Marilyn’s Girl Power in ‘Some Like It Hot’

Another 60th anniversary tribute to Some Like It Hot, this time from Simi Horowitz at the Hollywood Reporter.

“Yet at its core, the film is about sexual relations and attraction, and to judge by some of the film’s 1959 reviews it was pushing the good-taste envelope. Repeatedly, our two very heterosexual leads are suppressing their arousal as they’re flanked on all sides by nubile female musicians. In one legendary snippet, these nightie-clad instrumentalists are frolicking about in a train berth with Jerry/Daphne, for whom the experience is by turns delightful and tormenting.

And how’s this for a bit of convention-defying vulgarity? The women are heavy-duty drinkers and sexually schooled, and not feeling unhappy about it at all. On the contrary, they’re boisterous, living out loud and having a hell of a time reveling in their agency.

Admittedly, Sugar Kane has been exploited by love’em-and-leave’em saxophone players. But make no mistake: She milks her victimization for all it’s worth. Like Monroe herself, Sugar is an embodiment of the male fantasy (breathless, helpless and in need of saving), and employs it to her advantage. When Joe, in the guise of Junior, who is trying hard to evoke Cary Grant, says he likes classical music, Sugar lies outright, proclaiming she studied at the Sheboygan Conservatory. The film is a heady celebration of play-acting.

Manipulation and deception are the name of the game, and everyone indulges with impunity. Even at the end, when Jerry admits to Sugar that he’s a lying louse, just another one of her abusive saxophone players, he hasn’t really changed and neither has she. But true to movie tradition, heterosexual love conquers all — or does it?

Wilder’s universe is far too nuanced for anything as obvious as that. Here, homoerotic twists are everywhere — not least the full mouth-on-mouth kiss between Sugar and Josephine. It’s the turning point when Sugar realizes that Josephine and Junior are one and the same. The line straddling best female bud and male lover is fluid; Sugar adores both sides of that mask, conceivably loving Josephine even more, while Joe has virtually disappeared in the melee of disguises.”

‘Some Like It Hot’ On TV

Tina Louise as ‘Candy’, with Joan Shawlee reprising her role as Sweet Sue

Over at the Marilyn Remembered blog, Lorraine Nicol has contributed several excellent posts to celebrate 60 years of Some Like It Hot – including a tribute to Billy Wilder, a look behind the scenes, how it fared on the awards circuit, and this intriguing piece about a television pilot for a nixed spin-off series.

“With the ever increasing popularity of television, it’s no surprise that The Mirisch Company would try and turn their most successful film: Some Like It Hot into a ongoing television series.

The series would focus on the mishaps and adventures that Joe and Jerry would face in their new identities, trying to recreate the magic that was created on film by bringing it into peoples homes and television sets throughout the year.

The premise of the show was this: Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon reprising their roles for the pilot) are still on the run from the mob, so they decide to up their game and go under the knife for a complete facial transformation (enter the two new actors playing Joe and Jerry: Vic Damone and Dick Patterson.)

There is no mention of Sugar in the pilot, she has been replaced by a character called Candy Collins (Tina Louise). Collins is Studs Columbo’s moll who eventually falls for Joe after he reveals his true identity to her … The pilot was shot at NBC studios in mid March 1961 and quickly vanished into thin air.”

Marilyn Haunts the Front Pages

Following a recent cover story in Yours Retro magazine,  the 60th anniversary of Some Like It Hot also makes the front page of the latest Weekly News, plus a centrefold tribute from Craig Campbell.

On the weird side of Marilyn fandom, in Take A Break: Fate & Fortune‘s May issue, Emma Pearce of Cornwall shares her belief that MM is haunting her home – via a reproduction of a painting by Renato Casaro which she found in a rubbish tip (depicting Marilyn as Jesus, with Bogart and Elvis among her disciples, in a pastiche of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.) Maybe the ghost isn’t Marilyn, but an angry critic?

Further afield, the second issue of German magazine Nostalgie features a lovely Monroe cover. Sadly, the usual conspiracy theories about her death are trotted out inside.

Thanks to Fraser and Johan

Chris Lemmon On ‘Some Like It Hot’ At 60

Photo by Richard C. Miller

Chris Lemmon, son of Jack, has talked to Fox News‘ Stephanie Nolasco about his dad, Marilyn, and Some Like It Hot – although as he was just four years old at the time of filming, his perspective comes from what his father told him. Nonetheless, it gives valuable insight into the dynamic on the set. (Later in the article, Chris also tells a more speculative tale about Marilyn and President Kennedy, which I discussed previously here.)

