It’s not very original to recommend Billy Wilder’s cross-dressing comedy, which is re-released again today, despite myriad screenings over the years. But then, there must be some people who haven’t seen the 1959 film and a lot more who will cheerfully revisit it.
After all, the stories behind the shooting of the film whet the appetite as much as the movie itself. Was Marilyn Monroe really as tiresome during the filming as Wilder said? And if Tony Curtis remarked that kissing Marilyn was “like kissing Hitler”, he seemed to change his mind later when he announced that they had an affair which made her pregnant.
It is one of those great movies which came out right despite everything. I found this was often the case — many times I would visit a set to be told how deliriously happy everyone was only for the resulting film to have little in its favour.
Perhaps the tension of a difficult shoot — like that of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which almost killed both Martin Sheen and the director — is a necessary step to success. It certainly was with Some Like it Hot. When I interviewed Wilder many years later, he still exclaimed: “Never, ever again!”
It is, however, along with Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity, one of the films for which he will always be remembered, frowned on by the American censors at the time but applauded all the way to the box-office bank by almost everyone else.
And then there’s that magnificent crunch of a last line from Joe E Brown, who plays the lecherous millionaire eloping with Jack Lemmon in drag. When he finally discovers his conquest is a man, he says: “Well, nobody’s perfect”. The film almost is.
Some Like It Hot is in selected cinemas.