Directed by Billy Wilder
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 1989
I first watched it on April 10th, 2021
What It’s About:
When two male jazz musicians are wanted by the mob for accidentally witnessing a murder, they must leave town in disguise—by dressing in drag and joining a travelling women’s jazz band.
My experience with the film:
Prior to watching Some Like It Hot, I was only vaguely aware of it. I knew it was considered a classic, but I had no idea that it has been recognized by many as “the funniest comedy of all time.” I don’t know if I’d rank it as my personal favorite (that title still belongs to Monty Python and the Holy Grail), or even as my favorite NFR comedy that I’ve watched so far (I enjoyed Modern Times slightly more, though I’ll admit that Some Like It Hot has certainly been more influential.) That said, I still enjoyed it immensely and was fascinated to learn about its enduring legacy.
Being a massive fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, I was aware that it pushed a lot of boundaries when it came to standards of “decency” in film at the time. When I watched North by Northwest, I learned that it also contributed to the rethinking of the film standards of the time. However, I was unaware that Some Like It Hot was one of the chief contributors to the death of the Hays Code (the censorship/content rules that all Hollywood films abided by since the early 30s). Some Like It Hot was released without the approval of the Hays Code, and its massive success despite its lack of approval helped many to see that the Code was outdated. However, the film wasn’t without controversy at the time. It was completely banned in the state of Kansas (a fact that I find especially humorous, considering that’s where I grew up). Likewise, in Memphis, screenings of the film were limited to “adults only.”
That said, Some Like It Hot is relatively tame by today’s standards (it would easily get a PG-13 rating, but nothing more), but viewed through the lens of 1959 film standards, it’s certainly provocative. (I should also note that this was my first time ever seeing Marilyn Monroe in a movie. I now understand why she was such an icon.) On top of that, it greatly challenged gender and romantic norms that were much more “norm” back then than they are now. I could see how some may say that certain aspects of this film haven’t aged well (due to the way that it goes to great pains to acknowledge those norms before flaunting them) but, to me, that envelope-pushing aspect shows just the opposite: this film was ahead of its time. Honestly, I think this film may be even more relevant now than it was when it first came out.
However, if you have no interest in (or even prefer to ignore) its social commentary, it’s still an absolutely hilarious film. The gags are expertly crafted, and often set up well in advance, which makes the payoff even more rewarding. On top of that, it also works as more than just a comedy. Honestly, I was thrown for quite a loop when for the first 20 minutes (and again in the last 20 minutes), that it also functioned as an effectively suspenseful gangster drama (albeit with bits of humor sprinkled in between those sequences.)
All around, it’s a great movie, and it definitely gets a recommendation from me.
Some Like It Hot (1959) is available to stream on the services listed here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/some-like-it-hot
To learn more about the history and significance of this film, I recommend the following resources:
- The Blu-ray version sent to me by DVD Netflix contained several behind-the-scenes features, including an audio commentary featuring the son of the original screenwriter, as well as two modern comedy writers, and excerpts from audio interviews with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (aka, “Josephine and Daphne”). It appears to be this version of the Blu-ray. A Criterion Collection Blu-ray of the film also exists, and contains even more special features, and a different audio commentary with a film scholar.
- The official essay from the NFR about the film: https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/some_like_hot.pdf
- A blog post about the film from The Horse’s Head, another blog dedicated to watching all of the films on the NFR: https://thehorseshead.blog/2021/01/25/532-some-like-it-hot-1959/
- A post about Some Like It Hot from MerryWatchesMovies, an Instagram account that’s also dedicated to watching all of the films on the NFR: https://www.instagram.com/p/BsgC0-HgbTZ/
- The original 1959 review from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/1959/03/30/archives/screen-2hour-comedy.html
- The original 1959 review from Variety: https://variety.com/1959/film/reviews/some-like-it-hot-2-1200419454/
- A review from the year 2000 from Roger Ebert: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-some-like-it-hot-1959
- A discussion of why Some Like It Hot is still popular: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIVZYGAjKc4
- An exploration of the LGBTQ+ themes in the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGu9I9AcmAo
- A podcast episode that discusses the film, and includes an interview with an actress who portrayed Marilyn Monroe: https://www.earwolf.com/episode/some-like-it-hot/
- “Why Some Like It Hot is the greatest comedy ever made,” an article from the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20170817-why-some-like-it-hot-is-the-greatest-comedy-ever-made
- 13 interesting facts about the film: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/73384/13-sizzling-facts-about-some-it-hot
- The Wikipedia page for Some Like It Hot: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Some_Like_It_Hot
For the complete list of films in the National Film Registry, including information on how you can view each film, and links to every entry that I have written, please see my NFR Directory.
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