Some Like It Hot (1959) starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, & Marilyn Monroe

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Musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) witness a mob hit in Chicago.

When broke Chicago musicians, Joe (sax player) and Jerry (on bass), witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, they need to get away from the gangster responsible (Spats Colombo). They’re desperate to get a gig out of town, but the only job available is with an all-girl band heading to Florida. They show up at the train station as “brand new” girls-Josephine and Daphne. They really enjoy being around the troupe of young, pretty women (esp. Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, who sings/plays ukulele). Joe (a ladies man) sets out to woo Sugar. Jerry/Daphne is wooed by an eccentric/sweet millionaire, Osgood Fielding III. Mayhem ensues as the two pals try to keep their true identities hidden. Then Spats and his mafia men show up for a gathering with other crime bosses.

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Joe and Jerry (in drag) admire the walk of a real woman (played by Marilyn Monroe).

This is one of my faves; if you need a laugh (or a dozen), definitely have a watch!  I’ve seen the film several times on TCM; I also have it on DVD. Some Like It Hot was voted the 9th greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly magazine, and, is ranked on this list high enough to be the greatest comedy of all time.

The costumes Monroe wears are simply stunning!  One of the evening gowns is SO revealing that even modern viewers wondered (on Twitter) HOW it got past censors. When Curtis and Lemmon saw the costumes that  would be created for Monroe, they wanted to have beautiful dresses, too. Monroe wanted the movie to be shot in color (her contract stipulated that all her films were to be in color), but Billy Wilder (the director/co-writer) convinced her to let it be shot in black and white after costume tests revealed that the makeup that Curtis and Lemmon wore gave their faces a green tinge.

The co-leads, though opposites w/ regards to acting education and personal backgrounds, make a GREAT comedy team! Lemmon’s Jerry has nervous energy and is a fast-talker, while Curtis’ Joe is self-assured and able to charm others easily.  However, its actually Jerry’s idea for them to disguise themselves as women! When the actors first put on the female make-up and costumes, they walked around the Goldwyn Studios lot to see if they could “pass” as women. Then they tried using mirrors in public ladies rooms to fix their makeup, and when none of the women using it complained, they knew they could be convincing as women. There is a scene on the train recreating this moment.

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Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe) leans out of her bunk on the train.

I recently learned that Wilder, the actors, and crew had a VERY tough time on this movie b/c of Monroe’s behavior. She was heavily into drugs during this time, so kept forgetting her lines, and MANY takes had to be shot before she got even the simplest lines correct. There is something meta about Monroe’s performance as Sugar, who smuggles in alcohol (though she claims she can stop drinking anytime) and laments her pattern of falling for the wrong kind of men (particularly sax players). 

Lemmon got along with Monroe and forgave her eccentricities. He believed she simply couldn’t go in front of the camera until she was absolutely ready. “She knew she was limited and goddamned well knew what was right for Marilyn,” he said. “She wasn’t about to do anything else.” He also said that although Monroe may not have been the greatest actor or singer or comedienne, she used more of her talent, brought more of her gifts to the screen than anyone he ever knew.

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There is a party going on, but Daphne (Lemmon) wants to be alone with Sugar (Monroe).

One of the MOST hilarious scenes in the film involves Jerry/Daphne and Sugar in Daphne’s bunk. Jerry is SO excited about Sugar sidling up to him, but she sees him as Daphne. The expressions on Lemmon’s face are just priceless! They are soon interrupted by almost all of the other girls, who want to join in the fun. Jerry Lewis was offered the role of Jerry/Daphne but declined because he didn’t want to dress in drag. Lemmon received an Oscar nomination for the role (well-deserved).

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Joe/Shell Oil Jr. (Curtis) and Sugar (Monroe) embrace after their date on the yacht.

Another great thing about this film is the goofy accent that Joe (as Shell Oil Jr.) adopts to impress Sugar. Jerry exclaims:”Nobody talks like that!” Curtis said he asked the director if he could imitate Cary Grant; Wilder liked it and shot it that way. When Grant saw the parody of himself, he jokingly said: “I don’t talk like that.” 

