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Review by Andrew Hicks
4 stars out of 4
The Billy Wilder romantic comedy factory reached a climax
with SOME LIKE IT HOT, a delightful transvestite farce that features
a gorgeous and charming Marilyn Monroe. The beauty of these
Wilder films is that they push the envelope so much from the usual
"Leave it to Beaver" fluff of the '50s. Every one of these comedies
involves premarital or extramarital sex, or the desire thereof, as
part of its plot. While most other films ignored this very human
distinction, Wilder turns it into great entertainment that still seems
more or less wholesome.
Who else in the '50s exemplifies the dichotomy between sex
and wholesomeness than Monroe? The woman posed for Playboy
and slept with the president but still seems like such an innocent
child, especially here. As the victim of countless deceptions and
advances from men, she comes out naive and making the same
mistakes over and over again. We sympathize with her from the
beginning, although we completely understand Tony Curtis and
Jack Lemmon's desire to score with her. I mean, she's Marilyn
Like the other Wilder comedies, SOME LIKE IT HOT has an
elaborate, almost-epic set-up. This almost seems like two movies
in one. We first see a car chase between the cops and a bunch of
mobsters with bootlegged liquor, then a wild party thrown by gang
leader Spats (Edward G. Robinson) that is broken up by the
police. Curtis and Lemmon are two members of the band playing
the shindig, and barely escape arrest.
The next day, Curtis and Lemmon are at the music agency
looking for work and find the only opening available is a
three-week gig in Florida for two musicians that play the same
instruments they do. But it's an all-female band, so they instead
decide to head upstate for a low-paying gig. In the parking garage,
there are Raft and his boys deciding one of their own has ratted
them out to the police. Raft kills one of them just as Curtis and
Lemmon walk in. Again, they barely escape capture.
This added element -- the mob wanting them dead -- is
enough to make the two musicians put on dresses and high heels
and join the girls band. As with any movie cross-dressers, they
look nothing like the opposite sex, but we have to suspend our
disbelief enough to accept that no one else can see through this
disguise, least of all Monroe who, as the band's singer Sugar, is a
dim-bulb and an alcoholic. In these surroundings, Lemmon says he
feels "like a kid in a candy store."
Curtis and Lemmon both begin pursuit of Monroe, in and
out of drag. Curtis, after a girl-to-girl talk with Monroe about what
she's looking for in a man, masquerades as a visiting millionaire.
Meanwhile, Lemmon has a lusty old man to contend with. This
being the '50s, the only goal of any of these women is to get
married. After the old guy proposes to Lemmon, Lemmon
considers going through with it because he probably won't ever get
another chance to marry someone that rich.
Lines like that show that the film has intelligence and social
insight to go with the laughs. SOME LIKE IT HOT is the best Wilder
film, with wonderful performances by the three leads and other
minor characters and great writing. Not only is there a treasure
trove of classic lines, the plot is also brilliantly constructed.
I can't name a single bad thing about this film, except for the
fact that it seems sexist now. I can only wonder what Monroe
could have accomplished in a liberated world.
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks