Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. We are into the top fives now, and both men had a good score for their number ‘five’. How will their choices at four do? Read on to find out…
Fred’s picked his second Billy Wilder movie of his list. It’s generally considered one of the finest comedies in film history, but will the cross-dressing put Yasser off?
You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: This week, you watched my number four, my last comedy, my second bona fide classic – ‘Some Like It Hot‘. I think there was some apprehension on your part because you don’t like cross-dressing
Yasser: Yes, there was. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show‘ is the shittest thing ever
FS: I hope you can see the difference in context between the cross-dressing in the two films
YA: It was very different from that, you’re right, but I watched ‘Some Like It Hot’ and it didn’t blow me away
YA: I really don’t understand why it’s in your top five
FS: It’s amazing! It looks like a dream, it’s got a perfect cast, the greatest comedy director bar Chaplin is at the helm, and it’s got probably the best script ever written anywhere ever
FS: Yeah, really. I can’t think of anything else to beat it. So many great lines, and a great story. Anyone could play the main roles and they’d still be funny. I’d struggle to single out any of the leads as they are all beyond good
YA: We’ll start with my favourite then – Marilyn Monroe
FS: When people have said she’s a great comedienne, this is what the mean. For all her ‘behind the scenes’ issues, it was worth it as she’s so brilliant and sexy
YA: When I saw her in this, I could see what all the fuss is about. She’s pretty, clever at playing dumb, she’s… well put together
FS: (laughs) I’d say she is the ultimate movie star
YA: Yes. Do you know Jean Hagen in ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘? Well, Marilyn did what she did, just more naturally and effortlessly
FS: I agree. She didn’t like the role as she didn’t believe anyone would be stupid enough not to spot that ‘Josephine’ (Tony Curtis) and ‘Daphne’ (Jack Lemmon) were men, but she put that to one side and it’s her defining role
FS: Monroe plays Sugar Kane, an air-headed ukulele player with an all-girl band. She’s on the look-out for rich husband
YA: Bit of a gold digger
FS: The band ends up with two new ‘girls’ after two male musicians, played by Curtis and Lemmon, witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to hide out. I’d like to know what you thought of the set up and how the plot got Curtis and Lemmon into dresses
YA: The film takes off quite well. I liked the scenes with the gangsters, the prohibition era setting, and how the reimagined the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Solid way to start. Loved it and wasn’t expecting it
YA: I also liked the relationship between Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon)
FS: Super. That was my next question. Jerry is a nervous pushover, whilst Joe likes to think of himself as a bit of a wise guy, but he’s really a handsome loser who is always getting himself into trouble. They work well together
YA: They are like brothers, trying to look out for one another. Joe’s always trying to make money the fast way and disregard his responsibilities, whereas Jerry likes to do things the honest way. They are broke, desperate for work and need to escape the Chi-town gangsters who are after them. Then, they remember a vacancy they heard of where a girl band are looking for a saxophonist and a double-bass player. So, their plan is not to go to New Orleans and easily find work there, but to take the jobs and impersonate women… what the bloody fuck?
FS: Yasser…. come on
YA: Curtis and Lemmon are DUDES! They’re not just men, they’re manly men. They’re not effeminate. For heaven’s sake, they have HUGE hands
YA: That’s my point. They transform so much they are nothing like their former selves
FS: Even in their personalities?
YA: Even in their personalities. Joe/’Josephine’ becomes less confident and Jerry/’Daphne’ becomes more at ease with himself
FS: I can’t agree with you on this
YA: What do you think, then?
FS: Joe, being smarter, tries to blend in so he makes himself as convincing a woman as possible and tries not to draw attention to himself. Jerry throws himself into it in a different way by trying to integrate with the girls, and not just slip in unnoticed. When they are themselves in private, they are the same as they were beforehand. The fact they have to switch between the personalities is where the comedy lies
YA: Really? The confident, womanising Joe seems like an aimless sheep as Josephine, wandering around at the whim of Sugar (Monroe)
FS: I think he just wants a bunk-up with her at first, but as the story goes on he falls for her
YA: Falling in love changes him
FS: Yes. They are both idiots in their own right
FS: Tony Curtis was a limited actor but he rises to the occasion in what was his best ever role. You seem to think he lost his way after a promising start
YA: He has a lot to do, playing one character, having a tangent when he falls in love, imitating a woman, but when Joe takes on a second disguise to woo Monroe…
FS: ‘Shell Oil Jr.‘ (Curtis)
YA: …with… what was that, a… British accent?
FS: He was imitating Cary Grant, almost purposefully badly
YA: I know Grant’s British accent, and it’s not that!
FS: (laughs) It is a comedy. I mean, if he rocked up in ‘All the President’s Men‘ with that accent I’d see your point
YA: It was bad
FS: What about Jerry as a woman?
