Some Like It Hot is a 1959 comedy film directed by Billy Wilder, who also wrote the screenplay along with frequent collaborator I. A. L. Diamond.
Chicago, 1929: Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) are down-on-their-luck jazz musicians who become accidental witnesses to a shooting similar to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, perpetrated by mob boss "Spats" Columbo (George Raft). Unfortunately, being witnesses to a massacre is something the mob will kill people over, and Joe and Jerry have been spotted, so they need to get out of Chicago fast.
It so happens that an all-girl band, which is leaving town by train, 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. Donning makeup, wigs, and dresses, they introduce themselves as Josephine and Daphne (Jerry prefers that to Geraldine).
The lead singer of the band is called Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), and she is gorgeous. She also has a weakness for tenor saxophonists, which is why her current band is girls only (she thinks). Sugar takes the new "girls" into her confidence, and Joe and Jerry both need reminding that they're incognito and not looking for trouble.
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 Jerry is starting to like it for more than the presents... which is unfortunate, since he's still a guy biologically. The coup de grâce comes when Joe and Jerry learn that the hotel is booked for a friends of Italian opera convention... attended by "Spats" Colombo and his gang, the very mobsters they fled Chicago to escape.
Adapted as a stage musical, Sugar, in 1972, written by librettist Peter Stone and songwriters Julie Styne and Bob Merrill. This was revived 20 years later as Some Like It Hot: The Musical, with Tony Curtis (this time playing Osgood) headlining the cast. Another musical adaptation premiered on Broadway in 2022, written by librettists Amber Ruffin and Matthew Lopez and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
Character tropes go on to the Characters Sheet.
This film provides examples of:
- A-Cup Angst: Played with; as per the 1920s setting, Sugar says that she's jealous of "Daphne" for being so flat-chested because clothes hang better on her. She means it as a compliment, but the bemused look on Jerry's face suggests he's a little insulted on Daphne's behalf.
- 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. Possibly a subtle set-up for when Joe steals Beinstock's glasses to use as part of his "millionaire" persona.
- Actor Allusion: George Raft passes a young hood who is flipping a coin in his hand and he asked him where he learned a "cheap trick" like that. That trick was one that Raft used in Scarface (1932).
- 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.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Sugar has some high demands in her potential partners... and then a mundane and rather odd one.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.
- 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.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Sugar tells Josephine and Daphne that if she gets caught drinking, she'll be thrown off the train. All of the girls drink but she is the only one who gets punished for drinking.Sugar: All the girls drink. It's just I'm the one who gets caught. Story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
- Celebration Miscalculation: Spats starts to become suspicious when the Friends of Italian Opera throw him a birthday party four months before his actual birthday. For good reason, as there's a gunman hiding in the cake.
- Chase Scene: Two chase scenes unfold at the hotel.
- Chekhov's Gun: The row of bullet holes in Jerry's double bass allows Spats to confirm that he's found the two musicians who witnessed the shootout in Chicago.
- Coffin Contraband: In the opening bootleggers dressed as undertakers are driving a hearse containing a coffin filled with bottles of bootleg booze.
- 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? [...] Look, I know there's a problem, Joe.
Joe: I'll say there is.
Jerry: His mother - we need her approval, but I'm not worried because I don't smoke.
Joe: Jerry. There's another problem, like what are you gonna do on your honeymoon?
Jerry: We've been discussing that. He wants to go to the Riviera but I'm kinda leaning toward Niagara Falls.
- Contrived Coincidence: Spats, a Chicago-based mobster, has to attend a meeting in Miami at the same hotel Joe and Jerry hide out from him and his mooks.
- Cool Boat: Osgood's yacht is pretty snazzy. His speedboat is no slouch either. Something like that from the late-1920s would have been powered by a liquid-cooled V-12 aircraft engine.
- Dance of Romance: Jerry/Daphne goes from hating Osgood, to wanting to marry him, after they enjoy a night-long tango together.
- Deadly Euphemism: After Spats and his men are killed by a gunman hiding in a giant cake, Little Bonaparte tells the police that "something in the cake didn't agree with them".
- Delayed Reaction: Performed twice by Jerry-as-Daphne.
- At the beach when he glances at Joe in his millionaire costume, he walks away only to stop in his tracks and return to have a closer look.
- When he stashes away Osgood's wristband case, he stops after a second and reopens it to notice that the wristband is gone.
- 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.
- Disguised in Drag: This is the main element of the comedy of the film.Sweet Sue: Are you two from the Poliakoff Agency?
"Josephine": Yes, we're the new girls.
"Daphne": Brand new!
