It’s Billy Wilder’s birthday today and I thought I’d pay tribute to the great man in this COMEDY GOLD special by talking about his comedy masterpiece, Some Like It Hot (1959). And since Pride Month is still going strong, this seems rather fitting. We had Marlene in drag a few days ago, so now it’s time for Jack and Tony.
Like everybody else, I adore this film. Every single thing about it. And while I don’t have a favorite scene, I do love the maracas scene, for a number of reasons.
In it, Josephine/Joe (Tony Curtis) climbs in through the window of his and Daphne/Jerry (Jack Lemmon)’s hotel room in Florida, fresh from his date with Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), only to find Jerry lying on the bed, shaking his maracas (!), blissfully happy. The reason for his happiness? His recent engagement to Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). When he tells Joe the big news (‘Who’s the lucky girl?’ ‘I am.’), he immediately tries to talk him out of it. But what I like about this conversation is that Joe mentions the ‘laws and conventions’, and that it’s ‘not been done’, not necessarily because it’s wrong. He’s also primarily worried about his friend and the repercussions of everything that would follow. Jerry’s chilled attitude about it (‘What are you going to do on your honeymoon?!’ ‘We’ve been discussing that. He wants to go to the Riviera but I kind of lean towards Niagara Falls’) is refreshing (albeit comedy-driven), especially for 1959, and a fantastic study on dialogue and punchlines, whose formula has since been emulated countless times. This was, of course, Wilder’s way of appealing to the censors so he could get away with it, only to then throw censorship out of the window with the most iconic closing line in Hollywood history, and a triumph of acceptance and tolerance, not to mention hilariousness.
Apart from everything else, Some Like It Hot is progessive, gender-bending and rule-breaking, all meticulously and masterfully done in the name of comedy. And what a comedy!