Updated 30 September 2010
If someone said 'You must see this black and white film, it's set in the context of prohibition and gangsters' the memory of a hundred clichéd films will probably send you running.
But before you slip into your trainers and adopt the sprinting position, let's tell you some more. Some Like it Hot stars the dynamite comedy trio of the late Tony Curtis, the late Marilyn Monroe and the late great Jack Lemmon, with all of them wearing dresses for most of the film. It has guns, gals, comedy, Cary Grant impressions, tragedy, killer songs and killer punch lines (and they save the best one for last).
The plot twists and turns. Basically Curtis' and Lemmon's characters are musicians on the run from the mob, after witnessing a murder. Being broke and without transport, they only have one option - to join an all-girl jazz band. The band is going off to do a summer season at a Florida beach-side hotel, a location popular with millionaires, who moor their yachts nearby.
The boys settle in to their new lives quickly with Lemmon enjoying female bonding (while trying to avoid the attentions of a randy millionaire). While Lemmon is doing that, Curtis is planning a way to get together with the lead singer of the band (played by Monroe in a series of revealing attires), without giving the game away.
The film finishes with the boys on the run again following a twist of fate that brings their pursuers to the same hotel.
The music is fantastic - 1920s classic big band jazz - the filmmaking is brilliant, the casting is spot on and Billy Wilder's direction got the best from cast and crew. See it any way you can, but it must be said you can't beat the atmosphere of seeing it on the big screen especially in a period cinema.
If you don't laugh out loud at this film you better check your pulse...
Odd Little Facts
It was originally cast with Bob Hope and Danny Kaye with Mitzi Gaynor for Monroe's part.
It was written by the director Billy Wilder and the producer IAL Diamond
It was also made into a musical many years later (1972 to be exact) called Sugar retelling the story but from Monroe's character's perspective. It's difficult to re-create greatness and the show closed after 505 shows (not a bad number but not great either. The show was resurrected in London calling it by its original name and scripted around its star, Tommy Steele, but when he left it bombed. At that point they gave up and left the film in peace until 2001, where it opened again, this time in Las Vegas, with Tony Curtis playing Osgood Fielding III!
It was inspired by the German farce, Fanfares of Love.
The whole gangster setting is indicative of the attention to detail of the filmmakers - it was chosen by the filmmaker to create a serious need for them to cross-dress not just because it is simply funny.
The mob killing they witnessed was the St Valentine's Day Massacre.
The hotel in reality is the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
The costumes by Orry-Kelly won an Oscar.
Adolph Deutsch conducted the music as well as writing additional music.
It was not made in 1920 as it appears - it was made 1959!
The best place to see this film is in a period cinema, examples of two great ones in England are the Ritzy in Brixton, South London, (opened in 1911) and the Duke of York's in Brighton (opened in 1910).
Whoops! It is supposed to be night when Joe slips out of the hotel, but a daytime sky is visible.
Whoops! Florida beaches do not have high cliffs.
In 2001, The American Film Institute choose it as their favourite film comedy.
Apparently - thanks to Monroe - the film was hell to make. The stories about Monroe's lateness to turn up and her inability to remember her lines are legendary: in fact Tony Curtis at the time grew to hate her so much that when asked what was it like kissing Monroe, he said, 'it was like kissing Hitler'.
Wilder had many stories about her lateness on set. In his words one day Marilyn was supposed to be on set at 8.30am and she turned up at 2.30pm, and when he asked her what had happened she said 'I got lost'. He said:
We are filming at 20th Century Fox under whose contract you've been for six years, you have not moved house, the studio had not switched to somewhere else over night, so on the journey you must have done a 1,000 times, you get lost turning up six hours late?
There was a scene where all Monroe had to do was walk up to, and knock on, the door of a room with Curtis and Lemmon inside. She simply had to say 'It's me, Sugar' when Curtis asks 'Who is it?'. She over and over again got it wrong: 'Sugar it's me'; 'Cut!' She walked up again - 'It's me Sugar'. They eventually had to place a little sign just out of camera shot and on take 47 she got it right. Once inside the room things didn't get any better: after 63 attempts she finally managed to pull open various drawers and say 'Where's the Bourbon?'. You guessed it, inside the drawers were little notes saying 'Where's the Bourbon?'.
That said, the director has been quoted saying:
It should be easy to create a Marilyn Monroe, just get a small blonde girl with a sweet face, they should be coming out of the woodwork, but they aren't and they never were and never have been, she was very much one of a kind.