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

some-like-it-hot-tuxes
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.

some-like-it-hot-girls
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.

some-like-it-hot-train-sugar
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.

Some Like It Hot (1959)
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).

some-like-it-hot-love
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).

some-like-it-hot-end
“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

Advertisements

Broadway on Film: Allegiance (2016) starring George Takei, Lea Salonga, & Telly Leung

Allegiance_arrival_camp.jpg
Kei, Grandpa, & Sammy arrive at the Heart Mountain internment camp 
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana (1905), philosopher/writer
Allegiance ran on Broadway for 3 mos. during the Winter of 2015/2016, and was seen by 120,000 (which was the same number of Japanese-Americans rounded up and put in internment camps during WWII). The story is partly based on George Takei’s real life experience as a young child raised for 4 yrs in an Arkansas internment camp. Each night of its Broadway run, the veteran actor/activist/social media star, reserved a seat for (then presidential candidate) Donald Trump. Of course, Trump NEVER came to see the show! 
allegiance_nyt
The Kimura family at the dinner table.
This musical drama centers on the Kimuras, who are a close-knit farming family, yet individuals in their own right (who grow and change over the course of the play). They are sent to the Heart Mountain, Wyoming camp, which is the main setting of this story. There are armed men guarding them 24/7, a curfew is in effect at night, and the living conditions are VERY poor.   
Allegiance_GetintheGame.jpg
Sammy encourages the young people to think of ways to have fun in “Get in the Game.”
Sammy (Telly Leung, who has been chosen as the lead in Alladin) desperately wants to enlist in the army and show his allegiance to the U.S. His father says that this can never be, since they “have the face of the enemy.” BOTH men are quite stubborn! Sammy’s older sister, Kei (short for Keiko), serves as a mother-figure for him also. Kei (Lea Salonga, veteran actor/singer best known as Eponine in the original Les Mis) worries about Sammy’s future and takes care of Grandpa (Takei), who is missing his garden back home. 
allegiance_paperflower
Grandpa creates an origami flower from the offensive loyalty questionnaire.
…after graduating from college, studying Asian American history, knowing about the civil rights era now– in a post-Vietnam War era– I think I would have done what Frankie did: You want me to fight as an American? Then treat me like an American! -Michael K. Lee
Kei (though she considers herself an “old maid”) forms a connection w/ Frankie Suzuki (Michael K. Lee), a law student from LA.  Since he’s a bachelor, Frankie has to share a cabin w/ 10 other men. His dark humor and sly wit are revealed in the rousing big band number Paradise. Frankie’s allegiance is to the Constitution; this character is based on (real life) activist Frank Emi.  I was quite impressed w/ this character; he seemed VERY fresh and modern!
allegiance_sammy_hannah
Sammy and Hannah joke and about their budding (forbidden) relationship.
Sammy and Hannah (a blonde, young Army nurse from Nebraska) become close while trying to get more medicine and supplies for the camp. They have a sweet duet (With You) which expresses their love, which is NOT safe to express.  The lyrics are simple, yet poignant; below is a sample. 
If I were with you, no one else could see us this way. -Sammy imagines
If I were with you, we would fight the world every day. -Hannah replies
allegiance_soldiers
Sammy (center) with some of the men of the 442nd Combat Regiment
What can be done to end this imprisonment? Mike Masaoka (Greg Watanabe) of the Japanese Americans Citizens League (JACL) has been petitioning Congress to get his people freed. Perhaps in desperation, he proposes a loyalty test (“to root out the troublemakers”). Also, the able-bodied men MUST enlist (in a segregated unit, like the African-Americans) and take on the deadliest missions. (Masaoka was an actual person during this period in history.) Watanabe had older relatives in internment camps, as he noted in one of the behind-the-scenes interviews. I wanted to know MORE about this character!
Women weren’t just sitting around while the men faced danger. Kei and the camp’s women write letters to major newspapers and magazines to let the public know what’s going on. Kei goes after what she wants and becomes a stronger woman, as we see in Higher- a pivotal song for her character and showcasing Salonga’s powerful vocals.
allegiance_wapo_review
A banner ad featuring Sammy, Hannah, and a quote from the Washington Post review
In SOME ways, this play is quite traditional for Broadway- love stories, generational conflicts, song and dance. In other ways, it is groundbreaking- a cast of mainly Asian-Americans (incl. those of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean ancestry); a Japanese-Canadian director (who had relatives in similar camps in Canada); a Chinese-American co-writer; a female orchestra leader, etc. In this current political climate, this story is a cautionary tale, NOT merely entertainment. Should we prove our worth by standing by our country, no matter what (like Sammy)? Or should we resist the unfair laws being proposed, even risking prison (like Frankie)? 

