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Wayback Wednesday: Some Like It Hot (1959)

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” circa 1959.

Not many movies are able to endure the test of time. Fashion, pop culture, and technology are constantly evolving and changing, making most movies feel like dated products of their time. However, every once in a while a movie comes along that is so well written, directed, and cast, that it transcends those limitations. I’m talking about movies like The Wizard of Oz (1939), Ghostbusters (1984), The Dark Knight (2008), and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). There are dozens of more examples and I’d love to hear from you what movies you think still hold up decades after they were released. These are just a few that come to mind but I’d be remiss not to mention one of my all time favourites, Some Like It Hot (1959). Which just last month, celebrated its 60th anniversary. 60 has never looked so good.

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Credit: / United Artists

Directed by filmmaking legend Billy Wilder, this iconic comedy follows two out of work musicians, Joe and Jerry, during The Great Depression. When they unintentionally become the key witnesses to a grisly murder, they’re forced to go on the run and end up disguising themselves as women in a traveling all-female jazz band. Hilarity and hijinks ensue as Joe and Jerry not only learn to walk a mile in women’s shoes, but keep an eye out for the mobsters on their tail.

I love this movie so damn much. There are countless reasons why it remains a timeless classic, but I think the most lovable thing about Some Like It Hot is its comedic use of drag. Which, in the late 50s, was still very taboo. Hell, this movie almost didn’t even get made because it HINTED at the IDEA of a homosexual relationship. Thankfully, the overwhelming success of this movie helped abolish the codes and rules that held the film industry back from being more open minded. In my review for Dumplin’ (2018) – which you can check out here – I talked about how any comedy can become instantly funnier by adding drag. Think about it: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), “Kinky Boots,” and like all of the Bugs Bunny cartoons. We have drag to thank for adding heart and humour to so many of our favourite movies, plays, and TV shows, and if it weren’t for Some Like It Hot, we might have never gotten them.

It’s not often that you get three legitimate Hollywood icons sharing the screen, but Some Like It Hot brings together the legendary Tony Curtis, the hilarious Jack Lemmon, and the incomparable Marilyn Monroe. These three are a trifecta of perfection. I mean, by itself the plot and script are comedy gold, but the movie is made all the funnier by the fact that it’s Curtis and Lemmon running around in stockings and heels. Whether they’re falling over things, getting lost in the fabricated backstories they weave for “Josephine” and “Daphne,” or comically pushing each other when one drops their girlish voice, I could watch them for hours. By the way, it wasn’t until this viewing that I realized that while Curtis’ impression is an over the top caricature, Lemmon’s is more of a high-pitched squawk. Maybe that’s on purpose? Either way, I’m not mad at it. That’s the power of Jack Lemmon. This movie really thrives on the charisma of its three stars and uses them to lampoon the societal norms for men and women in the 50s. God, if this movie were made today it’d be a shitty frat-boy comedy with a bunch of creepy sex jokes. Please Hollywood. Leave this one alone. Simply put, you cannot and should not remake Some Like It Hot.

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Credit: / United Artists

You can never remake this movie because there’s absolutely no one alive who could play the role of Sugar “Kane” Kowalcyzk like Marilyn Monroe. As soon as she appeared on screen, I was hypnotized. And it’s not just because she’s undeniably stunning. I honestly think that what people found so alluring about Marilyn was her magnetic personality, her fierce tenacity, and her authentic nature. She was always unapologetically herself. I love that that really came across in her movie roles, often playing brash, confident, fiery women who weren’t afraid to go against the grain and defy expectations. For that reason, coupled with her astounding comedic timing and charming disposition, the movie gives Marilyn ample opportunity to generate just as many laughs as her co-stars. Also, Sugar knows how to turn a hot water bottle into a cocktail shaker, use a drum cymbal to break up ice cubes, and have a secret party the band’s chaperones will never discover. I desperately want to party with Sugar.

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Credit: / United Artists

If you’ve never seen Some Like It Hot and happen to tune into the first 15 minutes, you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking it was a gangster movie. Murder, the mob, machine guns…it’s an intense 15 minutes. It’s necessary though because it establishes Spats Colombo, the mobster chasing Joe and Jerry, as someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. This grounds the movie with a sense of peril and that there are real stakes.

Then the tone shifts as Joe and Jerry become Josephine and Daphne, and my God is it sensational. Seriously, I found myself hardly taking any notes because I got swept up in the comedy of errors. Some Like It Hot is a movie that you really need to watch and listen to closely so that you’ll be able to catch all the sly jokes, inventive sight gags, and the surplus of shade. Oh my God, Jerry’s chilly rebuffs of Osgood Fielding III, a millionaire who becomes smitten with “Daphne,” are chock-full of sarcastic double entendres. I WAS LIVING! Their waltz? Everything.

Some Like It Hot is one of the most beloved comedies of all times and 60 years later, is still making audiences of all ages laugh. My parents and I were howling in the first five minutes. Even if black and white movies aren’t your thing, I encourage you to take a chance on Some Like It Hot. It’s brimming with romance, wit, charm, music, and men in wigs. What more could you possibly need?

Are you a fan of Some Like It Hot?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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