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USA 1959
Directed by
Billy Wilder
119 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Some Like It Hot

Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play a couple of penniless musicians on the run from a murderous bootlegger (George Raft) who join an all-girl swing band fronted by a buxom chanteuse (Marilyn Monroe).

Widely hailed as a classic screen comedy (even in its day it was highly regarded), the appeal of this film eludes me. Whilst the script by director Wilder and I.A.L Diamond has some amusing moments such as George Raft's line parodying his 1930s screen gangster persona when he says to a coin-flipping henchman "Where did you pick up a cheap trick like that?", Tony Curtis’s droll portrayal of an impotent millionaire playboy. and Joe E. Brown's closing line "Nobody's perfect" when Jack Lemmon confesses to being a he rather than a she, much of the comedy is more slapstick than wit with two-dimensional characters who largely trade on the time-honoured male/female divide in the coy manner of the 1950s  - a far cry from our enlightened, if not blasé, days.

Compare for instance Some Like It Hot with Tootsie (1982) and specifically the relationship  between Lemmon and Brown’s characters and those of Hoffman and Charles Durning  The latter credibly develops an escalating and amusing awkwardness in the situation of mistaken identity whereas Wilder’s film simply shuffles around stereotypes.

Nominated for six Academy Awards, the only Oscar the film won was for Best Costume Design by Orry-Kelly which, given that Monroe's stage outfits leave little to the imagination at least where her chest is concerned, is somewhat surprising but explains a lot about the values of the time. 

A classic of that time it may be but Some Like it Hot is decidedly overdue for a critical downgrade.

FYI: For another variant on the cross-dressing theme see Mrs Doubtfire  (1993)




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