Some Like It Hot (1959)

July 13th, 2014
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Pat O’Brien

USA 1959, 121 min.

SOME LIKE IT HOT, the classic comedy and feel-good film about two musicians being chased by the mob, after having witnessed the Chicago Valentine’s Day Massacre, ending up in a all-girl-band in Florida dressed up in drags, should have been an enjoyable shoot. But far from it: tensions between director Billy Wilder and his star Marilyn Monroe led to bickering, and ultimately a catastrophe, when Monroe had a miscarriage a day after shooting ended.

Wilder complained about Monroe being ‘unreliable in her unreliability’: he went on “during the scene at the beach, when Monroe meets Curtis for the time, him pretending to be a ‘Shell’ heir, I expected trouble, since there was so much dialogue to go through. Further more, we shot the scene on a beach near San Diego, and nearby was a military airport, and we could only shoot between the jets staring with a lot of noise. I thought, that we would have to plan at least for four shooting days, considering Monroe’s lack of discipline and memory. But she was perfect, we finished after twenty minutes. But on another scene, much simpler, when Monroe storms into the room of Curtis and Lemmon, being disappointed and simply having to say one sentence; “Where is the Bourbon?”, we had 65 takes, it took us one and a half days”.

After the end of shooting, Wilder and Monroe’s husband Arthur Miller engaged in a bitter exchange of letters, after Wilder had told a reporter: “I can eat again. My back does not hurt any more. And I can look at my wife again, without wanting to beat her up, simply because she is a woman”. Asked by the same reporter, if he would shoot again with Monroe, Wilder answered: “I discussed this with my GP, my psychiatrist and my accountant; they all said I am too old and too wealthy to go through this all again”.

Wilder, not a friend of intellectuals or women, was piqued, because Miller could not see the “wonderful product” he had created against all odds and blamed the play write of being a snob, because he did not like comedies – even though Miller had just questioned if any film was worth the tragic consequence. Wilder could not stop complaining about Monroe, calling her “nasty”, and telling a story about the star shouting at a second assistant director “Go fuck yourself” after he had asked her to come to the set for the tenth time. But to be fair, Curtis too seemed to have had a rugged time with her, telling a reporter “that kissing Monroe was like kissing Hitler”. But Wilder, whose films very often feature “bad” women”, whose victims are helpless men, like Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, who seduces MacMurray’s Walter Neff to murder her husband. Whilst in the novel by James M. Cain, on which the film is based, Neff’s greed for an easy life is the catalyst for the murder. But Wilder’s negative obsession with Monroe continued even after her death. Landing at Paris airport on 4th of August 1962 to shoot Irma La Douce,  he was, in his own words “insensitive and mean” about her, but he never the less did blame the journalists for not having told him, that Monroe was dead. Wilder’s humour was always double-edged, his final words on MM were ”There are more books about Marilyn Monroe that the Second World War. There is a certain resemblance: It was hell, but it was worth it”. AS


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