If there was ever a movie that could be an introduction to the sheer indescribable beauty and sexiness that was Marilyn Monroe, it’s “Some Like It Hot.” My first introduction to the movie was when I was a pre-teen in 1997, in the middle of a busy classroom on a free day. The teacher slipped the movie on for everyone to watch, and every one of my classmates had run off to chat or goof around, but I sat and watched “Some Like It Hot.” Suffice to say Billy Wilder’s romance comedy was a first real taste of classic film I’d ever had and it sparked an interest I never really got over.
Set in 1929 during the prohibition era, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play Jerry and Joe, two struggling musicians looking for a way to survive. When they accidentally bear witness to a mobster slaughtering his nemesis, the two go on the run and masquerade as female musicians. Now in drag, and going by Josephine and Daphne, they head to Florida with an all girl musical group. As they try to make money to leave the country and avoid the mafia, Jerry is courted by an eccentric millionaire named Osgood, all the while Joe goes incognito once again as an oil tycoon. Intent on wooing gorgeous group member Candy Kane, he gradually begins to fall in love with her, but things take a turn for the worse when the gangsters they’re evading show up at the country club they’re performing in.
Wilder’s comedy romance is carried beautifully by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, both of whom bring a ton of their individual charm and slapstick talent to the film. Lemmon, in particular, is hilarious as Joe, the somewhat uptight foil to Curtis’ more suave Jerry who sweet talks and schemes his way in to just about everything. His plans don’t always come through, but he never relents in thinking of something new or potentially dangerous. Curtis’ Jerry is such a suave character that he manages to persuade a mean secretary in to lending them her car for a gig. This prompts Joe to literally break the fourth wall and ponder on how he’s capable of pulling such tasks off. The pair breaks off in mid-way with Jerry romancing Monroe’s “Sugar Kane” as Joe is stuck in a rather hysterical sub-plot where his female counterpart Daphne is being romanced by a millionaire. Wilder cuts to a slew of laugh out loud moments, including the pair dancing to the tango, and Joe pondering on how no man ever treated him so nicely before.
As for Marilyn Monroe, “Some Like It Hot” is where she shines, and the moment she saunters on screen, the movie belongs to her, for the most part. Monroe is simply is vision that sill inspires some soft gasps every time she appears on screen as “Sugar Kane.” Whether it’s her first scene where she’s blasted with steam from a train, to her farewell to Jack Lemmon’s character as she pours in to her train bunk, Monroe steals the movie from the incredibly funny team of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. There is also her classic musical number “I Want to Be Loved By You” which would help encapsulate everything so alluring about the icon right down to her mischievous “Boop-boop-a-doop!” Wilder’s comedy does fall apart in the finale with the addition of the menacing gang members and some pretty disturbing violence, but thankfully it doesn’t ruin what came before it at all. “Some Like it Hot” is briskly paced, always funny, draws engaging characters, and—brother– is it tough to top that final scene.
Packed in to the new Criterion is the vintage trailer for “Some Like It Hot.” There’s also “Billy Wilder and Dick Cavett,” a wonderful hour long archival interview from 1982 for “The Dick Cavett Show” with director Billy Wilder, who discusses his time in Germany, the atmosphere of Berlin, his time in America, his career, the stars he worked with, the directors he admired, as well the production history of “Some Like It Hot.” As well he discusses some of the challenges of working with Marilyn Monroe. “Marilyn Monroe” is a nine minute rare audio interview conducted by Dave Garroway in 1955 with the icon who talks about her desire to be remembered as a great actress; she also discusses her worldwide image as a sex symbol, the unforgiving nature of the film business, and her love for Brooklyn.
“Jack Lemmon” is a 1988 archival episode of the French television program “Cinema cinemas” where Lemmon recalls how he became involved with the movie, his work with Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, and director Billy Wilder. “Tony Curtis and Leonard Maltin” is a filmed conversation with Tony Curtis and film critic Leonard Maltin, which garners a ton of great information about the film’s production, and its success. The conversation was filmed in 2001, and garners yellow French subtitles. Filmed exclusively for Criterion in 2018, “Costumes by Orry-Kelly” is a new program with costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis, and costume historian and archivist Larry McQueen, both of whom discuss the work of Orry-Kelly, and his contribution to Wilder’s film.
There are also a trio of “Behind the Scenes” segments that examine the production history, and the film’s lasting appeal. There are interviews with director Billy Wilder, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Barbara Diamond, Walter Mirisch, and Curtis Hanson, respectively. The programs add up to an hour in length. Finally, there’s an archival audio commentary with film scholar Howard Suber. It was recorded in 1989 and was originally featured on the LD release of “Some Like It Hot.” The Blu-Ray case features an illustrated leaflet with an essay by author Sam Wasson, as well as technical credits.