“Fox News: What was your father’s relationship like with Marilyn Monroe?
Lemmon: It was terrific. He saw Marilyn for what she was, unlike the persona … Marilyn had her own gimmick. But that wasn’t her at all. She was a very dedicated actress and a very intelligent woman. But also a very troubled woman who was hit by stardom way too quickly. She just simply didn’t know what to do with it. So my father instantly took to her because he saw those qualities. My father easily took to everybody. Jack Lemmon could get along with a log.

Fox News: How did your father cope with Marilyn’s troubles on set?
Lemmon: The truth is Marilyn did have some problems on the set. She was nervous that it could get in the way. There’s that famous story involving the line, ‘Hi, I’m Sugar’ … She had to do 30 takes of that. [Actually, the line was ‘It’s me, Sugar.’] That was the day before they shot that huge scene in the train car with the booze. Billy tended to be very rough with his shots. He didn’t want anyone messing around with his stuff.

But she and my father, they nailed it on the first take. That’s the performance you see on the screen. He easily befriended her. She was flirty with him because she thought it might bring some spice into the scene. And of course, he flirted right back. And that’s how that great scene between them was born. That was all one take.”

Why Sugar’s Still Sweet At 60

On its 60th anniversary, Todd Gilchrist looks back at Some Like It Hot for the Birth Movies Death website.

“I don’t want to sell short what Monroe brings to the movie, but even a casual investigation into the making of the film reveals the numerous issues that the actress was dealing with at the time, as well as the tremendous effort that Wilder and her co-stars made to draw out of her the great performance that she ends up giving. Struggling with addiction to pills, Monroe had trouble focusing to the tune of almost half a million dollars in cost overruns during the production just trying to get her to deliver her lines correctly. All was later forgiven when the film came together, but in spite of the obstacles, Monroe manages to sort of perfectly inhabit what the role needs, which is a flightiness and yet a solid core of goodness, wrapped in a bombshell’s body. It’s no wonder that Joe falls head over heels for Sugar, whose true sweetness far transcends her physical attributes.”

Thanks to A Passion For Marilyn

‘Some Like It Hot’ at 60

Some Like It Hot opened at cinemas across the US sixty years ago today, on March 29, 1959. In an article for Perth Now, Troy Lennon celebrates the diamond anniversary of one of the most beloved movies in history.

“The press were out in force at Marcus Loew’s newly refurbished Capitol Theatre on Broadway in New York to cover one of the biggest film premieres of the year. It starred matinee idol Tony Curtis and up-and-coming comic talent Jack Lemmon, best known from comedy hits Mr Roberts and Bell Book And Candle.

The support cast of actors was also stellar, with big names from classic gangster films … Quirky, sexy, slightly subversive and the work of one of the most in-demand directors at the time, Billy Wilder, it had hit potential. But what really made Some Like It Hot such a big deal was that it was Marilyn Monroe’s first film in nearly two years. Monroe had been taking time off to focus on her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

On the night of the premiere, March 29, 1959, 60 years ago today, Monroe, accompanied by Miller, told reporters Lemmon was the ‘funniest man in the world’ and like the rest of the audience laughed all the way through the film. Critics also loved it and Some Like it Hot is now regarded as one of the all-time great film comedies.

The film was inspired by a 1935 French farce titled Fanfare d’Amour (Fanfare Of Love), about two musicians, Jean (Fernand Gravey) and Pierre (Julien Carette) … Gravey’s love interest, bandleader Gaby, was played by Australian actor Betty Stockfeld.

The story and screenplay were co-written by German screenwriters Michael Logan and Robert Thoeren, who had fled Germany in 1933 after the Nazis came to power. After the war they returned to Germany and in 1951 remade the film as Fanfaren der Lieben.

For the leads Wilder wanted Frank Sinatra as musician Joe and singer Mitzi Gaynor as bandmember Sugar. But Sinatra never turned up for the audition and when Monroe discovered Wilder was doing the film she wanted to play Sugar … having Monroe as a drawcard gave Wilder a freer hand with the rest of the casting. He had already asked Tony Curtis to play Jerry, but without Sinatra he instead cast him as Joe and Lemmon as Jerry.

