Close your eyes and imagine Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
in drag. If this image is instantly hilarious to you,
you will be among the 95% or more who consider Billy Wilder's
"Some Like it Hot" to be one of the greatest American
But there are always some people, such as myself, who are
sufficiently humor-impaired, non-conformist, and/or overly
critical so as not to get the joke. Cartoonish mobsters,
empty-headed blondes, unlikely romances and Lemmon camping
it up under a wig and false breasts may provide the elements
of a great comedy, but only if the script allows and the
pieces fit together.
"Some Like it Hot" stars Curtis and Lemmon as Prohibition
era Chicago jazz musicians who witness the Valentine's Day
Massacre. The surviving gangsters seek to kill them as well,
forcing Curtis and Lemmon to dress up as women and join
a travelling all-girl's band. Our cross-dressing heroes
take turns romancing whispering dunce Marilyn Monroe, then
have an unlucky reunion with the gangsters in a Florida hotel.
After seeing "Some Like it Hot", I trolled the internet
for reviews of the film. Without exception, everybody felt
that the film was both a hoot and a masterpiece, leaving
this grumpy critic uninvited to the party. Feel free to take
the following comments with a grain of salt. Nevertheless,
it would be dishonest to change a grade or a review based
upon the opinions of others rather than the film itself.
Compare "Some Like it Hot" to my favorite star-in-drag flick,
"I Was a Male War Bride". Cary Grant clearly dislikes having
to dress as a woman, and men who see him dolled up only
make caustic remarks. Jack Lemmon, on the other hand, has
a wonderful time as a transvestite, and has an elderly male
paramour (Joe E. Brown). Curtis in drag also has a suitor,
a tactless underage bellboy. All the film's characters readily
accept Lemmon and Curtis as women, when no one over the age of
ten would be fooled. Cary Grant also makes a better Cary Grant
than does Tony Curtis. A jury would have to decide which
crime merits the greater punishment: Curtis' trespass on a
yacht, or his Cary Grant impersonation. Finally, while
"War Bride" provides a believable female lead in Ann Sheridan,
Monroe is simply a male's fantasy woman. She's gorgeous,
stupid, willing and vulnerable.
Curtis convinces Lemmon to romance Brown, so that Curtis
can romance Monroe on Brown's yacht. Why would Lemmon agree
to this? Curtis is risking getting arrested, and risking
his (her?) cover, which if blown would risk their lives.
Lemmon himself has an interest in Monroe, and has no motivation
to help Curtis. Lemmon also risks his cover in spending an
evening with frisky Brown. Most confusing of all, Lemmon
actually enjoys dancing with Brown, and is so taken with the
wealthy but aged lecher that he seriously considers marrying him.
Curtis, who spent earlier scenes sanctimoniously criticizing
Lemmon for his lust, mysteriously changes his character to
become a risk-taking playboy.
The Chicago mobsters arrive at the same Florida hotel that
Curtis and Lemmon are staying at. This coincidence is beyond
remarkable. Despite the fact that law enforcement agents have
made their presence in the hotel known, and that the gangsters
have registered there as guests, and that the hotel is a public
place, there is another mob shootout. Curtis, running for
his life from the mobsters who have spotted him, takes time
off to run up on stage, dressed as a woman, and kiss Monroe.
Monroe is so impressed by this that she leaves the band to
join Curtis in his escape.
Anyone who has made it this far into the review is likely
thinking, 'it's a COMEDY, stupid'. Admittedly, I feel like
the guy who didn't like the film "Antz" because the characters
acted more like people. But I feel that characters should
have plausible motivations for their actions, and I didn't
find that in "Some Like it Hot".
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller