‘Some Like It Hot’ Leads the Way in Laughter

Screenshot by Classic Film on Flickr

Some Like It Hot is featured (of course) in a chronological list of The 50 Best Comedy Movies of All Time over at Film School Rejects today, bridging the gap between silent comedians like Buster Keaton, screwball comedies starring Grant, and a wide range of comedies in the modern era.

“Marilyn Monroe was never taken seriously as an actress and comedienne, but just watching her keep up with comedy legends Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot is enough to see she was funnier than people gave her credit for. The film is really one of the most stacked comedies ever, with the aforementioned stars and director/screenwriter Billy Wilder and cinematographer Charles Lang (SabrinaThe Magnificent Seven, etc). It’s the perfect older comedy for people who swear that older movies aren’t funny. The smart dialogue isn’t delivered too quick for modern audiences. It’s silly enough to never get boring, but not outrageous enough that it’s campy. Some Like It Hot is a layered comedy that somehow springs more jokes the more you revisit it, but once you’ve seen it one time, you’ll gladly watch again.”

Emily Kubincanek

Rediscovering Sugar Kane

Over at Film School Rejects, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs discuss what sets Some Like it Hot apart from other ‘gender-swapping’ comedies.

“Scott: There’s definitely a corollary with Tootsie, but it is a bit striking for 1959 (years before Don Draper!) to see the scene where Jack Lemmon gets his intimates squeezed by Bienstock on the bus. It’s a legitimate commentary on opening men’s eyes to a common reality for women — that unironically has a character named Sugar Kane.

Landon: That’s another thing I was struck by in revisiting this movie. I’ve seen other films this past year where Monroe plays a supporting role as a stock dumb blonde, but she really gets to shine here. This may be her most dimensional character.

This past year I read a Mae West biography that talks about the behind-the-scenes world of NYC vaudeville culture in the 1920s, and the book mentions characters like Sugar and the other women in the band: exuberant, confident, hard-drinking, hard-living, and sexually liberated. The movie’s fascinating gender dynamics aren’t just in the high-concept switch, but in it’s general portrayal of young women in contrast to the ’50s housewife.

Scott: Some of that seems muted now — it’s easy to watch the movie and simply see Monroe as an object being hunted, even though she does a lot of work to create a complete character. That’s something we often miss when watching stock romantic comedies. When done right, the woman being courted (tell me I wasn’t a bet!) ends up changing the man because of who she is. There’s something powerful in that. We tend to focus on the character who changes as ‘the hero,’ but stories like this tacitly reinforce that it’s men who, by and large, need to change.

Landon: Yeah, I really appreciate that Some Like It Hot doesn’t follow some of the same beats, especially that Daphne and Josephine never really get found out (the gangsters recognize them more so via the shot-up bass and some forced dialogue). There seemed to me an implication that they could go on passing as women as long as they wanted. They both ‘come out’ to their significant others in the last scene, and neither interprets it as a deception.

But I want to qualify my praise here a bit, because I’m not saying that Some Like It Hot is a radical film (despite our tongue-in-cheek headline), but simply has several rich, interesting aspects and moments that break convention.”

 

‘Some Like it Hot’ Vs ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

Over at Film School Rejects, Nathan Adams argues – perhaps bravely, some might say rashly – that Some Like it Hot is overrated. So what in the name of Sugar does Billy Wilder’s classic farce have in common with Ted Kotcheff’s Weekend at Bernie’s?

“If somebody were to come up with an exact definition for what a classic, screwball, comedy of errors is, both of these movies would probably meet the criteria exactly. I’m not the person to go around trying to define genres though, so let’s just line the plots up and compare a bit. In Some Like It Hot a couple of guys named Joe and Jerry end up having to pretend that they’re women in order to evade some crooks that are trying to murder them. In Weekend at Bernie’s a couple of guys named Larry and Richard have to drag around a dead guy and pretend that he’s still alive in order to evade some crooks that are trying to murder them. The humor in both films is broad and wacky, but there is also an element of danger to both films because people are really getting hurt and the stakes are as serious as life and death. Both movies also give us a glimpse into the lives of rich people when they’re on vacation. Rich people who get painted as debauched, thoughtless animals who aren’t concerned with anything but their next party, their next extravagant purchase, and their next lay. Even the old rich people. Yuck.”