- Rated NR
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All photos © MGM
Reviewed by Will Harris
ne of the most consistent comedic equations is Men + Women’s Clothing = Funny. It’s not completely infallible – witness “Sorority Boys” – but it certainly tends to work more often than not…and if Milton Berle brought transvestitism to the mainstream via television, then Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” took the concept to the big screen and set an industry standard that would remain unquestioned until Dustin Hoffman’s performance in “Tootsie”…and even then, many would very reasonably argue that, in its field, “Some Like It Hot” has never been topped and likely never will. (After all, the American Film Institute voted it the #1 comedy of all time, as well as the #14 greatest film, period.)
The premise seems simple enough: two struggling freelance musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) accidentally witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and, in order to hide out and keep working, they don dresses and hop a train to Florida as part of an all-girl band, a scenario which finds Curtis falling in love with one of the other musicians (Marilyn Monroe) and Lemmon being pursued by a millionaire with unique taste in women (Joe E. Brown). In other hands, it could’ve been nothing but slapstick from start to finish, but the combination of the witty dialogue (written by Wilder with his regular collaborator, I.A.L. Diamond) and stellar performances by the entire cast elevates it to a comedy classic.
In order to pursue Monroe but keep her from immediately recognizing him from his feminine identity, Curtis dons glasses, a yachting outfit, and an accent in no small way inspired by Cary Grant. Unfortunately, to maintain the façade, he needs to find himself a yacht…which is where Joe E. Brown’s character comes in, and why Lemmon begrudgingly agrees to Curtis’s request to act flirtatious with Brown. Things go surprisingly well for both parties; the womanizing Curtis finds he’s actually falling in love with Monroe, while Lemmon ends up shaking a pair of maracas and announcing that he’s engaged. Of course, it’s inevitable that the mobsters will happen upon the two musicians and attempt to follow them, but the way the story plays out is far from predictable.
With one of the greatest ending lines in cinematic history (Lemmon: “I’m a man!” Brown: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”), “Some Like It Hot” is a film worthy of any and every accolades it has received over the years. Of course, Curtis and Lemmon are as funny as Monroe is drop-dead gorgeous, but setting aside her beauty for a moment, it’s worth nothing that she turns in a remarkable performance of such innocence and naiveté. (It took her forever to get it right, according to most reports, but it doesn’t change the effect of the final product.) It’s almost sad, however, to view the film and realize that we’ll likely never see a film of its like again, as it’s virtually inconceivable that a Hollywood studio could make a film involving cross-dressing and not pursue a gay or lesbian subtext for all the controversy and lowbrow humor they could wring out of it. Here, that aspect of the comedy is utterly ignored; even with a closing line that implies that Brown is willing to settle, the credits roll and we don’t think about anything beyond the laugh the line inspires.
It is, like Ms. Monroe, a beautiful thing.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It may not have received the digibook treatment like some of its fellow MGM catalog titles, but the Blu-ray debut of “Some Like It Hot” is arguably one of the best of the bunch. The new high-def video transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio track won’t exactly blow you away, but it’s still a solid improvement compared to previous versions, while all of the extras from the 2006 Collector’s Edition have been ported over. In addition to an audio commentary that combines archival interviews with Curtis and Lemmon with an ongoing discussion between Paul Diamond (son of co-writer I.A.L. Diamond) and the screenwriting team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, there are also a pair of featurettes on the making of the film and its legacy, a retrospective documentary (“Nostalgic Look Back”), and a gallery of clips, stills and behind-the-scenes photos.