Comedies are few and far between on the BFI’s list of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time. Of the 23 films preceding Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, only three could be considered comedies. After wading through a lot of heavy films, Wilder’s classic provided some welcome relief. That said, I’m hard pressed to claim it as one of the greatest films of all time. One could argue it’s not even Wilder’s best film what with Sunset Blvd., The Apartment and Sabrina on his resume. And it might not even be his funniest, an award that, for my money, would go to One, Two, Three.
Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play Jerry and Joe, two jazz musicians in the 1920’s who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. To hide from the gangsters, they dress as women and join and all-female musical group that travels to Florida. Marilyn Monroe stars as Sugar who Curtis’s Joe falls for. Once in Florida, Joe pretends to be a millionaire in order to woo Sugar. His plans are interrupted when the mob shows up for the “Friends of the Italian Opera” conference.
Most of the humor derives from Lemmon and Curtis in drag. Some lip service is given to the prejudices they face as women, but, overall, the film endorses the stereotypes of the times. Monroe’s ditzy Sugar feels painfully dated as she is easily duped by Joe’s faux rich guy ploy.
The other comedies on the list so far (The General, City Lights and Singin’ in the Rain) have all been richer film experiences. The novelty of Lemmon and Curtis dressed as women only goes so far. Yes, the film is clever and very funny but it is neither as groundbreaking nor emotionally engaging as the previous films. Given it’s placement among other films on the list from the same period (Vertigo, The 400 Blows, Breathless, L’Avventura, La Dolce Vita), Some Like It Hot feels lightweight.
Billy Wilder has made so many great films and should be represented on the list but Some Like It Hot doesn’t get my vote for being that film.
- Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
- City Lights (1931)
- Bicycle Thieves (1948)
- Rashomon (1950)
- Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
- The 400 Blows (1959)
- The General (1926)
- The Rules of the Game (1939)
- Late Spring (1949)
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
- Journey to Italy (1954)
NEXT UP: Breathless