‘Some Like It Hot’ in the AFI Movie Club

Some Like It Hot was yesterday’s pick for the AFI Movie Club, “a global, virtual gathering of film fans who love movies” hosted by the American Film Institute. Two other Monroe movies, All About Eve and The Seven Year Itch have also been previously featured. An informative essay about the making of Some Like It Hot is published on the AFI Catalog website.

“In correspondence dated 5 Mar 1959, the Very Reverend Monsignor Thomas F. Little of the National Catholic Legion of Decency found Some Like It Hot to contain ‘screen material elements that are judged to be seriously offensive to Christian and traditional standards of morality and decency … The offense in costuming was obvious.’ Motion Picture Association head Geoffrey Shurlock responded in a letter dated 18 Mar 1959: ‘So far there is simply no adverse reaction at all; nothing but praise for it as a hilariously funny movie. I am not suggesting, of course, that there are not dangers connected with a story of this type. But girls dressed as men, and occasionally men dressed as women for proper plot purposes, has been standard theatrical fare as far back as As You Like It and Twelfth Night … We of course are not defending the two exaggerated costumes worn by the leading lady.’

In a modern article by co-writer I. A. L. Diamond, he stated that he and Wilder spent a year developing the script … Initially, the Wilder-Diamond script was set in contemporary times because Wilder and Diamond felt they needed a situation more powerful than poverty to compel the characters to dress as women. According to Diamond, he suggested that a period setting would make it easier for the audience to accept female impersonation and Wilder then came up with the idea to set the story during the jazz age and have their characters witness a gangland slaying as motivation for hiding out.

Diamond stated that Wilder offered Jack Lemmon the role of ‘Jerry,’ and Lemmon gave him a verbal agreement to appear in the film, despite being under contract to Columbia Pictures. Tony Curtis was signed first, but United Artists pressured Wilder to cast a bigger box-office name than Lemmon for the second male lead. According to Diamond, at UA’s recommendation, Wilder approached Frank Sinatra, but Sinatra failed to make an appointment with the director. A modern biography on Wilder states that the director also had approached Anthony Perkins to co-star with Sinatra. According to a news item in a modern source, Danny Kaye was also considered for Lemmon’s role. Mitzi Gaynor was considered for ‘Sugar,’ until Marilyn Monroe wrote to Wilder, expressing the hope that they could work together again after their success with The Seven Year Itch (1955.) The FF review noted that Monroe consented to appear in the film only after production executive Harold Mirisch offered her ten percent of the gross. Once Monroe was signed, Wilder was able to sign Lemmon.

Although many modern sources indicate that the reviews upon the release of Some Like It Hot were mixed, most were positive. Variety described the film as ‘probably the funniest picture of recent memory. It’s a whacky, clever, farcical comedy that starts off like a firecracker and keeps on throwing off lively sparks till the very end.’ Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film was a ‘supersonic, breakneck, belly-laugh comedy’ and Motion Picture Herald called it ‘one of the wildest, wooliest and most infectiously fun comedies of the year.’ In the LA Times review, under the headline ‘Some Like It Hot Not as Hot as Expected,’ the reviewer found the film ‘not the unalloyed delight it was cracked up to be,’ and considered it ‘not at all sure what kind of comedy it is.’ The reviewer expressed annoyance with Curtis’s mimicking Cary Grant and labeled the closing line ‘a startler.’ The film has gone on to become one of the highest regarded comedies of all time and Brown’s closing line of ‘Nobody’s perfect’ is one of Hollywood’s most iconic moments.”