"Some Like It Hot" may not seem like the Number One comedy of all time to some people. It may be because it doesn't give them the "die-laughing" sort of jokes and the type of humor that they may be used to today. But when speaking of comedies in general, there are likely very few that are better than this one is in so many different aspects.
What makes “Some Like it Hot” a brilliant stand-out from many other comedies is its creative writing. It has a plot that has stood the test of time, great direction by Billy Wilder, and brilliant acting by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. It also included Marilyn Monroe, the greatest star of their era. Though she may have not been an overly talented actor, she certainly fit her part in this film as Sugar. These things are no doubt what has made many film critics dub this movie the Number One comedy of all time, as the American Film Institute did in 2001.
Here is a story that holds up over time: two guys dressing up as women will always provoke humor! Just watching Curtis and Lemmon (Joe and Jerry) in their emulations of female characters is enough to crack a few chuckles. It really isn’t possible to not get quite a few laughs, giggles, or chuckles out of this film, because there is a bit of humor for each and every taste.
The film’s humor for the most part is intelligent and witty. It doesn’t have a lot of the slapstick (physical) humor that many folks today are accustomed to, and some of the jokes require a little bit more brain usage than other comedy films. Most of the film is littered with playful, light humor, especially one bit about the Shell gas stations (which has passed the test of time).
“Some Like it Hot" is full of unpredictable situations. There’s the banquet where the other mobsters murder Colombo and his men, allowing Joe and Jerry’s escape. The ending is an absolute classic, when Jerry confesses to Osgood Fielding quite animatedly of his manhood. Osgood’s reply: “Nobody’s perfect!”
What makes this film work so well is the fine chemistry between the actors, especially Curtis and Lemmon. They work very well together as a comedy duo, mostly because Joe/Josephine is a more serious and practical character than Jerry/Daphne who goes out of his/her way to be as un-serious as possible. These contrasts make for a classic hero and sidekick pair that is an integral part of good comedy.
Joe is the smart fellow, who devises the plans, and Tony Curtis does a good job with the voices and a certainly fine job on the accent of his millionaire persona, Junior. Jack Lemmon’s Jerry scoffs at Joe’s plans, but as it goes with sidekicks, he reluctantly goes along with Joe’s conceptions and makes the best of the often detrimental, but amusing situations he’s put through. It is comical in itself that Joe gets Sugar, and that Jerry is stuck with Fielding. This film is a prime example of the classic hero and his sidekick.
Many of the characters in “Some Like it Hot” are archetypes that have long been part of classic narrative. Joe, played by Tony Curtis, is the archetype of a ladies’ man, what we would call today as the “player.” Jerry, played by Jack Lemmon, is his faithful sidekick. Marilyn Monroe's Sugar is the archetype of the innocent, naïve girl, from Kansas no less - what we would today call a “dumb blonde.” Spats Colombo is your classic mobster boss, surrounded by dumb fools, just like the archetypical Chicago mobsters.
Because the parts were so well-acted in a very well written story, audiences will be able to associate with these characters for a long time. They aren’t simply caricatures of people in that day, and it’s possible to relate so well to the characters, because the role that each one of them plays is well-known to us through all of the narratives that we have ever experienced. A perfect example of one of these roles is Marilyn Monroe’s. It is said earlier in this review that she fit her part so well, and it would seem to me that the part was written for her; although she was indeed the third or fourth choice for the part, it doesn’t seem that way. Marilyn Monroe personifies in this film what we are very familiar with: the cliche “dumb blonde.” The part was written so well by Billy Wilder that she slipped right into it without having to be any thing she wasn’t. We seem to have a great amount of this “dumb blonde” archetype in today’s films, and not enough great duos like Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis are to back them up.
There are many sorts of comedies, some of which are clearly made only for laughs, others which actually have some sort of narrative with a sort of point, and others that are good films that just cannot be serious. “Some Like it Hot” is a comedy that has laughs, a narrative with cleverly hidden social commentary (Osgood Fielding’s treatment of women, for example), fine acting, directing, and writing. There are very few films that can match everything done here in this masterpiece of a film. “Some Like it Hot” is a film to watch again; it’s one of those comedies that you’ll want to watch dozens of times, and even then it probably won’t get old. Best of all, years from now, this comedy will still be funny, because it’s a film about human nature. Human nature, and the archetypes of classic narrative which this film is based on, will never grow old.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like it Hot")