Christmas has come and gone and the new year is well under way. To ring it in, this month will be devoted to another leading lady, a titan of the silver screen. Today it’s a trip back 1959. This was a year that saw a lot of big happenings, including the founding of Motown Records by Berry Gordy, Jr. and The Marx Brothers retiring after appearing in The Incredible Jewelry Robbery. And in March of 1959, Marilyn Monroe appeared onscreen alongside Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in the smash romantic comedy Some Like It Hot.
Under the directorial hand of Billy Wilder, this delightful movie is both a barrel of laughs and a few other things. Having previously worked with Marilyn on The Seven Year Itch in 1955, having the two of them returning together is nothing short of a treat. Knowing that the two of them reunited for another movie masterpiece makes watching it all the more enjoyable.
Marilyn is wonderful in this picture. Her character of Sugar Kane/Kowalczyk is an absolute delight to watch onscreen. Not just because of her classic breathy style of speaking, but because she gets some killer songs throughout the production. Listening to Marilyn sing is always one of the hallmarks of any movie she is in, not mention the fact that Sugar may seem simple to the casual observer, but is in fact a complex character. A singer/ukulele player for Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee) and her band “Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators,” Sugar is a talented performer who has had a run of bad luck in the past with male bands and saxophone players. Little does she realize that not only is she in for adventure when the band goes down to Florida, but she will finally find love along the way. And this plot is helped along thanks to her co-stars, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon cut quite a pair on-camera. Playing struggling musicians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they flee to Florida disguised as ladies. While they exchange the chaos of Prohibition Chicago for sunnier climates, trouble follows them like storm clouds. Not only is there the constant fear of being found out, but they both harbor feelings for Sugar. Plus the trouble that started in Chicago follows them to the Sunshine State. And all the while, there’s hot jazz music playing and Marilyn killing it with her musical numbers.
Any movie starring Marilyn Monroe means that there is almost certainly great songs. And Some Like It Hot is no exception to this. Two real killer songs are the number “Runnin’ Wild, Lost Control” and “I Wanna Be Loved By You.” Both of these songs are accompanied by top quality music played by the in-film group and allow Marilyn to utilize a range of vocal styles.
“Runnin’ Wild, Lost Control” is a hot and swinging jazz piece. The tune is fast, and as such Marilyn’s singing is fast too. Not hurried, but upbeat and lively.
“I Wanna Be Loved By You” is a slower, almost sultry song. Marilyn really hits those low notes utilizing her classic breathy vocalization to the extreme.
Another thing that makes this movie so great is Billy Wilder’s huge homage to mobsters, and one particular real-world mobster moment.
The main reason for Tony and Jack’s characters suiting up in dresses is this: while stopping off at a garage on Clark Street in Chicago, they bear witness to a mob hit. And not just any mob hit, but a thinly-veiled fictional version of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. While Al Capone may not be featured as the big boss, his stand-in “Spats” Colombo (George Raft) is equally as menacing on-camera. To make matters worse, Spats and his crew come to down to Florida for a huge meeting of various gangs, and the tables are turned on Spats. It just goes to show, that a movie can a have a light comedic air and still have serious elements.
January is proving to be a cold start to the new year. But that doesn’t mean it is all bad. Cold weather provides a perfect excuse to stay indoors, curl up with loved ones, and enjoy movies. So make this month a time to re-watch favorites both old and new. And especially make a point to watch Some Like It Hot, it’s a Marilyn Monroe classic that should not be missed. It’s non-stop smiles, great music and singing, with Marilyn really owning the camera and proving that she deserves her well-earned place in the Hollywood heavens.