Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Twenty-Two, Part Two: ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959)

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The Premise
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.
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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

‘Some Like It Hot’
1959 – USA
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Joe E. Brown

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

YA: Really?Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe

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 Monroe's Sugar as we first see herat 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

Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) pre-transformationFS: 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

FS: Terrific

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 Curtis and Lemmon in the make-up chairwho 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

Curtis and Lemmon between takesFS: Surely that is where the comedy comes from! Especially with Jack Lemmon who can’t walk in high heels and has make-up like a clown

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 This colour photo shows how heavy the men's make-up had to be to get them to look even remotely feminineinto 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…

Sugar falls for 'Shell Oil Jr.' (Curtis)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 with Joe E. BrownLemmon. 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

YA: I love comedies, man. There were many that were in George Raft (centre) as Spats Columbocontention for my top 25, so I think that’s an unfair assessment

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 I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wildertried 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

FS: Oh good!Billt Wilder practices his tango with Jack Lemmon

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. Curtis and MonroeWilder 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 three stars in a publicity shot‘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, Curtis and Lemmon, photographed by Annie Leibowitz in 1995with 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’

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One thought on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Twenty-Two, Part Two: ‘Some Like It Hot’ (1959)

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