Sunday, 3 October 2010

SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959) ****(1/2)

"The movie too HOT for words!"
Whenever I've come across films about trans-gender, I tend to really enjoy them, MRS DOUBTFIRE (1993) and TOOTSIE (1982) are two very popular comedies which I hold very dearly though Doubtfire is a family classic. But when I came across this film from over 50 years ago during my Auteur Theory seminars at university, this popular gem was shown to portray feminism in film and certainly my fellow uni mates and I thoroughly enjoyed the film which is often heralded as THE greatest rom-com of all time with three fabulous lead performances, a terrific script and some classic scenes as well as the 'perfect' final line to a film. Following the tragic death of lead actor Tony Curtis a few days ago, I gave the film a third viewing and once again was treated to a delight of a film that even after 50 years is still hugely popular and as funny as ever!

Set in Chicago, 1929, the film begins with a funeral car being pursued by police who start firing at the men inside the car. It emerges that the men are carrying hundreds of bottles of liquor to be delivered to the funeral parlour where in a hidden room is a swinging club with musicians and singers which involves lots of booze being drank. An undercover police detective goes into the club which is owned by local gangster Spats Colombo (George Raft) and is about to be raided. Working in the club are two down-on-their-luck jazz musicians; Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) whose opportunity of getting paid at the club backfires when the raid occurs leaving the men broke. Their trip to an employment office sees them believe they have the chance of joining a band that are heading to Miami only to find it is two female musicians they want. Instead they try another job but whilst trying to take a car from a garage owned by a gang, another car arrives with Spats and his gang confronting the others and gunning them down (vengeance from Spats to his rival for ratting him out to the police) which is witnessed by Joe and Jerry. The two somehow escape and go on the run and realize that they can't stick around in Chicago so they decide to take a bizarre route by joining the female band on the train, dressed up as women! Taking the names of Josephine and Daphne, the pair's awkwardness of dressing up in woman's clothing sees them settle in well as the other female musicians make them welcome.

Whilst on the train, the pair meet sultry blond-haired singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) who makes both men feel uneasy because of her seductive nature, she too is running away from men and confides in them about how she yearns to get herself a millionaire husband when the group get to Miami. Once the party arrives in the warm paradise of Miami, they settle into their hotel though Jerry finds himself being pestered by a rowdy, retired millionaire named Osgood Fielding (Joe E. Brown) who tries to charm 'her' only to be rejected instantly. Joe on the other hand comes up with a plan to try and get together with Sugar by stealing the band's executive's suitcase donning a pair of glasses, wearing a naval uniform and putting on a British accent to try and charm her. She falls for him especially when he mentions about being involved with the Shell Oil Company and owning a luxury yacht though he comes up with a great strategy to be more intimate with her by using Osgood's boat that evening while the millionaire is Cuba-dancing with Jerry. The plan goes well, much to Jerry's annoyance, as Joe becomes romantic with Sugar and the pair share several passionate kisses (making up an excuse about struggling to enjoy love as she tries to make him enjoy it again). However it is clear that Joe can't keep up with changing his clothes and identities but things soon get more complicated for him and Jerry when Spats and his gang turn up to their hotel still looking for them leading to a hectic but satisfying conclusion.........


What results is an uproarious Laurel and Hardy-like farce with mistaken identities, burlesque-styled antics, and a madcap chase finale, all under the supervision of director Billy Wilder, who also co-wrote the script. Today the modern viewer sees this film with many homosexual overtones, but the film-makers made a point to stress the two male character's heterosexuality in this film. With their energetic yet contrasting persona's, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis make an ideal leading pair for a movie of this nature. Their energy and their sense of just how far they can exaggerate things make it very easy to like their characters and to become interested in what happens to them, and in turn that makes everything else fit together. Curtis, who was a mean-faced man of action, makes a surprisingly good woman, in both looks and mannerisms but it is Lemmon who is inspired with his faultless comedy-timing and when needed, a sense of the dramatic. As for the immortal Marilyn Monroe, she is at her most sexual here as the bubbly, desperado looking for love in all the wrong places. Despite her gold-digging instincts, Monroe's Sugar is cozy, vulnerable and altogether lovable, getting a lot of support too out of her solo singing, which include her classic signature song "I Wanna Be Loved by You." Joe E. Brown has a lot of fun with his role where he plays his character to sheer charming perfection and speaks the best line of the film (the last one) immaculately. Technically too the period feel of great depression era costumes and sets are also excellent, a very convincing feel of the time period.

The film's only fault might be a couple of overlong musical numbers, performed either by the whole band or soloed by Sugar Kane. Though to be expected in a Marilyn Monroe film, these musical acts are literal show stoppers that bring the comedy value of the film to a screeching halt. However, it is easy to overlook these minor defects in the movie as a whole with lines which just smack of sexual referencing, it causes belly laughs throughout. Credit goes to Wilder for one of the best comedy scenes in film involving all four major characters. The transitional cuts between Curtis and Monroe, attempting to let him feel love again, with Fielding and Lemmon, cutting up the tango dance floor, are absolutely hilarious. It never resorts to the sort of lowbrow humour of most of our modern comedy, and it demonstrates how light hearted comedy should be done and because by and large it is quite funny and after all, "nobody's perfect".


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