The director was fastidious about the look of the film. It was to be shot in black and white, because it was a period piece and a tribute to gangster films, also so that it would be easier to pass off Curtis and Lemmon as women. Famous Australian-born designer Orry-Kelly worked on the costumes (winning the film an Oscar).

During filming, Monroe was as difficult as ever … Curtis did his best to disguise his irritation but Lemmon was sympathetic, trying to calm Monroe’s nerves.

But the result was screen magic. From the moment Monroe sashays past Lemmon at a train station causing him to utter ‘That’s just like Jell-O on springs’ the farce hardly ever lets up.

It won three Golden Globes, an Oscar and a BAFTA and made bigger stars of Curtis and Lemmon, but was arguably Monroe’s last truly great role.”

The Original Sugar Kane Dies Aged 100

Actress Kathryn Kane has died aged 100, the Telegraph reports. She was one of the inspirations behind Sugar Kane, the character played by Marilyn in Some Like It Hot. (Another was Helen Kane, the singer who first popularised ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’, which Marilyn performed in the movie.)

“Kathryn Kane, often billed as ‘Sugar Kane’, was a blonde, blue-eyed model and actress who was promoted by Warner Bros as the female answer to MGM’s Mickey Rooney, and for a few years in the 1930s her wholesome, girl-next-door appeal gave her a taste of stardom.

In 1935, while working as a model, she was spotted by a Warner Bros talent scout and put on a train to California. The studio publicity department changed her name to ‘Sugar Kane’ and cast her in a series of musical shorts to publicise her singing voice, including The Magic of Music and A Great Idea (both 1935).

She was loaned out to Paramount for her first feature, the comedy Love on Toast (1937) in which she played second fiddle to Stella Adler. She followed it the following year with the backstage burlesque crime drama, Sunset Murder Case, which was banned in some American cities due to its racy content.

That year she was also in the musical short, Swingtime in the Movies (as Katherine Kane), but was then dropped by Warner Bros. She signed to Universal and took her best role to date, playing the female lead, Snookie Saunders, in the musical comedy Swing, Sister Swing, about a dance craze, ‘The Baltimore Bubble’.

She followed it with The Spirit of Culver (1939), a drama designed to rejuvenate the flagging careers of former child stars Jackie Cooper and Freddie Bartholomew. The same year she appeared in the comedy short Quiet, Please, in which she played an actress in a relationship with a fellow movie star (played by Larry Williams); the pair are in love for the camera but at each other’s throats in real life.

After the war she appeared on stage in one of Earl Carroll’s musical variety shows and in 1947 she made a fleeting return to films with an uncredited part in That Hagen Girl, starring Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.

By 1959 her film career was long over, but Billy Wilder used her sobriquet in Some Like it Hot, casting Marilyn Monroe as the carefree Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, singer and ukulele player in Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators.”

Movies, Makeovers and Marilyn in UK Press

The latest issue of UK magazine Yours Retro includes a four-page cover story celebrating 60 years of Some Like It Hot. Marilyn is also featured alongside fellow bombshells Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner in a separate article about Hollywood makeovers.

In the current issue of Scotland’s Weekly News, her role as short-sighted Pola in How to Marry a Millionaire is mentioned in an article about wearing glasses. (And don’t forget her recent spot in Country Life magazine.)

Thanks to Fraser Penney 

Marilyn’s Sugar Redux in ‘Some Like It Hot’

Chris Cabin has reviewed Criterion’s new 4K restoration of Some Like It Hot (available on DVD and Blu-Ray) for Slant.

“Sugar Kane’s willingness to indulge in the perverse proclivities of the rich is more grounded here than that of Monroe’s Lorelei in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but then, Some Like It Hot is a more ambiguous affair than Howard Hawks’s extravagantly ludicrous musical … Money, more than gender or even sexual attraction, is the ultimate aphrodisiac here, and if this deeply cynical belief is slightly upended by the film’s ending, as in The Apartment, the idea is never entirely dispelled by the narrative.

By the end of Some Like It Hot, Sugar Kane is singing ‘I’m Through with Love,’ but it’s a song she’s been singing all along, gossiping with Josephine about all the lousy musicians who’ve romanced her and then bilked her for all she’s worth. The lead singer of the Sweet Sues doesn’t show up until a solid 30 minutes into the film, but make no mistake, Monroe’s importance in this picture is second only to Wilder’s. A notorious presence on the set, the actress flubbed her lines, arrived late, and tested the saintly patience of her director and co-stars, but on the big screen, Monroe holds the audience in her gaze without a flicker of hesitation.”