I mainly just found it cute.  I didn’t laugh, but I wasn’t bored.  There were jokes that were so old in the movie that I felt I was missing something.  They’d say something that seemed to be in a joke structure, but I had no clue what the punchline was supposed to mean.  That’s the danger, to me, of watching a comedy that’s almost double my age: we just don’t find the same things funny.  But the movie still managed to be endearing, so it wasn’t like it was painful to watch it.  It did strike me as odd that this was supposed to be happening in the prohibition but everyone had boose all the time.  There was hardly a single person in the movie without a boose connection.  The girls were boosing on the train, there was boose on the rich guy’s yacht, boose everywhere.  The cops seemed to be pretty on the ball though.  Except, I guess, for the cop that gives himself away to Joe and Jerry by using his badge to punch a hole in his cigar.  This guy may not have been that bright.  Then again, they were the only people in a crowded club of law-breakers that saw him do it.  What struck me as being even more strange was how men seemingly treated women in the 50’s.  They seemed to always be a short step away from being rapists.  When “Daphne” tells Osgood that he/she’s not interested, he gets into the elevator with her and tries to get frisky.  When the mobsters started coming on to “Josephine” and “Daphne”, and they say it’s none of their business what room they’re staying in, they grab their key to find the room number and say they’ll keep in touch.  That means men of this time were both nearly rapists AND fully willing to ignore very masculine qualities in their women.

The performances would probably have been some of the best at the time, but even now they’re solid.  Marilyn Monroe, of course, was the character that interested me the most.  On top of being pretty gorgeous, she was also a pretty solid actress.  She said some things that were vaguely funny, but a pretty good amount of the things she said was about her not being very bright by her own admission, which is kind of a sign of what they thought about women around that time.  I also found it pretty funny that most of the times she walked in to a scene, she was accompanied by that muffled trumpet “wah WAH wah WAH wah” sound that accompanies voluptuous women walking.  She was very voluptuous too, leading me to think that she might border on being considered fat by today’s standards.  But her weight apparently shifted around, and I still would’ve given it up, so it wasn’t really a negative.  She still struck me more as cute than hot most of the time.  Tony Curtis would be the second most interesting character to me.  First, he actually kind of makes an attractive woman, and I’m not afraid to say it.  He handled his acting scenes very well also, so I really have no complaints about him in this movie.  I thought it was kind of funny that his big ploy to bag Marilyn was to basically act like women didn’t do it for him.  Back then, being gay was so far outside of the culture that no one probably thought of it, but I thought that was what he meant for a little while.  He basically just meant that he had been traumatized so that women didn’t have the desired effect.  Either way, it worked, and Marilyn was all about making out with him to fix it.  I’ll need to try that myself one day.  My roommate raved about Jack Lemmon going into this movie, but I found him to be really irritating when he was acting as Daphne.  It seemed like he was trying too hard and ended up just working on my nerves.  Also, he did a piss poor job impersonating a bass player.  Tony Curtis was fairly convincing as a saxophone player, but Lemmon’s fingers were basically just going wild on the bass aimlessly.  All of the other characters were fairly minor, but I did think it was interesting how they always introduced the character of “Spats” Columbo by showing his shoes (and his spats) first.

Some Like It Hot is a movie that warrants at least one watch.  It’s a pretty good story and a pretty cute movie, with a couple of good performances in it, but don’t go in expecting a comedy if your sense of humor resembles mine.  I just didn’t find it funny at all.  But it was pretty entertaining and worth at least one viewing, if for no reason other than it’s classic status.  Some Like It Hot gets “You must be quite a girl” out of “You tore off one of my chests!”

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