The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot (1959)

Condemned by the National League of Decency, the cross-dressing comedy was an instant hit

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As Roaring Twenties musicians on the run from gangsters—by posing as members of a female jazz ensemble—Tony Curtis was never better (right down to his sly Cary Grant impersonation) and Jack Lemmon was nominated for an Academy Award (for a part first intended for Frank Sinatra and that Jerry Lewis turned down). With no small help from her costars, however, Marilyn Monroe steals every scene she’s in as the band’s singer, even as she already is heading toward her self-destruction of three years later, driving writer-director Billy Wilder and the cast and crew to almost homicidal distraction after 59 takes of the line, “Where’s the bourbon?” This is the best movie of the sound era’s greatest female star, her unsung skills as a comedienne plainly tethered to the same vulnerability, even instability, that undid her, her performance of  “I’m Through With Love” more personal than anyone intended except maybe Monroe herself. Wilder longed for Mitzi Gaynor in the role and was as wrong as Hitchcock longing for Vera Miles instead of Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Inexplicably the first preview of Wilder’s comedy was a disaster, so of course the studio heads pressed him to reshoot. The director would have none of it and wound up reshooting anyway, because at the next preview people found the movie so funny that scenes had to be slowed so audiences could catch dialog lost in the laughter. The famous final line, “Nobody’s perfect,” was a place-holder until that time the writers could come up with something better, which they never did. The National League of Decency condemned this instant classic and almost immediately rendered itself obsolete; Kansas wouldn’t allow the film to be shown anywhere in the state, rendering Kansas obsolete too.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin’ in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L’Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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