Anthony's Film Review

Some Like It Hot (1959)

The humor, the script, and the acting are gems in this classic comedy...

Some Like It Hot, a movie about two cross-dressing men, is a recognizable film among fans of the classic Hollywood, but there is one particular recognition I would like to mention. In the American Film Institute's list called AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs, Some Like It Hot tops the list as the greatest comedy of all time. Here is what's interesting. Coming in at #2 in this same list is Tootsie, the 1982 film in which Dustin Hoffman dresses as a woman. Go down the list some more, and you'll find that the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, in which Robin Williams dresses as an old lady, is at #67. Hmmm. Is there a pattern here?

After some thought, I now get it. Cross-dressing is funny. That is, a man dressing as a woman. A woman dressing as a man can never be as funny because it's too easy to behave like one. But when a man tries to act like a woman, it's a difficult adjustment. That's where it can be humorous. In Some Like It Hot, taking place in 1929, Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, respectively) are two musicians who cross-dress as Josephine and Daphne to be hired in an all-girl band, first because of financial difficulties and later because of the need to hide after witnessing a mob killing. The cross-dressing adds the additional trouble of trying to walk convincingly on high heels and do other lady-like things. Their disguise is not 100% convincing, but everyone seems to believe it.

At this point, I should mention the other reason why cross-dressing is funny. Besides the disguise, there's also the subsequent events. Think about the sorts of things that could involve a cross-dressing man: confusion, unexpected surprises, the risk of getting caught, etc. A couple of scenes exemplify this. One scene on a train involves over ten members of the all-girl band crowded in a bunk because they want to have a party. Another scene involves the discovery of how Joe/Josephine could be a man on the beach and back in his womanly disguise in a bathtub in just a matter of minutes. And in one unexpectedly funny scene, Jerry/Daphne gets a marriage proposal and is actually thrilled about it, forgetting about his real identity.

Let's not forget the third star of the film. Marilyn Monroe plays one of the girls in the band named Sugar Cane. Now, it is known that there were behind-the-scenes difficulties with her, because she would mess up very simple lines and scenes so many times that director Billy Wilder would get very frustrated with her. Obviously, it makes no sense to judge a movie based on behind-the-scenes events (with extreme exceptions). Putting that aside, I liked her in this movie. All I can is that she has a charming screen presence. Whatever she says or does in the film, she does it well enough to deserve credit for being a part of this film.

But even if I ignore the film as being a comedy, I do like the story. The plot involving running away from the mob is as important as the situations in their feminine disguises. As you can guess, it does pick up when the mob just happens to arrive at the same place as Joe and Jerry. So yes, there's some element of suspense as well. To me, however, it's still secondary to the comedy. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon had a lot of guts to accept the script when the premise was pitched to them. Their performances as men trying to be women are comical because they're not trying to be as convincing as real women. It is best summed up with the film's final line: "Well, nobody's perfect."

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Some Like It Hot, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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