- Distracted by the Sexy: When the band is rehearsing, Jerry gets so distracted watching Sugar shake her hips as she sings that it takes him a while to notice that he accidentally spun his bass around 180 degrees and has spent the last several bars enthusiastically playing on the bare wooden back.
- Double Entendre: Jerry/"Daphne" and Joe/"Josephine" after meeting the band and talking with Sugar on the train.Jerry: (about the women) How about that talent, huh? Like falling into a tub of butter.Joe: Watch it, Daphne.Jerry: When I was a kid, Joe, I used to have a dream. I was locked up overnight in a pastry shop and there was goodies all around. There was jellyrolls and mocha eclairs and sponge cake, and Boston creme pie and cherry tarts—Joe: Don't. Listen to me. No butter, no pastry. We're on a diet!Jerry: Boy, would I love to borrow a cup of that Sugar!Jerry: No pastry, no butter and no sugar!
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Joe and Jerry are arguing about being disguised as women.Jerry: I'm telling you, it's a whole different sex!Joe: What are you afraid of? Nobody's asking you to have a baby!
- Double-Meaning Title: Though the title obviously refers to the sexual tension between Sugar and the two male leads, the phrase "some like it hot" also comes up in dialogue about musical taste.
- Everyone Has Standards: In a bit of a Skewed Priorities kind of way. Osgood takes every other bombshell "Daphne" drops on him (including the not-so-Unsettling Gender-Reveal) in stride, but when "she" mentions she's been living with a saxophone player, he's clearly swallowing his pride.
- Fanservice: Just about every scene with Sugar, but her final singing number will raise anyone's temperature.
- Feet-First Introduction: When Spats walks into the scene, the first things we see are his trademark spats on his shoes.
- Foot Popping: Joe does this in a rare male example, lifting one leg up as Sugar kisses him aboard the yacht.
- Flung Clothing: When Joe does a rapid change from Josephine to Junior, Josephine's clothes come flying out of the bathroom door seconds before he emerges dressed as Junior.
- Freudian Slip: When Jerry/"Daphne" pulls the emergency brake, Joe/"Josephine" and Daphne crash together causing him to say "search me!" before correcting himself.
- Gender-Bender Friendship: Daphne and Josephine get pretty friendly with Sugar and the rest of the band.
- Gender-Concealing Voice: In order to escape the mobsters after them as part of an all-girls jazz band, Joe and Jerry pitch their voices up while in disguise as Josephine and Daphne.
- Gilligan Cut: Joe promises Jerry that investing their overcoats with Sam the bookie to bet on a greyhound is a sure thing, and since it pays 10 to 1, they'll have twenty coats after the race. Cue them staggering down the street to the unemployment offices in freezing wind.
- The Glasses Come Off: Justified. Joe has to take his glasses off when he is with Sugar on the yacht as they start to fog up.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Joe's line "Something tells me the omelette is about to hit the fan."
- Greater-Scope Villain: Little Bonaparte, whom Spats answers to.
- Had the Silly Thing in Reverse: Joe is unfamiliar Osgood's motorboat, and can only make it go in reverse.
- Heel Realization: Joe has one after hearing Sugar sing "I'm Through With Love".
- He Knows Too Much: Joe and Jerry are on the run from Spats and his mooks because they witnessed how the mobsters murdered Toothpick Charlie and his gang.
- 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.Osgood: I called Mama. She was so happy she cried! She wants you to have her wedding gown — it's white lace.
"Daphne": Yeah, Osgood... I can't get married in your mother's dress. [forced laugh] That... she and I, we're not built the same way.
Osgood: We can have it altered.
"Daphne": Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you, we can't get married at all.
Osgood: Why not?
"Daphne": [gestures to "her" hair] Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.
Osgood: Doesn't matter.
"Daphne": I smoke — I smoke all the time!
Osgood: I don't care.
"Daphne": [glances back at Joe] Well, I have a terrible past! For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player!
Osgood: [looking only momentarily distraught] ...I forgive you.
"Daphne": [melodramatically] I can never have children!
Osgood: We can adopt some.
"Daphne"/Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! Ohh... [pulls off his wig and speaks in his normal, masculine voice] I'M A MAN!
Osgood: [completely unperturbed and still very much in love] Well, nobody's perfect. [Jerry is flabbergasted]
- Hypocritical Humor: Lots of it. One of Joe's first (if not the first) lines is him chastising Jerry for spending his very paycheck from the speakeasy on a dental treatment, when they'd only been able to make the month's rent by borrowing it from the dancers. Clearly it would be much more sensible and less selfish to bet it on a dog race.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: The band manager can't do everything.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: Osgood shrugs off the reveal of Daphne/Jerry's real gender with "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.