Movies & Plays To Check Out (JAN 2017)

MOVIES:

Hidden Figures

This movie centers on three brilliant African-American women (referred to as “human computers”) working at NASA in the 1960s. The three leads are Taraji P. Henson (Empire), Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae (who is also a singer). They are joined by Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Kristen Dunst, and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards; Luke Cage). Before Col. John Glenn (up-and-coming actor Glen Powell) went into space, Henson’s character (Katharine Johnson) had to “check the math” behind the mission. I learned that Johnson is still alive in small-town Virginia- wow!  Check out the trailer below.

 

Lion

Critics have raved re: Dev Patel in this film, as well as the boy who plays Indian adoptee to Australia (Saroo Brierley) as a child.  In case you’re NOT a big fan yet of the British-Indian actor, know that Patel is transformed for this role (hair, body, and accent).  I’ll be seeing it next weekend.

See the trailer below; the cast includes Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, and David Wenham.

 

Singin’ in the Rain (in select theaters: SUN, 1/15 & WED, 1/18)

TCM and Fathom Events is co-presenting this musical at select theaters for two days ONLY. This movie premiered 65 years ago (1952) and stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds (who recently passed away at age 84), and Donald O’Conner. I heard about it on TCM, then checked online for details (see link below).

http://fathomevents.com/event/singin-in-the-rain/more-info/details

One of the most famed/respected dancers/choreographers of her time, Cyd Charisse, has a supporting role. Checking IMDB, I found that Rita Moreno is part of the ensemble (VERY cool). I’ve never seen this film before, but it’s available on YouTube for ONLY $2.99! 

 

The Salesman (AFI Silver Theatre: SUN, 1/22 at 5:15PM)

This film is part of the 21st Annual Iranian American Film Festival which was previously held at the Freer Gallery (now undergoing renovations).  It is directed by Asghar Farhadi (A Separation), who is NOT afraid to realistically tackle subjects which are still taboo in his native Iran. While A Separation was about impending divorce, this film deals w/ the assault of a young wife and her husband’s subsequent emotional turmoil and drive for revenge. I got my ticket already.

Follow the link below for tickets and see the trailer.

https://silver.afi.com/Browsing/Movies/Details/m-0100001136

 

PLAYS:

As You Like It: Folger Shakespeare Theatre (Pay-What-You-Will: TUES, 1/24 at 7:30PM)

This adaptation of The Bard’s comedy will run from JAN 24th – MAR 5th starring actors from Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. I’m interested in this b/c I’ve only seen one movie re: this play. I haven’t read the play (it’s rarely taught/studied in schools/universities). 

See the link below for more info.

http://www.folger.edu/events/as-you-like-it

Caroline, or Change: Round House Theatre (UPDATED: Pay-What-You-Can on THURS, 1/26 at 7:30PM & WED, 2/1 at 7:30PM)

This is a musical written (book and lyrics) by the renowned Tony Kushner; it contains aspects from his own life as a boy growing up in the South. The play centers on Caroline, an African-America maid for the Gellmans, a Jewish family in 1960s Louisiana. It combines different types of music: spirituals (gospel), blues, Motown, classical, and Jewish klezmer and folk. 

More details at the link below.

http://www.roundhousetheatre.org/performances/caroline-or-change