Someone asked me the other day what was my favorite movie of all time. It was a really hard question. I could list a bunch depending on my mood–The Princess Bride, The Matrix (the first one–the others were awful, just awful and I choose to pretend they don’t exist), My Dog Skip, The Empire Strikes Back, Goodfellas, The Incredibles, Team America: World Police, Bull Durham, WALL-E. Since I had to pick one according to the premise of the question, I chose Some Like It Hot.
My dad took me to see this movie when I was 10 years old. It was a single screen movie theater on the Upper West Side that played old movies. A double feature was playing, some James Bond movie with Sean Connery (dad loved Bond) and Some Like It Hot. The Bond movies were fine; I didn’t mind going. Dad took me to see quite a few of them, but even I knew as a kid that most of the premise was ridiculous. Then Some Like It Hot started. “But daddy,” I whined. “This movie is black and white. Let’s go!” He told me to give it a chance. It’s a funny movie, he said. “You’ll like it.” I can’t remember what I said, but it was probably something articulate along the lines of hrmph. The first scenes were kind of scary for a 10 year old girl in the 1980s. Kids were a little more innocent back then, and I was as sheltered as a kid could be in NYC. There were gangsters and bullets. Men died. It was the realistic kind of violence that happened in NYC, not the elaborate and improbable Bond violence. It gets better, dad whispered. Well, at least Tony Curtis was good-looking. I focused on that until Curtis and Lemmon dressed up as women, arrived at the train station, and the movie was suddenly in color to me. Most men will also remember that scene as the one in which Sugar Kane Kowalczyk was introduced. Marilyn Monroe was never funnier or more vulnerable, and yes, she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I remember thinking I wanted to grow up to look just like her. Thankfully as an adult, I realized that dark olive skin and platinum blonde hair don’t mix well so that idea was nixed. While a lot of the humor was of the slapstick variety, perfect for a kid, upon subsequent more-than-I-can-count viewings, I realized how many truths about relationships, men, women, and gender identity the movie held. My loyalties also shifted from Curtis to Lemmon. Curtis was the slick, smooth talking ladies’ man. Lemmon was sweet, adorable, and very funny. Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III provided a lot of the comic relief, as his oblivious older playboy is unaware that his intended paramour is a man in drag. It must have been quite risque for its time since it’s still risque today. This was Billy Wilder‘s best movie. Without giving away too much, it also has the best last line of any movie: “Nobody’s perfect.” If you’ve never seen it, check it out.