- Incompatible Orientation: Osgood with "Daphne"/Jerry... Or is it?
- Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Towards the end, the bellhop enters the room when the scene calls for his Abhorrent Admirer character:Sugar: Well, Daphne has a beau, I have a beau... if we could only find somebody for you [Josephine].
[cue the door springing open]
Bellhop: Here I am, doll.
- In Love with Love: Osgood's world-view, which is why he falls hard for "Daphne" even AFTER The Reveal.
- 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."Joe: I'm a girl. I'm a girl. I wish I was dead. I'm a girl.
- Ironic Nickname: Despite Sweet Sue having the word, "sweet" in her Stage Name, she expresses a pretty bad temper when someone from the band breaks one of her rules.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- Joe makes a flurry of Historical In Jokes at the beginning, dismissing Jerry as an alarmist with hypotheticals that'll never happen:Joe: Look at the odds, he's ten-to-one! Tomorrow we'll pay everybody!
Jerry: Suppose he loses?!
Joe: What're you worried about? This job is going to last a long time!note
Jerry: Suppose it doesn't?
Joe: ...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?note
- 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 impersonating Cary Grant, who would of course become one of Hollywood's biggest stars a decade after the film's 1929 setting.
- Joe makes a flurry of Historical In Jokes at the beginning, dismissing Jerry as an alarmist with hypotheticals that'll never happen:
- Jerkass Has a Point: Joe wants to keep up their guise as women after they get to Florida despite promising Jerry otherwise earlier. He justifies this by pointing out out that the Mafia can easily find them in a male band.
- 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: Jack Lemmon had a fairly high voice already, and was able to do a decent tongue-in-cheek female voice while not having to adjust his natural voice very much. Tony Curtis on the other hand had to rely on a professional voice actor (Paul Frees) to dub his female voice.
- Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club: The Friends of Italian Opera, a front for the Cosa Nostra.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Joe as "Junior" claims that he has been unable to perform since his wife's death. This is a ploy to seduce Sugar who subsequently tries to "cure" him.
- The Mafia: The antagonists of the film. Joe and Jerry's witnessing of a gang shooting (similar to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre) is what forces them to dress as women and hop on a train to Florida.
- Male Gaze: The camera focuses on Sugar's behind as she walks by Joe/"Josephine" and Jerry/"Daphne" to the train.Daphne: Look at that! Look how she moves. That's just like Jell-O on springs. She must have some sort of built-in motors.
- Meaningful Echo:
- "You too, Spats. UP!"
- "Toothpick Charlie? Never heard of him!"
- Milholland Relationship Moment: In the final scene, when Jerry reveals his flaws and true sex to Osgood and latter doesn't seem to care.
- 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).
- Mistaken for Gay: Sweet Sue witnesses what appears to be a lesbian kiss between "Josephine" and Sugar.
- Mood Whiplash: At the beginning of the film an undercover cop arrives at a "mortuary", complete with somber organ music. After he says the password, a door opens to reveal...a hidden speakeasy with jumping music and a party in full swing!
- More Experienced Chases the Innocent: Feigned. Joe, in the guise of a millionaire, insists that he never felt any romantic or sexual desires after the death of his Lost Lenore, and Sugar, feeling herself as the more experienced one, decides to cure him with her kisses. In truth, however, Joe is as experienced as her.
- Mugged for Disguise: At the hotel when Joe and Jerry need a disguise, they follow a man in his wheelchair and his assistant into a room and emerge quickly afterward in their clothes and vehicle.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Joe's millionaire persona is a Cary Grant impression.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Inverted. A bellhop attempts to hit on Joe (as "Josephine") and he tells him off and the bellhop replied he likes large women with attitude.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: "Little Bonaparte", with his bald head, scowl, and histrionic hand gestures, resembles Benito Mussolini, complete with a couple of Hitler Cam shots that make the banquet table before him look like a balcony.
- No Sparks: Joe pretends that all his previous dates didn't elicit any feelings in him. It makes Sugar try even harder in her pursuit to sway his opinion on her.
- Non-Nude Bathing: After Sugar first meets Joe on the beach in his disguise as 'Junior', Jerry (as Daphne) rushes Sugar back to the hotel, hoping to expose 'Josephine' and 'Junior' as the same person. However, they find Josephine the bath, her body concealed by Censor Suds. After Sugar leaves, Joe stands up, revealing that he was still wearing Junior's clothes under the water.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Sugar isn't quite as dumb as she acts; neither is Osgood.
- Oh, Crap!: When "Daphne" sees Spats and his gang checking into the hotel via his makeup mirror.
