1959’s Some Like It Hot is one of the most standout films of Billy Wilder’s illustrious directorial career (Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Double Indemnity). Shamefully, I only just had the pleasure of watching Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe’s charming performances as Jerry/Geraldine and Joe/Josephine, two musicians on the run after witnessing a mob murder, and Sugar Kane, the showgirl who fronts the all-female band the pair join, masquerading as women in order to throw their pursuers off the scent. This film is utterly timeless and consistently comedic, creating a sharp and fine-tuned romp where performances, screenplay, structure and tone alike all combine harmoniously to create a wholly amusing experience.
Despite its anachronisms, the humour is unrelentingly impressive, embodying the farcical liveliness of the 1920s with ease; a true testament to Billy Wilder’s accomplished writing style. The film is perfectly paced, with Curtis and Lemmon hopping from one mishap to another before the audience can even draw breath. Some Like It Hot is a perfect example of the brand of wholesome, slapstick comedy which is so beloved, and typical of classic Hollywood.
Interestingly, the film touches on the roles and experiences of women in showbusiness, and in general during both the 1920s era where the action takes place, as well as the 1950s in which the film was produced. As intentional as it may be within the film itself, it certainly isn’t on a meta level. ‘Now you know how the other half lives’, Jerry says to Joe after he is groped in an elevator by an invasive admirer. Excluding the two leads, the majority of male characters in the film are depicted in a hugely predatory and overly persistent manner when it comes to their sexual advances, which despite commenting on the sexism of the era, is juxtaposed with the tropes certain aspects of the film fall into.
Marilyn Monroe’s heavily-publicised dislike for her recurring ‘dumb blonde’ typecasting doesn’t seem to have influenced the development of her role in this film, which in part serves as a plot device and facilitator of male enjoyment. However, her dazzling onscreen presence ensures that her character is relentlessly engaging and completely steals the limelight. It is difficult, in any case, to criticise character development in such a wonderfully simplistic and lighthearted comedy. The characters in the film are continually funny and endearing, the plot uncomplicated and the overall tone of the film incredibly likable. This affability is perhaps never more apparent than during Sugar Kane’s various musical numbers, epitomising the infectious joy of the film:
I’ve no doubt that attitudes towards Some Like It Hot haven’t changed one iota since its 1959 release. Wilder’s eye for detail ensures every shot looks immaculate, the jokes are well placed and both the leading and supporting cast never falter: in spite of its closing line ‘nobody’s perfect’, this crowd-pleasing film comes pretty close.