Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Some Like it Hot

One of the things that it's easy to forget about Billy Wilder's comic masterpiece Some Like It Hot is that it's actually a bit of a gangster movie. In fact, the opening minutes are so good at it that you'd be forgiven for thinking someone mixed up the reels and put on a Warner Bros. picture instead.

But before long, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are dressing up in sensible heels and cloche hats, and we get to what the movie is famous for. And both the leading men are quite good.

But neither of them have anything on Marilyn Monroe, in what is by far her best performance, as the aptly named Sugar Kane. If you want to know what made Marilyn MARILYN, you only have to watch this movie. She is nothing short of magic, although she is helped ENORMOUSLY by Orry-Kelly's unbelievable costumes, which accentuate every (impressive) curve of that famous body for maximum impact.

So I very much wanted to pick a shot of Marilyn for Some Like It Hot's best shot, and there were a few that put up a good fight, but I found myself leaning towards a couple of shots from the film's gangster half. The first was actually a pair of shots where Wilder goes for an almost cartoon logic with characters running down hallways and through doors and coming out in a completely unexpected place.

And then there's this incredibly, shockingly stylistic shot of the death of the film's main antagonist, Spats. There's no bullets, no blood, just the bright light from the machine gun, and it's hugely impactful. It's a shock of violence without actually showing the violence - this is a comedy, after all!

But in the end, I had to come back to my first love in this movie, Miss Monroe. This moment towards the end of the film when Sugar has had her heart broken by "Junior" (Curtis doing a ridiculous Cary Grant impression), and sings "I'm Through With Love" with the band. It's a raw, real performance, and Wilder adds the perfect grace note at the end:

As she finishes the chorus, she hangs her head, grateful to have the instrumental interlude where she doesn't have to sing. And the spotlight takes heed and moves away, leaving her completely in the dark, alone in her despair. All of her inner glow is gone, and everything about this shot mirrors that.


  1. Isn't this a stellar film?! I loved it from the moment I saw it because it has everything in it and works so well. I love Joe E. Brown and his line at the end is classic. Monroe does give a great performance here even though she exasperated just about the entire crew except for Jack Lemmon. I never believe Tony Curtis when he said he slept with her. He said this only many, many years later. He was more famous for saying Kissing her was like kissing Hitler. I love the scene when Spats (George Raft) told his thug to stop flipping the coin because Raft did it in Little Caesar and it made him famous. I loved your review of this film and how perceptive you are about Monroe's performance.

    1. Thanks, Birgit! This is definitely one of my All-Time Favorites. Brown's delivery of that last line is just perfection, as is Lemmon's baffled reaction.

      I was never quite sure what Curtis was trying to get across with that "like kissing Hitler" line - that she was too forceful? that it was perfunctory? that she had a moustache? - and frankly never believed him much. LOVE that moment with Raft and the coin flipper. There are SO many little moments like that in the film that just sing.

    2. Marilyn was at her height of insecurities when making this film and would show up very, very late and then just stay in her trailer. The scene when she came into Josephine and Daphne's room looking for a drink, was shot 73 times because she just kept screwing up the line she had. Finally Wilder taped her line inside the drawer so she would get it. This behaviour infuriated most of the crew and Curtis had no patience for her hence his remark. Lemmon was more forgiving and was not upset. She was pregnant at the time of making this film and lost the baby as well. I never believed Curtis much especially in his older years. When he then tried to backslide out of that comment he made he said he slept with her off the set and I simply don't believe him.

  2. Love your choice, it really does capture the sorrow of that moment. A great film, Wilder was one of the best at walking those fine lines between genres and tricky material and making them work most of the time, not always Kiss Me Stupid is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and his cast couldn't be better down to the smallest part.

    I'm going to throw a shout out to Joan Shawlee as the undeniably unsweet Sweet Sue, she one of my favorite characters.

    Much as I love your choice I'd have to go with the final shot of Lemmon & the perfect Joe E. Brown, the looks on their faces just encapsulates the whole absurd premise so exactly.

    How were there no acting nominations for this film? Comedy and comic performers just never gets its due.

    1. I LOVE "Sweet" Sue! I want to be her when I grow up, stick-in-the-mud though she may be. That gigantic wink after the line "Each of my girls is a virtuoso... And I intend to keep it that way!" is just brilliant.

      Truth: I was VERY tempted to go with that final shot. The look on Jack Lemmon's face is utter sublime perfection. How at least he didn't get an Oscar nom for this is a mystery to me. I would have easily nominated Lemmon, Brown, and Monroe, and possibly Curtis. But figuring out what happened with the acting nominations back in the studio days is always so tricky.