While Shell Oil Jr. and Sugar were making out on the yacht, Daphne and Osgood were dancing tango at a Cuban nightclub. They danced VERY well, too! The music used in the film contributes to its atmosphere; portions of the following tunes were used: Sweet Georgia Brown, By the Beautiful Sea, Randolph Street Rag, La Cumparsita and Park Avenue Fantasy (AKA Stairway to the Sky).

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“Nobody’s perfect!” Osgood declares upon seeing that Daphne is a man. 

Despite her gold-digging instincts, Monroe’s Sugar is cozy, vulnerable and altogether loveable, getting a lot of mileage too out of her solo singing spots, which include the kinetic “Running Wild,” the torchy “I’m Through With Love,” and her classic “boop-boop-a-doop” signature song, “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”

Lemmon really steals the movie here. He invests Daphne with such enthusiasm that we can understand why he’s falling for Osgood. He’s having way too much fun and it’s great to watch him. 

Why a would man would want to marry another man? asks Tony Curtis. Security! Jack Lemmon replies without missing a beat. Clearly, he had put the question to himself before and had arrived to a perfectly sensible conclusion.

The movie’s surprisingly suggestive and risque content is at odds with the time frame of the movie, and even with the period of the movie’s creation. The many smart double-entendres and plays on words are very well-written, and alternate between low-brow and high-brow comedy,

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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Woman of the Year (1942) starring Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn

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A poster for the film

Reportedly, Katharine Hepburn’s first words to her costar were, “Mr. Tracy, I believe I am too tall for you” (FYI: Hepburn was 5’9″ and Tracy was 5’10½”). Director George Stevens said, “Don’t worry, honey. He’ll soon cut you down to size.” Like the actors themselves did in real life, this is a story of opposites attracting. Even their acting styles were different- Hepburn loved to rehearse; Tracy usually got it on the first or second take. In their scenes together here (their first film pairing), you see the magic (love) happen… and it’s REAL! 

Tracy’s Sam Craig matched with Hepburn’s Tess Harding; his subtle, underplaying acting style with her stylized, personality-driven performance. It’s an acting tour de force, to be sure… In fact, their chemistry in this film is palpable. -Excerpt from IMDB review

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Sam takes Tess out to the ballgame (and she likes it)!

Are all these people unemployed? -Tess asks, surprised at the large crowd in the ballpark.

No, they’re all attending their grandmother’s funeral. -Sam replies.

After Tess Harding (Hepburn), a world-traveling journalist/commentator, makes some insensitive comments re: baseball on the radio, sports columnist Sam Craig (Tracy) criticizes her in his writing. A feud results, more papers get sold, and eventually, their editor brings them together to make peace. They see each other for the first time, sparks fly, and they go out to a ballgame. In a very short time, they fall deeply in love! Tess and Sam quickly marry and begin living together (in her apt.), BUT Sam soon discovers that his wife is so busy saving the world that she can’t make time for their relationship. After just a few months, Tess decides to take in Chris, a Greek refugee boy (w/o consulting Sam). This is the last straw for Sam, who decides to take drastic measures. 

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Sam and Tess embrace in the back of a taxi.

I’ve seen this film a FEW times over the years. What struck me during this viewing was how there was an imbalance in their jobs. Sure, they are BOTH smart, successful writers w/ respective fan followings. However, Tess is on another level (akin to Diane Sawyer in her prime). Her stories are usually on the front page of the paper. She speaks five languages (English, French, Russian, Spanish and Greek). Sam has a desk alongside a few other writers; Tess has a private office and a fastidious secretary, Gerald (a man). The subplot w/ Ellen (Tess’ maiden/feminist aunt) and her widowed father is a nice addition to the story.  

