A cool blend of contemporary & retro culture

Film School & Chill: ‘Some Like It Hot’

You’re probably reading this because you’re somewhat of a film buff. Well, stay tuned for more weekly installments of Film School & Chill, where Rohan Stephens brings you the best movies that must make it onto your streaming list… that is if you haven’t seen them already.

Heck, even if you have seen them, book these flicks in for a second, third, even fourth viewing. These are the classics that have made cinematic history, and Rohan tells you why.

This week’s pick: Billy Wilder directing Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

 

SOME LIKE IT HOT, 1959. Dir., Billy Wilder.

What is it?

Before there was Priscilla, before To Wong Foo and The Birdcage, there was Some Like It Hot. Although the film itself has its own significance for being one of the finer performances of Marilyn Monroe’s short career, there is a whole other level of importance to it due to it being one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to feature leading characters in drag.

Directed by Billy Wilder and staring Monroe, Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis, the movie follows struggling musicians Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemon) as they flee Chicago after witnessing a mob murder. After managing to secure a gig in a travelling band that will take them far enough away to avoid trouble, they are told the job asks for female musicians only, so are forced to go under cover as ‘Josephine’ and ‘Daphne’ in order hold onto the positions. ‘Sugar’, Monroe’s character, plays the part of one of the band’s more wayward members: drinking, showing up late and missing performances, but who eventually falls in love with Joe after he pursues her… discreetly out of drag.

Riddled with production delays and infighting between its stars – all said to have been caused by Monroe’s increasing dependency on prescription drugs – the film went on to become a critical and commercial success, winning Monroe her first and only Golden Globe.

Adding to film’s status as a precursor of queer cinema, Billy Wilder famously employed legendary female impersonator Babette to assist with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon’s drag personae. Babette, a Texan native, had achieved extraordinary success in Europe in the early 1930s as a trapeze artist in vaudeville shows, performing high-wire acts in full drag, and going on to consult for the film industry later in life.

The film was released without approval or review by the Motion Picture Production Code, which was the body that regulated the strict moral codes for the US film industry between 1930 and 1968. Wilder gambled that despite the film’s allusion to ‘homosexual themes’ it would still prove popular with audiences and hence bypassed the system with which it would normally have been classified and subsequently censored.

Riddled with production delays and infighting between its stars – all said to have been caused by Monroe’s increasing dependency on prescription drugs – the film went on to become a critical and commercial success, winning Monroe her first and only Golden Globe.

 

Why should I have already seen it?

The movie is often cited as one of the greatest comedies of all time, and to this day holds a 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from over 80,000 user ratings. It was also one of the first films to ever be selected for the US National Film Registry, which archives and preserves motion pictures of historical and cultural importance. The films enduring appeal is in the self-aware, campiness of the performances by three legendary actors. Monroe who, by this stage had finally achieved critical acclaim in films that cast her in roles that weren’t just the blonde damsels, like Niagara (1953) and River of No Return (1954) and Tony Curtis, who audiences were used to seeing as the strong handsome lead in westerns and crime dramas such as The Defiant Ones (1958), were suddenly playing up to, if not challenging, their images as sex symbols and macho action heroes.

Some Like It Hot was, and still is, incredibly funny with everything you would expect from a comedy from this era. It’s got great musical numbers, least of which is Monroe crooning I Wanna Be Loved By You in a barely-there, crystal-studded gown. It boasts over-the-top acting, great costumes and a sweet ending. What more do you need?

 

Where do I find it?

Stan, AUS.

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