Marilyn Night on Sky Arts

Gemma Arterton in ‘It’s Me, Sugar’

Stock up on champagne and potato chips: It’s Me, Sugar, opening a new season of Urban Myths on UK TV’s Sky Arts tonight at 9pm, is part of a full evening’s programming dedicated to Marilyn, preceded by the 2011 documentary, Discovering Film: Marilyn Monroe (aka Stars of the Silver Screen), at 8 pm; and followed by Some Like It Hot at 9 pm; and two more documentaries, Billy Wilder: Nobody’s Perfect (2016) at 12:15 am, and We Remember Marilyn (1996) at 1:15 am. (Now, where’s that bourbon?)

When Sugar Came to Broadway

Elaine Joyce (Sugar) with ‘Josephine’ (Tony Roberts) and ‘Daphne’ (Robert Morse)

Ron Fassler, author of Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway, has written an article, ‘A Sprinkling of Sugar‘, about the musical theatre adaptation of Some Like It Hot. Written by Peter Stone, with music by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes composer Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, Sugar was first produced at the Majestic Theatre on West 44th St, NYC, running for 505 performances from 1972-73, and has since become a firm favourite in regional theatre and with amateur dramatics societies everywhere.

Elaine Joyce as ‘Sugar’, with Tony Roberts as Joe

“David Merrick, a producer with an enviable track record, as well as a talent for alienating close to everyone he ever came in contact with, was the man behind figuring out a way to bring a musical version of Some Like It Hot to the Broadway stage — and it wasn’t easy …

Merrick optioned Fanfaren de Liebe, the German screenplay upon which Wilder and Diamond based Some Like It Hot. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t allow for Merrick to set the show in the Roaring Twenties, perfect for a musical, as that was an idea of Wilder and Diamond’s … But with Merrick not being the type to give up without a fight, he eventually nabbed the rights from United Artists to use Wilder and Diamond’s screenplay as the source for his musical.

When Sugar opened on Broadway forty-six years ago tonight at the Majestic Theatre, it featured a relative unknown, Elaine Joyce in the title part, the one first created by Marilyn Monroe in the film … Yet the show remained a bit of a disappointment creatively, even though it did good business.

As a teenager, I saw Sugar early in its run, and though intermittently entertaining on its own merits, the show was really all about the comedic skills, dazzling energy and one-of-a-kind charisma of Robert Morse. As Jerry and his female alter-ego, Daphne, Morse was the real deal.

Sugar’s impromptu pyjama party with Daphne (Robert Morse)

With Some Like It Hot’s status as a film classic not only undiminished over the years, but continuing to grow, there have been numerous attempts to revive Sugar’s fortunes, in hopes of it maybe one day finding its way back to Broadway. One was a 1992 London version with British favorite Tommy Steele, and another was a U.S. touring production in 2002 with Tony Curtis, this time in the Joe E. Brown role of Osgood, the randy millionaire.

Of course, both productions took on a new title: Some Like It Hot.”

Thanks to Jackie at Marilyn Remembered

Marilyn, Billy and the Fabulous Fifties

As part of an ongoing series for The Guardian, Wendy Ide names the 1950s as her favourite decade in film.

“Marilyn Monroe was the blond bombshell of choice – although for a while it looked as though Judy Holliday (Born Yesterday) might be a contender – and became a global icon. Hers was a career that played out almost entirely during the 50s. A supporting role in All About Eve led to a studio contract and a star-making double whammy of Niagara and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Highlights of her decade, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, saw her teamed with director Billy Wilder …”

And over at Film School Rejects, Will DiGravio argues that the comedy classic, alongside other greats like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Hawks’ Rio Bravo, makes 1959 the best year in movies.

“Today, it seems as though many know Monroe only for her beauty, not as the greatest comedic actress of all time. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon are hilarious in the film as two musicians pretending to be women in order to play with a female band in Florida and escape the Chicago mob after they witness a murder. Yet, their performances pale in comparison to Monroe’s, whose comedic timing and delivery is so effortless it is easy to under-appreciate her brilliance.”

Billy Wilder Seminar in Michigan

The films of Billy Wilder were the subject of a day-long seminar at Hillsdale College in Michigan last week, as reported in the Hillsdale Daily News.

“The final seminar focused on the life and legacy of Director Billy Wilder, 1906-2002. Addressing a gathering of students and community guests were editor Anthony Slide; film producer and author Alain Silver; author Daniel M. Kimmel; film critic Leonard Maltin; and faculty members Daniel B. Coupland, James M. Brandon, Justin A. Jackson and Paul Moreno.