- Old Maid: Sugar reveals she will turn 25 in June and is hoping to find a husband to marry soon.
- Orphaned Punchline: "So the one-legged jockey says, 'Don't worry about me, baby, I ride sidesaddle!!' ", although the very beginning of the joke ("Have you heard the one about the girl tuba player who was stranded on a desert island with a one-legged jockey?") is told a few scenes before, when Josephine and Daphne are introduced to the band.
- Out of the Frying Pan: The mobsters hunting down Joe and Jerry are gunned down on the orders of Little Bonaparte... except since the duo witnessed that, now the entire Mafia is after them.
- Pretty in Mink: Aside from the flapper era coats, Sugar wears a fox wrap for her date.
- Punny Name: Sugar Kane. Sugar says from the get-go that it's a stage name, more easily pronounced than her Polish name, Kowalczyk.
- Race for Your Love: Sugar comes running after "Josephine" and "Daphne" as they make their escape on Osgood's boat.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jerry gives one to "Junior" for impersonating a millionaire in order to seduce Sugar.
- Reverse Psychology: Joe, as "Junior", feigns disinterest in Sugar at first in order to make her more attracted to him.
- The Roaring '20s: The film takes place in Chicago and Florida in 1929 (before the stock market crash).
- Running Gag: Blood type O.
- Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The musicals Sugar, which ran on Broadway from 1972-73, and Some Like it Hot, which opened on Broadway in 2022.
- Second-Face Smoke: When he confronts Spats in the lobby of the hotel, Agent Mulligan blows smoke into the face of Spat's henchman Tiny to show that he isn't intimidated by Spats' threats.
- Selective Obliviousness: Daphne tries to talk Osgood out of his marriage proposal.
- Sexophone: Sugar has a thing for sax players. Also plays whenever Sugar appears onscreen.
- 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's playing with a coin, "Where did 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: Osgood, in the final scene after the Milholland Relationship Moment.
- Sobriquet Sex Switch: Played straight with Joe as Josephine. Defied by Jerry, who rejects Joe's suggestion of Geraldine and goes by Daphne instead.
- Something Else Also Rises: When Sugar crawls into bed to lay beside Jerry/"Daphne", he is obviously trying to hide his discomfort from her.
- Stage Names: Sugar Kane used to be Sugar Kowalczyk.
- The Stateroom Sketch: The party in "Daphne"'s sleeping berth on the train.
- Stocking Filler: Marylin Monroe's legs get some attention as she hides a flask in her stocking, then asks Daphne and Josephine if her seams are straight.
- The Stool Pigeon: Toothpick Charlie exposes Spats' "mortuary" to the police, leading to the garage massacre that kicks off the main plot.
- Supermodel Strut: Josephine and Daphne are having trouble strutting in their high-heels. Cue Sugar showing us how it's done properly.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Joe/"Josephine" and Jerry/"Daphne".
- Sweet on Polly Oliver: Osgood romances Jerry/"Daphne".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Roughly half the dialogue:"If I were a girl... and I am..."
- The Ending Changes Everything: As revealed in the iconic final line, Osgood is wholly unsurprised at Daphne's true sex, and he's fine with it.
- Title Drop: Used when Joe, as his millionaire persona, discusses jazz music with Sugar.Joe: "Syncopators" — does that mean you play that fast music? Jazz?
Sugar: Yeah. Real hot!
Joe: Oh. Well, I guess some like it hot. But I prefer classical music.
- Valentine's Day Violence: The kickstarter for the plot for the film was when Joe and Jerry witnessing the Valentine's Day Massacre, and fearing for their lives, dressed up as women and joining an all-girls jazz band.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Very loosely based on the Valentine's Day Massacre... very.
- Violence Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away before anybody gets shot.
- Visual Pun: Hot smoke from the train almost hits Sugar's backside as she walks to board the train.
- Wham Line: "Well, nobody's perfect." Cue flabbergasted look from Jerry.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Jerry calls out Joe's ridiculous accent as the "millionaire".
- Witless Protection Program: Variation: Jerry and Joe don't go to the police to get protection for their witnessing of the gangsters' massacre (and in that era, who can blame them), but they nevertheless go on the run and even adopt fake identities (and pretend they are women). The gangsters still are able to figure out where they went with the utmost precision and arrive to the hotel in the final act with full intent to silence them.
- You Can't Make an Omelette...: Joe says this at one point, when Jerry expresses qualms about their deceptions. This becomes a Brick Joke much later:Jerry: [seeing Spats and his gang in the hotel lobby] Joe... something tells me the omelette is about to hit the fan.