79. 'Some Like it Hot' (1959)
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The first big laugh in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" is triggered by the
title card "Chicago, 1929" coming at the end, not the beginning, of the wordless
opening sequence ... a limousine filled with plug-ugly gangsters in tuxes, a
police chase through night streets, the rattle of tommy guns, a coffin — the
limo is a hearse — leaking bootleg booze through bullet holes. The ensuing movie
focuses on two musicians (Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon) who witness the St. Valentine's Day
Massacre, then flee town disguised as members of an all-girl band headed by one
Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).
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Everybody's a role-player, with both guys in drag pursuing Sugar
in their respective fashions, and the spectacularly sexy/vulnerable blonde — the
archetypal Marilyn role — taking innocent comfort in her two new girlfriends.
The Forest of Arden for the variously wacky and lyrical gender play is a
sunstruck resort in palmy Florida — also the destination of the gangsters our
heroes are desperately avoiding. Funny stuff all, but Wilder's film becomes a
masterpiece by offering something more: a dream version of a world and an era
shimmering on the brink of extinction, and a hurtfully lovely index to peoples'
need to make lies come true. — Richard T. Jameson
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Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in "Some Like It Hot"/©Michael Ochs