YA: I didn’t like ‘Daphne’ until he… she… meets Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). Ah mate! That guy turned things around. He was funny and brought the best out of Lemmon. The tango scene was awesome
FS: I can’t fault him. He’s excellent
YA: I think the section with ‘Shell Oil Jr.’ and Sugar on the yacht, and ‘Daphne’ dancing with Osgood was when I started liking the film a lot more
FS: Osgood and ‘Daphne’s scenes are some of the best. There is this scene where they first meet…
FS: … when Osgood says ‘Do you use a bow or do you just pluck it?‘ and ‘Daphne’ responds with ‘Most of the time I SLAP it‘. (laughs)
YA: Lemmon was better than Curtis. I just didn’t find the film funny
FS: Oh Yasser! I don’t believe it. I think you and I differ on one fundamental thing. You think serious films are better than funny ones
FS: How many made your list? Two and a half?
YA: I still like comedies. I am disappointed in this because you hold it in such high regard. Top four… I don’t get it
FS: Star power, great director and writers. It’s pure, silver screen magic
YA: There must be more that stands out than that
FS: From the moment that jazz music kicks in over the credits through to the famous last line, I think it’s perfect. The main reason is the script – the best ever in my opinion. Every scene is terrific and there are so many great, funny lines that if I tried to list them all, I’d end up reciting half the screenplay. Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond were a match made in heaven. They didn’t let the actors deviate from the script. They knew what they’d written was good and they had total faith in their script. I personally think that neither Curtis nor Monroe ever touched these heights before or after. Even Jack Lemmon – a great actor – might have his best role in this, rivaled only by Wilder’s ‘The Apartment‘
YA: Anything else?
FS: I find it funny from beginning to end, and it’s one of the few comedies that I laugh at every time I watch it. I don’t really know what else to say
YA: Fair enough bro
FS: I’m interested to know what you think of Billy Wilder. He wrote and directed one of my earlier choices, ‘Sunset Boulevard‘, and this, which is much lighter as a film
YA: Okay, so, the name sounded familiar. I was shocked to look at his work and find he was the writer/director of ‘Sunset Boulevard’. The writing and direction of that film was good, but it was better here
YA: You’re right when you say it’s harder to write comedy than drama. It’s the same with performing, and unless the actor has natural timing, which I imagine Curtis did not, you need a good director to bring that quality out
FS: A brilliant point. Thank you. If you read up on the history of the trouble they had with Monroe, who was admittedly going through a marriage breakdown, a drug habit and a miscarriage, to have still got a top performance from her took some doing
YA: It must have been hard for them
FS: They had to write her lines in the drawers in the scene where she’s looking for the hot water bottle with bourbon in it. Even then it took her about 40 takes. Wilder said it was exhausting for Lemmon and Curtis who couldn’t afford to fuck up a single take as she was getting about one in 25 right, so he had to be sure he’s get that one in the can
YA: She was peng, bruv. I’m sure they didn’t mind too much
FS: (laughs) Curtis nailed that, you know
YA: I hope he nailed it right because he sure didn’t nail that accent
FS: (laughs) That’s making the cut. (laughs)
FS: I have nothing else so you can sum up and rate it
YA: ‘Some Like It Hot’ is a film about two jazz musicians who witness a mob killing and go on the run. The premise sound like my kind of film, however this is a comedy and they decide it would be prudent to dress up as women and join an all-girl band. If you know me, you can only imagine my dismay at this as the worst film I’ve ever seen is ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’. From my perspective things look terrible, but then the film introduces the provocative Sugar, who befriends the ‘girls’. Monroe wasn’t the best actress in the world, but there was a beguiling beauty that captivated the audience. She had a fantastic way of showing vulnerability and she is the best of the three main performers. Joe and Jerry understandably compete for her affection, despite their female costumes
FS: Very good…
YA: Now, this is where it all gets a bit too silly for me. They learn that Sugar wants to marry a rich, young man so Joe decides to put on another disguise as a wealthy oil magnate with the worst accent ever. It’s laughable, and not in a good way. However, with the help of Joe E. Brown as Osgood, Lemmon’s ‘Daphne’ picks up the slack. The tango scene is probably the best moment of the middle act
FS: No argument there
YA: I found the script and Wilder’s direction good, but the two gents dressed as women are really unrealistic women. That was very off-putting and distracting, which is why I didn’t find this film as funny as most people do. I thought it was luke-warm, not ‘Hot’. It’s a good movie, but without Monroe’s captivating performance I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did. She and Wilder bump this up to an 8/10
FS: I’m not going to go all ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ on you, but 8/10 for two of the greatest movies ever made. I weep
Next week: Scorsese’s brutal ‘The Departed’ and festive cheer with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’