Marilyn Monroe had a keen understanding of how to use her face, body and voice to make her sex appeal permeate through the screen. In Billy Wilder’s 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot, Monroe was at the height of her allure, draping herself over Tony Curtis’ deceitful character, kissing him with a soft, but deliberate passion. Delivering her lines with an tantalizing vocal shrill, Marilyn’s performance, along with those of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, are among their most memorable performances.
Two struggling Chicago musicians, Joe, a sax man, and Jerry a bassist (Curtis and Lemmon), become unwitting witnesses to the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. Suddenly, the two men must get out of Chicago quickly. What starts out as a serious mob film quickly turns into a comic farce. Joe and Jerry pose as women, Josephine and Daphne in order to join an all girls band that is head for Florida.
The guys find themselves surrounded by buxom, blond-haired beauties, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Hilariously, Jerry has to keep reminding himself, “I’m a girl. I’m a girl. I’m a girl.” The sexual predicament provides humor from the beginning, and is ratcheted up when they both fall for “Sugar” Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe), the band’s top-heavy, pouty-lipped singer, a runaway, who lucky for Joe, has a thing for sax players. In an effort to secure Sugar’s affections, Joe takes on an additional persona—“Junior,” a yacht-owning millionaire, and craziness ensue as he scrambles to keep all of his identities straight. At the same time, “Daphne” receives a marriage proposal from an actual millionaire—played by the nutty Joe E. Brown—and accepts, believing he can plot his way into receiving monthly alimony checks when they inevitably divorce. Joe sees numerous holes on the plan, chief among them, “What are you gonna do on your honeymoon? Jerry, seemingly clueless, simply says, “We’ve been discussing that. He wants to go to the Riviera, but I’m kinda leaning toward Niagara Falls.”
Director Billy Wilder, who co-wrote the screenplay with frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond, fills the story with clever role reversals, and double entendres that would probably be substituted for raunchy humor if filmed today. Given the constraints of the fifties film industry, I would argue that Wilder had to work harder to make his humor stick. The biggest reason Some Like It Hot still resonates more than fifty years after its release is because the humor is both sexy and sophisticated, without being lowbrow.
Throughout the film, Wilder shows a keen understanding that it’s often better to leave viewers wanting more. This is perhaps no better demonstrated than in the scene where Marilyn Monroe is onstage coyly singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” she wears a nearly see-through gossamer dress that—from a distance—looks to be barely there. Even more enticing, Wilder puts a spotlight on her face but leaves her breasts in the shadows below, a directorial tease that’s clearly deliberate. If Some Like It Hot were remade today, whomever played Marilyn’s character would likely give audiences a look at her bare breasts at some point. For my money, there’s something far sexier about leaving something to the viewers imagination.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are perfect as the two cross-dressing musicians. Admittedly though, Curtis’ Junior, a goofy impression of Cary Grant is somewhat unforgettable. Nonetheless, Curtis is the perfect ‘straight man’ to both Jerry and Sugar. As anyone who’s seen this film knows, it’s Jack Lemmon who gets to really cut loose here; and he seems to enjoy every moment of it! Lemmon is known for finer performances of all kinds, but this one is reminiscent of the controlled comic chaos actors such as Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase would later become known for. Marilyn Monroe shines here. Sexy funny, and enticing, she makes Some Like It Hot a perfect comedy.
Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer isn’t reference quality but it’s solid. There are a few white specks that pop up every now and then. This is most prevalent in the earlier parts of the film. Thankfully, this doesn’t mar the overall viewing experience. The image has a somewhat soft quality to it, which isn’t unusual for a Hollywood film of this time. Detail is good though, and while there are only a few instances of great depth, contrast and black levels are strong, giving an occasional pop to the picture.
The audio is a newly mastered English DTS-HD 5.1, with additional audio options in Spanish Mono and French DTS 5.1. The mix, while limited in scope, does a good job with this dialogue heavy film. Most of the work is done by the center channel. The front sides come into play during musical sequences, scenes on the train, and sometimes a vehicle will pan from side to side. Otherwise, the sides remain modest, while the surrounds are barely used. Dialogue is always intelligible.
We also get a number of alternate sound mixes: French, Italian, German, Russian, and Catalan DTS 5.1 tracks, Portuguese, Hungarian, Czech and Polish Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, and a Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 track – as well as English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Cantonese, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish and Russian subtitles.
The special features are nearly a straight port of the 2-disc Collector’s Edition DVD—minus the pressbook gallery, which isn’t included.
- Audio Commentary: This is a pieced together track comprised of commentary by I.A.L. Diamond’s son, Paul Diamond, along with screenwriting duo Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel—who are here because they were inspired by the film—and occasional spliced interjections from archival interviews with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. It’s worth listening to, but not mandatory.
- The Making of Some Like It Hot (SD, 25:45): A retrospective documentary that features interviews with Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and others.
- The Legacy of Some Like It Hot (SD, 20:22): Similarly, this feature examines the lasting impact of the film, and includes interview footage shot at a 1984 screening in San Diego.
- “Nostalgic Look Back” Documentary (SD, 31:13): Leonard Maltin sits down with Tony Curtis to discuss the making of the film.
- Memories from the Sweet Sues Featurette (SD, 12:03): Several of the “Society Syncopaters” get together to reminisce.
- Virtual Hall of Memories (SD, 21:04): Essentially, a lengthy stills and clips gallery, organized as “paintings” hanging on the walls of a CGI hallway.
- Theatrical Trailer (1080p, 2:20)