Story Of My Life. I Always Get The Fuzzy End Of The Lollipop: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot is one of the sexiest, sultriest, silliest and zaniest movies ever released and is probably Marilyn Monroe's best performance aside from The Seven Year Itch.  As I get close to closing in on the last few films on the TIFF Essential 100 List, this was a film I was excited to see and ashamed to have never gotten around to watching.  My shame was well deserved because this black and white gem was phenomenal and served as yet another reminder to how excellent classic Hollywood filmmaking was, as well as a fine example of how to make a racy film without relying on nudity and crude humor as the base.  Some Like It Hot is brilliantly written and superbly cast and as I get closer to composing my list of filmic New Year's resolutions I am certain that I will be adding "Watch More Billy Wilder Movies" to my list, because he is becoming one of my favorite directors and I have only seen a very small fraction of his rather large collection of films.  If anything, Some Like It Hot is probably one of the pioneers of cross-dressing movies, if not its zenith.

The plot of Some Like It Hot is a well-known one in the vocabulary of film history.  Two musicians, the paranoid bass playing Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and suave saxophone playing Joe (Tony Curtis) assume the worst when they discover they are on their last leg of financial luck, only to become accidental witnesses at the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre.  In desperation and fear, Joe signs both Jerry and himself up to play with a traveling women's band.  While disapproving, Jerry begrudgingly agrees that it is their best course of action and the duo begin a new life as cross-dressing men.  The duo appears to be successful at their new lives and pass as women despite the critical, and oblivious, watchful eyes of the bands leaders Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee) and her henchmen Beinstock (Dave Berry).  Both Joe and Jerry are fine with their new feminine lifestyle given that it assures their livelihood, but this changes when they both begin developing feelings for the band's lush violinist Sugar Kane Kowalcyk (Marilyn Monroe).  Sugar Kane who is also oblivious to the duo's maleness takes them to be newfound friends and becomes intimately close with the duo, sharing a nearly naked night of drunken debauchery with Jerry.  Upon the band's arrival to their next performance, Joe undertakes a new disguise as a rich son of a Shell Oil tycoon to win over Sugar Kane while Jerry unsuccessfully evades the advances of a rich suitor.  In a stroke of misfortune, the location of their performance is also the place for the meeting of the mob bosses, including the ones that Joe and Jerry witnessed murdering other mobsters.  In a final and hilarious confrontation, Joe and Jerry evade the mobsters while Joe convinces Sugar Kane to run away with him.  Jerry is stuck with his rich suitor, who agrees to provide for him even after Jerry's confession of being a man.  As I said earlier, a zanier movie does not exist.

There is always an interesting dilemma that occurs when films approach issues of gender passing.  When I say gender passing I do not mean transvestism, as would occur in a film like To Wong Fu...but what occurs in a film like White Chicks (which is a multi-leveled film about passing as another).  It involves normal people who use a different gender identity as a means to learn something about a person or group or to escape and hide form pursuers.  The dilemma I have noticed is that when men pass as women there is often an underlying sexual desire for a befriended female that arises.  In a film like Some Like It Hot, and so many others, women are portrayed as sexually oblivious and wild when outside of the male gaze.  This would not be problematic if so many of these films were made by women as a parody, unfortunately, this is not the case.  I am not terribly versed on films with women posing as men, but I am fairly certain that such frivolous sexual actions in males groups do not serve as scenes in these movies.  I could be wrong, but I still have a hunch.  It is not a terribly serious issue given the comedic nature of such a film, but it was something I thought worth noting.  If you have any feelings or counter examples to my observations, I would love to hear them.  Other than that, this film is absolutely perfect.

While the film is heavily narrative, it is still well shot and visually enthralling, making it an obvious bluray purchase, and for those of you who have already seen this, feel free to suggest other Billy Wilder movies to check out.

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