Nobody's perfect--except Billy Wilder in top form. One of the most well-loved of Hollywood comedies, Wilder's masterly spoof of gangster films and gender roles revels in invention and effervescent high camp. It's February, 1929, and Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are two unemployed musicians desperate for work. The pair accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, watching mobster Spats Columbo (George Raft) and his henchmen wipe out Toothpick Charlie (George E. Stone) and his gang. Forced to leave town in a hurry, Joe and Jerry take the first job they can get: playing in Sweet Sue's all-girl band. Dressing up as women, the two join the rest of the band on their train ride to Florida. Both Joe, who adopts Josephine as his nom de drag, and Jerry, who becomes Daphne, are thrown for a loop when they meet Sweet Sue's lead singer, the pneumatic Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe)--"jello on springs," says Jerry.
SOME LIKE IT HOT expands a one-joke premise with hysterical results, due in no small part to the contributions of the near-perfect ensemble, with each of the major characters shining like a perfect jewel. Lemmon and Curtis are marvelous as the men-turned-women, creating believable characters and generally eschewing the lower forms of camp. Monroe is at her best, delightfully spoofing her dizzy blonde image. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's witty script is full of clever twists, throwing in unexpected turns at a frantic pace. The script was written with Lemmon in mind, but at one point Frank Sinatra was considered as a possible replacement. Fortunately, this alternative casting fell through when Monroe expressed interest in doing the film. Although Monroe's presence was welcomed, both cast and crew learned to regret it as she lived up to her reputation as a "difficult" performer, consistently showing up late, forgetting her lines, and spending endless time in her dressing room. Wilder took to writing her lines on furniture in the hope that it would help the legendary actress to get through her scenes, but even this drastic effort failed. What's more, the other actors resented Monroe's antics, and Curtis compared kissing her to kissing Hitler. Nevertheless, Monroe still demonstrates her marvelous comic touch and sings three songs: "I Wanna Be Loved By You," "Running Wild," and "I'm Through with Love."
Ironically, Monroe's constant absences led to the creation of the film's classic exit line. Knowing Monroe's unreliability, Wilder took to shooting around her. It was decided that the film would end on a closeup of Lemmon and Joe E. Brown, as Daphne/Jerry explains to the lovesick Osgood E. Fielding III why s/he can't marry him. "We wrote it the night before we had to shoot it," Diamond explained in an interview, "and I mentioned a line I'd considered using at some earlier point.... Billy said, `Do you think it's strong enough for the tag of the picture?' And I said, `I don't know.' But it was getting to be eleven o'clock at night, so we wrote it that way, and he said, `Well, maybe we'll think of something better on the set.' Fortunately, we didn't think of anything better on the set."
Monroe, unpopular on the set, wasn't invited to the wrap party. But she may have had the last laugh since she received 10 percent of the film's gross; the film made over $8 million in its initial release and would make several million more over the next few years. Said Wilder after the difficult shoot: "You have to be orderly to shoot disorder; this was the best disorder we ever had."
Academy Award: Best Costume Design (B/W) - Orry-Kelly
Academy Award Nomination: Best Actor - Jack Lemmon
Academy Award Nomination: Best Director - Billy Wilder
Academy Award Nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay - Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Academy Award Nomination: Best B/W Cinematography - Charles Lang Jr.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (B/W) - Ted Haworth Edward G. Goyle