Some Like It Hot 1959

Read the script
Extract from Some Like It Hot (PDF)

The Story

Possibly the most successful of Billy Wilder’s comedies, Some Like it Hot is based on a German stage play about two musi­cians who are on the run from Chicago gang­sters and disguise them­selves as women to play with an all-girl band.

In the film version, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) acci­dent­ally witness a St Valentine’s Day style gang­land massacre and are forced to get out of town quick. They take the only job going, playing in Sweet Sue’s all girls band, disguised as female versions of them­selves, Josephine and Daphne.  On the way to Florida by train with Sweet Sue’s band, they meet Sue’s lead singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and imme­di­ately fall in love with her.

Joe pretends to Sugar that he is a million­aire and invites her to visit him on a yacht he has borrowed from a real million­aire called Osgood (Joe E Brown) who is attracted to Jerry/Daphne. Unfor­tu­nately, the gang­sters who are looking for Joe and Jerry turn up at the hotel where the band are performing, forcing them to go on the run.

The Scene

When sincere emotion finds these char­ac­ters, it blind­sides them: Curtis thinks he wants only sex, Monroe thinks she wants only money, and they are as aston­ished as delighted to find they want only each other”.

Roger Ebert,  “Some Like it Hot”


There is a great deal of manip­u­la­tion going on in the scene where Tony Curtis‘s char­acter seduces Monroe’s but no nasti­ness or malice. We are invited to enjoy the decep­tion and not to take sides. In some ways, this is a classic battle of the sexes in which both combatants are playing their cards close to their chests. In another sense, a lot of the frisson of the scene derives from the arche­types these movie stars are asso­ci­ated with.

Curtis was still a leading man at the time, his career founded on playing tough kids from the wrong side of the tracks and oppor­tun­ists like Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success. Monroe was, well, Monroe; and never more so than in this picture, despite the stories of off-screen trying behaviour.

A slick seducer who feigns being a naive idiot is a familiar device in restor­a­tion comedy and in the Vien­nese farces of Lubitsch (Billy Wilder’s mentor and idol) but less so in Amer­ican screen comedies. Perhaps that’s why we find it so delicious.


Billy Wilder on “Some Like It Hot”



David Clough ©2011

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