Speaking on another aspect of Wilder’s genius on March 20 was Daniel M. Kimmel, film critic and author of I’ll Have What She’s Having: Behind the Scenes of the Great Romantic Comedies. Kimmel spoke on the comedies of Wilder, especially the hit film Some Like It Hot.

Kimmel said that, while this comedy was certainly one of Wilder’s best films, Wilder’s greatest achievement was the variety of his works: ‘What is fascinating about Wilder to me is that he excelled at both comedy and drama,’ said Kimmel. ‘One will find instances of his sardonic humor in all of his films.’

Kimmel noted how disguise, a major theme in many Wilder themes, is particularly used in Some Like It Hot as a tool for character development. ‘Both Jerry and Joe get to explore other aspects of their personalities, indeed the opposite of who they ordinarily are by donning drag,’ Kimmel said. ‘When they finally revert to their male identities at the end of the film, they are different people as a result.'”

First Look: Gemma as Marilyn in ‘It’s Me, Sugar’

The first photo of Gemma Arterton in It’s Me, Sugar, the new TV comedy recreating the troubled production of Some Like It Hot, has been posted at Deadline (so at least they’ve got Marilyn’s orange robe right), along with a few more details: firstly, it’s produced by UK satellite channel Sky Arts; secondly, that Billy Wilder will be played by James Purefoy; and thirdly, it is just 30 minutes long and will be aired later this spring. You can read Gemma’s comments on the role here.

When Avedon Met Marilyn…

Richard Avedon’s first collaboration with Marilyn was in September 1954, when she visited New York to film The Seven Year Itch with director Billy Wilder. It may also have been their first meeting, and their warm camaraderie is evident in the resulting photos, taken by Sam Shaw. Earl Steinbicker, who was Avedon’s studio assistant at the time, remembers the shoot in Avedon: Something Personal.

“I met a helluva lot of famous people with Dick … I was there for the first sitting Dick ever did with Marilyn Monroe. The Daily News had sent a photographer to photograph him photographing her. I worked the fan blowing her hair, and at the end of the sitting she came over and said, ‘Wouldn’t you like a picture of me?'”

Gemma Arterton: ‘It’s Me, Sugar’

British actress Gemma Arterton has revealed that she is playing Marilyn in It’s Me, Sugar, a new TV film about the making of Some Like It Hot, in a recent interview for the French movie website, Allocine (I have used Google Translate, so please forgive any typos!) Very little is known about It’s Me, Sugar as yet, except that the director is Sean Foley (Mindhorn.) Personally, I like Gemma as an actress, but I would have thought the ‘behind the scenes’ angle on Marilyn’s life had already been covered in My Week With Marilyn.

The title is supposedly based on a line that Marilyn blew multiple times on the set, but the line was actually ‘Where’s that bourbon.’ The situation was also more complicated than is generally perceived, as biographer Donald Wolfe (who watched the scene being filmed) believed that Marilyn was not merely flubbing the line, but was trying to persuade director Billy Wilder to let her play the scene differently.

“It’s a strong role in which you have to cry, to be in a state of almost permanent sadness. It must not be obvious …

Yes, in fact, everything depends on the role. For example, last week I played Marilyn Monroe in a TV movie, a comedy. There was a scene in which I had to cry and I could not, because it was a comedy. I was in this madness all the time.

Can you tell us more about this project you were talking about in which you play Marilyn Monroe? 

It’s called It’s Me, Sugar. It’s about the movie Some Like It Hot. Marilyn Monroe was in a really troubled period of her life. She took a lot of drugs, drank a lot. She was the biggest star in the world, she had a lot of attention on her, a lot of pressure. She is great in the movie. But there is a scene, when she comes to the door, she says, ‘It’s me, Sugar.’ It took 47 shots to make this scene. The film is about that moment, the crisis she had. It’s funny because it’s stupid not to be able to say ‘It’s me, Sugar’. She said all the variations. It’s tragic too.

It’s a film period that I love. Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors. I have always had a fascination for Marilyn Monroe. The director is Sean Foley. He does mostly theater, comedy usually. But he made a film last year called Mindhorn, which was a bizarre English comedy. He was a comedian before. I find that directors who have done comedy before do better. It’s hard to do a good comedy, because it takes rhythm. It’s really difficult.”

Thanks to MM Fan Club Belgium

‘Some Like It Hot’ in Santa Barbara

Marilyn discussing a scene from ‘Some Like It Hot’ with Tony Curtis and Billy Wilder

Some Like It Hot will be screened at the UCSB Carsey-Wolf Center in Santa Barbara at 2pm on Sunday, November 19, concluding the ‘Hollywood Berlin’ series on German directors in America. (Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance – and there will also be a post-screening Q&A.)