Friday, 19 February 2010

Look how she moves! It's like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something

No 27 – Some Like it Hot
Director – Billy Wilder

EGADS!! Almost an entire month has passed without me blogging. If I continue at this rate I’ll still be watching these films when I’m 50.
Well, I firmly believe I’ll still be watching THIS film when I’m 50. I love it. It is genius.

This is a very important film; it is the film which convinced my youngest sister not to dismiss Black and White films. It is also the film with the funniest closing line ever.

This film is most well known for the middle section in which Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress up as women to join an all-girl jazz band. Yet there is so much more in this film. Some of it works utterly utterly brilliantly while others feel out of place.
I’m going to begin with the out of place elements so that I can then begin spouting on about the bits of the film I love.

The film is set in the 1920’s and the opening scenes do an excellent job of showing the excess and the glamour of the illegal speakeasies. It sets up the characters perfectly (you see Curtis’ Joe introduced as a gambling, vice ridden lothario the perfect foil to the incessant worrier in Lemmon’s Jerry) and it highlights the desperation in the characters. They’re in a bit of a financial pickle. They need money.
We’re then introduced to the gangsters. The film is bookended with some proper 20’s mob action; it is this that feels unusual, and wrong in the film. Now I love 1920’s mobsters. They dress well; they have excellent morals and the skirt just on the right side of Italio-American cliché.
Spats, for example, is just a fabulous mafia villain. He is cold and chilling. Calculated and callous. He is someone that Joe and Jerry are wise to run from. However his arc feels completely tonally wrong. Every time he appears on screen it ends in a murder. His first murder is witnessed by Joe and Jerry. It is the very reason that they’re on the run and dressed as women. It is a pivotal plot point for the film and yet it feels completely out of place in such a fluffy film about love (and deception).

The film’s real triumph is the middle act – the love stories. These are so ingenious, they still hold there own 50 years on.
It all begins with a character called Sugar Kane.

My ruddy goodness… Marilyn Monroe is sexy. Tony Curtis comes out of this film as quite a good looking chap all ruggedly handsome and that but Monroe is just a hypnotic blend of wide eyed naivety and pure undiluted sex. She is involved in some particularly hot scenes (more on that later) but even when she isn’t doing anything particularly raunchy she is utterly intoxicating.
It is only natural that both Joe and Jerry become obsessed with her and Joe’s seduction of Sugar is wonderful to watch. His character, Junior – the young heir of shell oil, is meticulously designed to tick all of Sugar’s boxes. He also is pulling of a wonderful mimicry of Carey Grant’s vocal style.
The culmination of this romance is the yacht scene. Joe and Sugar are alone on a yacht and Joe (as Jr) tells the tragic story of his failed libido and how kisses leave him cold.
Cue Sugar performing ever more passionate and ever more intimate kisses. I heard Tony Curtis in an interview a couple of years ago and he said (rather brilliantly) that Marilyn Monroe would deliberately push against him and move away as they performed these kisses. It seems right; the sense of sexual teasing is very evident in the scene, which is incredibly sexy. Incredibly sexy.
I’m not surprised to learn that Tony Curtis ‘exploded’ (as he so delightfully puts it) on several takes.

So what of Jerry? Well Jerry’s alter ego Daphne catches the eye of a genuine millionaire, and the best character in the film, Osgood Fielding III. Osgood begins a very sweet, and almost innocent, seduction of Daphne with diamonds and flowers (all stolen by Joe to aid his seduction of Sugar) and dancing.
What is nicest though is that Jerry begins to genuinely fall for Osgood. He enjoys the attention, the flattery and the affection. And Osgood is a genuinely lovely character.

Joe trying to explain how marriage couldn’t work between Jerry and Osgood makes for a wonderful sequence.
You see, really, for all the gangsters, for all the shootings, for all the sultry wide eyed blondes, this is a proper traditional farce. It is all about quick costume changes and having to hide and false identities and lots of manic running around.

It ends, of course, with big reveals. Joe has to tell Sugar that he isn’t a millionaire. But by then, she doesn’t mind. Jerry has to tell Osgood that they can’t marry as he isn’t a Daphne but a Jerry.
Osgood’s response closes the film and is both a perfect representation of his character and a perfect message to close the film on.

It truly is the greatest closing line in a film.


Siobhan said...

This film makes me smile so much.

I think your review hits the nail on the head as well. I forget about the mobster scenes quite a lot, but do remember the many personas of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis and the fabulous outfits and flirtatiousness of Ms Monroe (a truly great actress, mostly remembered for roles like this but capable of so much more)

On thing I feel you did not mention enough is the role music plays in this film. They do run away with a jazz band and the tunes are rather good.

But the closing line will always stay with me. It's just wonderful and beautifully delivered. A great example of the comic timing that makes this caper rather excellent.

Anunciada said...

Seconded! One of my fav films! Don't know if it's on your 50 films list thingy but also a great Marilyn film is the seven year itch. Similar character but brilliant. Keep the blogs coming Tim! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I love your film reviews and agree with you on this film! One thing though: I've heard Tony Curtis say that his scenes with Marilyn were "like kissing Hitler". Bet he was just trying to make everyone less jealous!