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Film: Some Like It Hot

"Well, nobody's perfect."

Some Like It Hot is a 1959 comedy film directed by Billy Wilder.

The year is 1929 or thereabouts. Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are Chicago jazz musicians who become witnesses to the Valentine's Day Massacre. Unfortunately, being known to be a witness to a massacre is something the mob will kill people over, and Joe and Gerald have been spotted, so they need to get out of Chicago fast.

It so happens that an all-girl band which is leaving town has openings for a bass player and a tenor saxophonist. This does mean that Joe and Jerry will have to pretend to be women, but they consider this better than dying. They introduce themselves as Josephine and Daphne (Jerry prefers that to Geraldine).

The lead singer of the band is called Sugar, and she is beautiful (Marilyn Monroe!). She has a weakness for tenor saxophonists, which is why her current band is girls only (she thinks). She is attractive to the men, and they both have to remember that they're supposed to be girls.

The train ends up in Miami, where the band has a gig in a hotel. Sugar expresses the desire to be romanced by a millionaire, and Joe decides to take up another ID as a (male) millionaire to court her. Meanwhile, real millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) is courting Daphne, and Daphne is starting to like it for more than the presents... which is unfortunate, since he's still a guy biologically.

The coup de grāce is when Joe and Jerry/Daphne eventually learn that the hotel is booked for a friends of Italian opera convention...

Some Like It Hot was named the funniest movie of the 20th century on the American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Laughs" list. It also broke their "100 Years...100 Films" list (#14 in 1998, #21 in 2007).

