(1959) director Billy Wilder
viewed: 09/03/10 at the Castro Theatre, SF, CA
It’s no secret that Some Like It Hot is a great film. Heck, it’s one of those perennial placements of top film comedies of all time on notable lists throughout criticism. It was selected by the Library of Congress back in 1989 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. It’s a well-known and much-loved entity.
And I love it too.
For as long as I’ve been listing such things, I’ve put Some Like It Hoton my lists of favorite films, a list that I try to keep short, since it could be so long. But the thing about the film for me is that I’ve liked it since I was quite young. I’m not 100% sure how old I was when I first saw it, but I’m willing to guess around 7 or 8. And it spawned for me my first movie star crush…on Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane, and oddly mainstream thing for me. I thought Jack Lemmon was hilarious and I thought the whole thing great fun.
On those notes, not much has changed. It had been years. And I mean years since I’d last seen it. In the interim, I’d developed a liking for another Marilyn Monroe/Billy Wilder film, The Seven Year Itch (1955), which became one of those films that when I’d stumble on it on cable, I’d usually find myself watching all the way through no matter where I’d come in. But I honestly couldn’t recall the last time that I’d actually seen Some Like It Hot.
When I first noted that it was playing at the Castro, I debated about taking the kids to it. It had been so long before that I’d seen it, I wasn’t so positive how they would respond to it. But at the same time, I had these twinging sensations about sharing a movie that I’d loved at their age and had continued to love and I was really curious as to how they would find it. As things turned out, an early release from work before Labor Day weekend put me at the theater on my own, making the decision for me. Though I may still screen it for them sometime soon.
It’s the funny thing about this day and age versus the day and age in which I was 8. Thirty years makes a lot of difference in a lot of places, but perhaps it’s the more subtle changes in life that strike most poignantly at times. I mean, at age 8, we had a television set that got at most 7 channels, no way to record or capture something to watch at your own leisure. No way to go out and grab just any film in the world and watch either. You basically watched what came on and were much more beholding to the whims of the schedulers. And then I had my mom, who looked out for movies that she thought I’d like and helped me find what I might want.
My kids on the other hand, well, they have few channels too. But that is only because their mother shuns cable and satellite. But the channels that they have don’t play lots of old movies and television shows and actually, they don’t hardly ever watch it. All of their watching is “managed”, “selected”, and supervised. Luckily or unluckily, they have me selecting and screening a wide variety of films and talking to them about them in detail. Perhaps then the big difference is self-discovery versus “planned exposure”.
Something else kind of funny is that when I saw it as a kid, the movie was not quite 20 years old, and I watched a lot of old movies back then, but it seemed like something from a perhaps far older era. Perhaps that is just childhood myopia. But now, it’s 50 years old, and it seems to still emanate from a time beyond beyond, a much different world (it does purport itself to be set in 1929). When I think back to the temporal proximity of the film’s 1959 release and my late 1970’s viewing, that seems not such a long stretch of time. And somehow, still, I watch it with partially the same eyes.
Well, that tangent aside (and my apologies for it), but seeing Some Like It Hot again for the first time in years was just as wonderful as before. Perhaps I didn’t find it a constant comedy laugh-riot (it’s more spread out than that, though some scenes have the rat-a-tat quick verbal gags as any screwball comedy). But it’s high points are sublime. Jack Lemmon is pitch-perfect in every moment. Marilyn Monroe is luscious and funny and somewhat if not greatly tragic and sad. It’s funny as hell, lively, clever, and beautifully photographed.
It’s Billy Wilder. And it’s Billy Wilder at his level best.
It’s a great, great, great movie. And one that I’ll be sharing with Felix and Clara before too long.