Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Some Like It Hot in 1959

The June 1959 issue of "Films & Filming" (from that batch of 1950s British movie magazines I acquired recently, as per my other reports on them) has a delicious review of SOME LIKE IT HOT which is worth sharing. An acknowledged classic for ages (and for me the best and best scripted comedy ever, I also think Jack and Tony should have shared the Best Actor Award that year, sorry Charlton).- but what did they think of it at the time?  This is by Peter Baker, the then editor of the magazine:

"Oh, those mad, mad Roaring Twenties. The tango bands, the yachting millionaires, the sack look,. Valentino, prohibition, Chicago gangsters ... and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as the flappiest flappers of them all. As you will gather, SOME LIKE IT HOT is all - and more - than its title implies (with Edward G Robinson's son sending up George Raft, Monroe sending up herself, Curtis and Lemmon sending up each other; and director Billy Wilder sending up everyone).  
The story - and who's really going to worry about a little thing like that? - concerns two band boys, witness of the St Valentine's Day Massacre, who escape the mobsters by becoming band girls on a jaunt to Florida. Josephine ("not tonight") - played by Curtis - plays the sax while Daphne (that's Lemmon) plays for sex. Marilyn ("and there I was sitting on my ukelele") plays sister to them both.
Its when millionaire playboy Osgood (Joe E. Brown, at 67, not looking a day over 40) falls for Daphne and, when he proposes, decides "she" prefers to remain a girl that the campery reaches its climax, if that is not too indelicate an expression, for so fey a confection. (Come to think of it, we are never told Daphne's final settlement as "she" disappears in the night in Osgood's motor launch protesting her manhood to his assurances that he does not expect perfection).
In between, Josephine has time to masquerade as an oil magnate and persuade Sugar (thats M.M. if you didn't guess) to stop playing her ukelele to go on a midnight cruise long enough to help him overcome his Freudian complexes about women. 
If one can be serious about so uninhibited a romp, it is that Wilder lets his joke run on a little too long, and there is not always sufficient edge to the satire. The sense of period is impeccable. It had to be. I doubt if the censor (who must have been driven frantic spotting the double entendres and, on my account, has missed at least six which I suspect would have been cut if he had spotted them!)  would have passed the film in any category if the story took place today, in San Francisco, Brighton, Amsterdam, Paris - anywhere in fact where boys will be boys - and sometimes girls". 
Yes quite fun, reading this from a rather jaded gay 1950s perspective, but no mention of the clockwork perfection of the script with its constant reversals or the great supporting work of Joan Shawlee as Sweet Sue, or Orry-Kelly's costumes, or its gleaming black and white photography (it just wouldn't work in colour) and so much more we love about the film still - and those great scenes and funny moments, 
no wonder Jack's Daphne had to shake those maraccas in the "why would a guy want to marry a guy?" - "Security!" scene (to give the audience time to recover from the last zinger), or the boys having lost their coats to a horse out in the blizzard, or the girls on the train to Florida with that joke about the one-legged jockey, or Sweet Sue's "I want to remind all your daddies out there that every girl in my band is a virtuoso and I want to keep it that way" or the eager bellhop with a pass-key and the hots for Josephine, or Sugar's comment that the diamonds must be worth their weight in gold (she always gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop), and her father being a conductor - on the Baltimore-Ohio! And those delicious musical numbers. Then the older guys guying themselves: George Raft, Pat O'Brien, Mike Mazurki, and Nehemiah Persoff ! 
SLIH used to be a constant television staple here, always screened over Christmas. Curtis and Lemmon in their later years dragged up again too of course for one of the "Vanity Fair" Hollywood issues . Right: Monty Clift visits the set. The young Jane Fonda did as well and remembers (as per her memoirs) seeing M.M. being prepared for a scene and isolated in her stardom. 
Of course 1959 (one of my favourite years) was a great year for movies with lots of classics but BEN HUR swept the board, so Wilder got his Awards next year for THE APARTMENT (which I don't rave about that much, I preferred his next: that zany, madcap ONE TWO THREE! ). SLIH will always be in my Top Ten, but a lot of the later Wilders I just had no interest in seeing - see Wilder label.
Its on television again here tomorrow, I will be looking in again of course. It is forever a gleaming Rolls Royce of a film where every component works perfectly. 
More on it at Monroe, LemmonCurtis and Wilder labels.

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