This film provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: The young bellhop to "Josephine" and Osgood to "Daphne"...at first.
  • Aborted Arc: At the beginning of the train trip, Sweet Sue tells Beinstock that she thinks there's "something funny about those new girls" and he tells her he'll keep an eye on them. Nothing further ever comes of this.
  • Affectionate Parody: What is the last (realistic) thing you'd expect in a gangster flick? Men in drag, of course.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Or at least Sugar does. She tells "Josephine" that she always ends up with saxophone players who treat her like crap.
  • Anything That Moves: Osgood, apparently. He's had multiple marriages, won't take no for an answer from "Daphne", and doesn't even seem to mind that she's really a man.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Sugar: I don't care how rich he is, as long as he has a yacht, his own private railroad car, and his own toothpaste.
  • Becoming the Mask: Jerry/Daphne, or at least it seems that way at one point.
  • Bigger Bad: Little Bonaparte.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Sugar (blonde), "Josephine" (brunette), and "Daphne", who the production shots show to be redhead.
  • Break Up Make Up Scenario: When Joe is forced to leave Sugar by the phone, she is so heartbroken she gives up on love. He eventually reveals her the truth... by giving her a "lesbian" kiss.
  • Butt Monkey: Jerry
  • California Doubling: For Florida.
  • The Chanteuse: Sugar.
  • Chase Scene
  • Chekhov's Gun: The emergency brake.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Joe learns that Osgood proposed to Jerry (as Daphne):
    Joe: What are you talking about? You can't marry Osgood.
    Jerry: Why, you think he's too old for me?
  • Cool Boat: Osgood's yacht is pretty snazzy.
  • Different for Girls: Lampshaded as Jerry tries to figure out how to walk in heels, just as Sugar walks by them with a... memorable demonstration. Many years later, a movie reviewer asked Tony Curtis why his "Josephine" was so much more feminine than Jack Lemmon's "Daphne". A laughing Curtis explained that he was so scared to be playing a woman (or a man pretending to be one) that his tightly wound body language could be read as demure and shy, traditionally feminine traits, whereas Lemmon, who was completely unbothered, and "ran out of his dressing room screaming like the Queen of the May," kept much more of his masculine body language.
  • Dirty Old Man: Osgood. Jerry even names him as such at one point.
  • Disguised in Drag
    Sweet Sue: Are you two from the Poliakoff Agency?
    "Josephine": Yes, we're the new girls.
    "Daphne": Brand new!
  • Famous Last Words: "Big joke." Spats, after being machine-gunned.
  • Fanservice: Just about every scene with Sugar.
  • Feet-First Introduction: When Spats walks into the scene, the first things we see are his trademark spats.
  • Gainaxing
    • The scene where Sugar climbs into bed to rub 'Daphne's' feet in a skimpy nightie. No bra.
    • Also, Sugar 'shakes' rather vigorously during and after 'Running Wild'.
  • Gender-Bender Friendship: Daphne and Josephine get pretty friendly with Sugar and the rest of the band.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: It's a movie about two guys joining an all-girls jazz band by dressing in drag. Enough said.
  • Gold Digger: Sugar wants to marry a millionaire. "Daphne" turns into this as well.
  • He Knows Too Much
  • Hello, Nurse!: Guess.
  • Henpecked Subordinate: Beinstock to Sweet Sue.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Joe and Jerry.
  • Hilarity Ensues
  • Historical In-Joke: Joe makes a flurry of them:
    "Jerry, boy, why do you have to paint everything so black? Suppose you got hit by a truck? Suppose the stock market crashes? Suppose Mary Pickford divorces Douglas Fairbanks? Suppose the Dodgers leave Brooklyn? Suppose Lake Michigan overflows?"
  • Hollywood Darkness: The scenes when Sugar is running out to meet Joe after the concert are full of shadows and a bright sky...at one o'clock in the morning.
    • In fairness, there was a full moon.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: So very much, particularly for 1959. At one point Jerry-as-Daphne seems to be developing genuine romantic feelings for Osgood, much to Joe's consternation (and we later find out that Osgood is completely unfazed by Jerry's real gender). Also, Sugar doesn't seem to initially mind getting a full-on kiss from Josephine. On a side note, Joe and Jerry are Heterosexual Life-Partners, Joe is very insistent that they do everything together and that what's Jerry's is his and while Jerry vocally objects, he goes along with it anyway.
    • Though the last case may be more akin to them being like brothers, with Jerry being the little brother who gets bullied into doing things he doesn't want to.
  • Hurricane of Excuses: The last lines of the movie.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
    Sweet Sue: Here we are, all packed, ready to leave for Miami, and what happens? The saxophone runs off with a Bible salesman, and the bass fiddle gets herself pregnant! Beinstock, I ought to fire you!
    Beinstock: Me? I'm the manager of the band, not the night watchman.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Apparently, the Mafia can only hit targets that stand still. Some Truth in Television to that, as the Saint Valentine's Day massacre was a case of More Dakka, and one victim still lived long enough to tell the police to fuck off.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: "Well, nobody's perfect."
  • Impossibly-Low Neckline: Sugar's stage dresses. There's some transparent material holding it up to keep her from being Nipple and Dimed, but the opaque material only covers a minimal amount.
  • Ironic Echo: When Jerry (Daphne) and Joe (Josephine) first get on the train and see all the other women, Jerry starts salivating over the prospect, and Joe has to tell him to keep telling himself, "I'm a girl." Later, after "Daphne" has accepted Osgood's proposal of marriage, Joe has to tell him again to keep telling himself, "I'm a boy."
    "I'm a girl. I'm a girl. I wish I was dead. I'm a girl."