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Sam and Tess in his office at the newspaper

Hepburn never appeared softer, more vulnerable, less mannered… I fall in love with her all over again every time I watch it… Tracy, the most honest actor who ever lived. But not just that: there was his ability to delve seemingly without effort into an infinite bag of gestures & expressions & tones & just plain old-fashioned but highly manifest wisdom & come up with the most richly nuanced guy ever depicted onscreen. -Excerpt from IMDB review

The ending (last 15 mins.) of this film will NOT suit modern viewers (esp. women)- it’s rather disappointing! Stevens decided (with Mankiewicz) that Tess Harding had to have her comeuppance for the average American housewife to relate to her character; this is noted in A Remarkable Woman: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn by Anne Edward. When Hepburn saw the changes, she commented that it was “sh*t.” Test audiences didn’t like the original ending, which showed BOTH Tess and Sam making compromises (NOT only Tess).  

 

 

A Few Thoughts on Kong: Skull Island, Gifted, & Get Out (SPOILER-FREE)

Kong: Skull Island

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I was surprised by HOW MUCH I enjoyed this action/special effects movie! I saw it (in IMAX 3D) at a free pre-screening last WED. You will recognize some of the actors (Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, John C. Reilly and Toby Kebbell), BUT there are also newcomers. Unlike MOST action films, each minor character gets a moment (or two) to reveal their personality. As for Kong- he’s a BIG creature who is considered “king” of Skull Island (somewhere in the South Seas). However, there are MANY other creatures on the island, BUT I don’t want to give much away. Also, there are SOME twists that you wouldn’t necessarily expect (in this genre). If you want 2 hours of escapist fun, then definitely go check this out!   

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I saw this TERRIFIC drama starring Chris Evans (who I’d never seen before) and McKenna Grace (the child actor) last THURS (free screening). The acting is solid, the writing is smart (and sometimes funny), and the themes are universal. (You can see this film w/ the entire family!) The film centers on a single man, Frank (Evans) raising his 7 y.o. niece, Mary (Grace) in small-town Southern Florida. Their neighbor, Roberta (recent Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer), helps take care of Mary on the weekends; they all share a special bond. Frank has homeschooled Mary, BUT then decides that she needs to be w/ kids her own age. However, Mary is NO ordinary 1st grader- she’s a math prodigy (like her deceased mom). Frank wants Mary to have a normal life (friends, sports, extracurricular activities); his sister missed out on all that b/c she was mostly focused on solving one math problem.  In time, Grandmother Evelyn (British actress Lindsay Duncan), arrives from Boston to seek sole custody of Mary. There is also a nice subplot (romance) in the story which is natural and believable. I wanted to see a BIT more of Roberta’s character (b/c Spencer is such a fine actor).

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I never thought this movie would get made. Honestly! I have been on television for years and I still didn’t feel like this movie was possible.-Jordan Peele, director

I saw this film (directed by Jordan Peele) this afternoon w/ 3 of my gal pals; we ALL liked it!  The theater was packed, esp. w/ viewers in their teens and 20s. This is currently the top grossing movie at the box office. It REALLY makes you think, so be ready for some discussion after it ends. It’s NOT a typical horror genre movie- it’s more of a thriller. 

The film hits you with the scary at choice moments, which is truly some unsettling and blends it with the humor. A running joke that should’ve got more air time was the gaffe about Obama, where the father says, “I would’ve voted for a third term for Obama if I could.” Timely, if anything.  -Excerpt from okayplayer.com

The premise comes from Peele’s own life; he was once dating a young woman who didn’t tell her parents he was a black before introducing him to her (white) parents. (Peele is now married to comedian Chelsea Peretti, one of the ensemble cast on Brooklyn Nine-Nine). The film stars Daniel Kaluuya (a British actor on Season 1 of Black Mirror) and Allison Williams (Girls) as an interracial couple visiting the home (more of an estate) of the her parents (played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) together for the first time. Chris (Kaluuya) is a a photographer who has a reserved personality; Rose is more talkative and assertive.