Thursday, June 15, 2017

Some Like It Hot (1959)

These days we are fortunate for the opportunities to see classic films once again in a movie theater. While the films are projected digitally, it does not take away from the theatrical screening experience. Many classic films are as relevant today as ever. Turner Classic Movies is on pretty much all the time in my home. Their partnership with Fathom Events is a true boon to film lovers.

This week, I screened Some Like It Hot for only the second time ever. And it was my first time seeing the movie on the big screen. What really struck me was the amount of innuendos which were cleverly crammed into the movie. I also realized how much more cellatious Lemmon's character was over that of Curtis. I mean, his character was one randy dude!

To briefly recap, two musician bachelors (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) are looking for any opportunity to make money. They discover an opportunity to play with an all female orchestra and decide to dress as women to join them. In the process they become witnesses to a mob hit and remain on the run from some mobsters out to rub them out. During their time performing in Florida (which was actually filmed at the Hotel Coronado in San Diego), both men fall for fellow orchestra member, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe). There are a bunch of rich older bachelors staying at the hotel and one of them falls for Daphne aka Jerry. Jerry then encounters the world of being objectified as a woman as well as it's benefits. Joe works hard to get Sugar, eventually adopting a Cary Grant affect and pretending to be a wealthy oil tycoon. The mob inadvertently catches up to them and hilarity ensues. The (musical?) comedy Some Like It Hot, conjures many images from pop culture with its iconic moments. The most common is Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dressing as women. Or perhaps Marilyn Monroe singing, "I Wanna Be Loved By You." To me, the most impressive thing about this film from director Billy Wilder is that it basically blew apart what was left of the Hays Code. That list of restrictive, censored topics that for a couple decades were banned from films.

Time has also brought the homosexual themes depicted within the film to the forefront. While I would not say that they were intentionally placed there at the time of production, you can't help but wonder what was going through the mind Jerry's (Lemmon) character. He got so excited when Osgood Fielding III had proposed marriage to her/him. Joe (Curtis) had to remind Jerry that he was actually a man after spending so much time reinforcing to him earlier about being a woman. Was Jerry merely caught up in the role as a woman, or did he actually enjoy the male attention?  Joe goes from being a man pretending to be a woman, only to meet a woman he's interested in and then having to pretend to be an entirely different man to woo her. Crossdressing helped him meet women, but it would not work to close the deal with one. I'm sure there have already been many essays written on this topic. Some of those can be found here. Essentially, the movie hints at homosexuality, studies the male gaze, speaks to female objectification and misogyny, and finally, condemns male insensitivity. Wraps it all into an nice bow.

The whole gangster storyline was good for framing but totally secondary to the story. This element was added by Billy Wilder himself. The original storyline was adapted from a French film called Fanfare For Love from 1936, which followed the story of the men dressing as women but did not feature men on the run as part of the plot.

Fun fact from Wikipeda: Marilyn Monroe worked for 10% of the gross in excess of $4 million, Tony Curtis for 5% of the gross over $2 million and Billy Wilder 17.5% of the first million after break-even and 20% thereafter. The movie made $40 million in it's initial run.

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