  • It Will Never Catch On: "Suppose the stock market crashes. Suppose Mary Pickford divorces Douglas Fairbanks. Suppose the Dodgers leave Brooklyn!"
    • Jerry's reaction to Joe's millionaire voice ("And where did you get that phony accent from? Nobody talks like that!"). It's actually Tony Curtis doing a Cary Grant impression.
  • Jerk Ass: Joe has his moments.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: However, he does feel genuine remorse for breaking Sugar's heart near the end. He also tells her that she deserves someone better than him.
  • Jumping Out of a Cake: A gunman hides in a cake near the climax and mows down the Big Bad and his gang as retribution for the garage massacre witnessed by Joe and Jerry.
  • Larynx Dissonance
  • Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The Friends of Italian Opera.
  • The Mafia
  • Man Child: Osgood.
  • Meaningful Echo: "You too, Spats. UP!"
    • "Toothpick Charlie? Never heard of him!"
  • Meganekko: Sugar believes that men who wear glasses are more gentle and vulnerable. Joe takes full advantage of this by dressing up as a bespectacled millionaire, though he behaves more like a Stoic Spectacles.
  • Misplaced-Names Poster: Some home video covers show Marilyn Monroe's name above Josephine, and Tony Curtis' name above Sugar. Jack Lemmon's name always seems to end up in the correct place (above Daphne).
  • Momma's Boy: Osgood's mother gets the last word in who her son's allowed to marry. Considering his age, it's a wonder she's even still alive.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Sugar. It's Marilyn Monroe, the original Sex Goddess, at her finest.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Sugar isn't quite as dumb as she acts; neither is Osgood.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Spoofed, due to the twists already happening in the plot, like Disguised in Drag.
  • Orphaned Punchline: "So the one-legged jockey says, 'Don't worry about me, baby, I ride sidesaddle!!' ", although the very beginning of the joke is told a few scenes before, when Josephine and Daphne are introduced to the band.
  • Pretty in Mink: Aside from the flapper era coats, Sugar wears a fox wrap for her date.
  • Punny Name: Sugar Kane.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: Joe flip flops between being Joe, Josephine and Junior so many times, it's a wonder he doesn't have split personalities by the end of the movie.
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • Running Gag: Blood type O.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The musical Sugar, which opened on Broadway in 1972, and closed the following year.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Daphne tries to talk Osgood out of his marriage proposal.
  • Serial Spouse: Osgood.
    Osgood: I've been married seven or eight times.
    "Daphne": You're not sure?
    Osgood: Mama is keeping score.
  • Sexophone: Sugar's first appearance is accompanied by a sax solo. The character also has a thing for sax players.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Sugar's gown for "I Wanna Be Loved By You".
  • Sexy Walk: Sugar. As Jerry comments: "Look how she moves. That's just like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motors."
  • Shout-Out: Joe's millionaire persona is an overt Cary Grant imitation; Curtis was a great admirer of Grant's work, and the two would appear together in Operation Petticoat later that same year.
    • Several to classic gangster movies:
      • At one point "Spats", played by George Raft, asks a mook who is playing with a coin "Where'd you pick up that cheap trick?". Raft had created the iconic image of the coin-flipping crook; he played one in Scarface and in If I Had A Million, both made in 1932.
      • Later "Spats" threatens another mook with a halved grapefruit, a Shout-Out to a famous scene in The Public Enemy (1931), where James Cagney mashes a grapefruit in Mae Clarke's face.
      • The leading mafia boss is nicknamed "Little Bonaparte", a nod to Edward G. Robinson's character from the gangster film Little Caesar (1931).
  • Shrug Take: the final scene.
  • Stage Name: Sugar Kane used to be Sugar Kowalczyk.
  • The Stateroom Sketch: The party in "Daphne"'s sleeping berth on the train.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Roughly half the dialogue:
    • "If I were a girl...and I am..."
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Inverted in a hilarious manner.
  • Title Drop: Used when Joe, as his millionaire persona, discusses jazz music with Sugar.
  • Twist Ending: Which is probably It Was His Sled. If not, this entry has given away too much
  • Unusual Euphemism: You didn't think the mafia convention called itself a mafia convention?
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: While Jerry is a bumbling but well-meaning character, Joe comes across as a total sleazebag who is not above lying, theft and even cruelty to children just to get into Sugar's pants.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Very loosely based on the Valentine's Day Massacre... very.
  • Villainous Fashion Sense: Chicago mob boss Spats is so nicknamed because he always wears them.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: Joe seduces Sugar Kane by pretending to be a millionaire with a yacht anchored offshore. Fortunately Osgood, a real millionaire, is in love with Daphne (really Joe's friend Jerry Disguised in Drag), so while he takes Daphne for a night on the town, Joe sneaks Sugar into Osborne's yacht and pretends it's his.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser


The Seventh SealDanny Peary Cult Movies ListSullivans Travels
Since You Went AwayCreator/United ArtistsSparrows
The Seven Year ItchScrewball ComedyOne, Two, Three
Singin' in the RainThe Roaring TwentiesSunset
VertigoNational Film RegistryDr. Strangelove
The Bridge on the River KwaiAFI's 100 Years... 100 MoviesA New Hope
Sleeping BeautyFilms of the 1950sSterne
Landfill Beyond the StarsImageSource/Live-Action FilmsDisguised in Drag
Solaris (1972)Roger Ebert Great Movies ListSouls For Sale
Solaris (1972)Creator/The Criterion CollectionSpartacus

alternative title(s): Some Like It Hot
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