Joe and Jerry, two struggling musicians, happen to witness the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. As they flee the scene, they are spotted by the men who arranged this notorious holiday event, Spats Colombo and his gang. Realizing that they must leave Chicago immediately, Joe and Jerry don dresses and wigs, join an all-female jazz orchestra and board a train for Florida. During the trip, Joe (now Josephine) and Jerry (now Daphne) befriend Sugar, a singer and ukulele player with a fondness for bootleg liquor and a burning desire to marry a millionaire. Bot Joe and Jerry fall for Sugar, but when they arrive in Florida, it is Joe who hatches a scheme to woo her by posing as Junior, the suave heir to the Shell Oil fortune. He invites Sugar for drinks aboard a yacht that actually belongs to Osgood Fielding who is crazy about Daphne / Jerry. Sugar hopes to marry “Junior”, while Daphne / Jerry seriously considers marrying Osgood for the security it would bring! All plans are thrown into disarray when Spats and his men arrive at their hotel for a gangster convention. Joe and Jerry are spotted, but during the mayhem that follows, Spats is murdered by a rival gang. Josephine and Daphne then escape on Osgood’s speedboat with their respective partners in tow. Joe has already revealed his true identity to Sugar and is delighted to discover that she accepts him the way he is. And, after removing his wig, Jerry is amazed when he gets a similar response from Osgood!.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Some Like It Hot may have been the most successful movie of Marilyn’s career, but this famous comedy was made under the least amicable of circumstances. The skill and patience of most of Marilyn’s co-workers concealed the problems that plagued production, most of which were caused by her deteriorating mental condition, which was exacerbated by her intake of drugs and alcohol. Marilyn’s behavior was generally unreliable and unprofessional for the duration of the shoot.
Sweating under the studio lights in heavy makeup and clothing, stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis often waited hours on the set for Marilyn. If and when she arrived, she had to struggle to remember her dialogue. An oft-told anecdote concerns a scene that required her to simply knock on a door and say, “It’s me, Sugar”. Supposedly, it took 47 takes to perfect. “After take 30, I had the line put on a blackboard”, recalled director Billy Wilder. “She would say things like, ‘It’s Sugar, me’”.
Another famous story about her inability to perform involves the scene in which Sugar enters Josephine and Daphne’s bedroom, rummages through some drawers and says, “Where’s that bourbon?” After 40 takes of Marilyn saying, “Whiskey?”, “Where’s the bonbon?”, or “Where’s the bottle?”, Wilder pasted the correct line in one of the drawers. He then had to resort to pasting it in every drawer because she became confused as to where he had put it. Reportedly, 59 takes were needed to complete that specific shot. To be fair, there were times when Marilyn did perform well. Those sequences shot on the beach outside the Hotel del Coronado, for example, were done in one or two takes.
A clause in Marilyn’s contract stipulated that all her films be in color, but Wilder convinced her that Some Like It Hot had to be in black and white because costume tests revealed that Curtis and Lemmon’s makeup gave their faces a green tinge. Still, she was concerned – and rightly so – that the two male stars had bigger, more broadly comic roles than she did. She requested that Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond add some comic bits to the role of Sugar Kane, lest Sugar be just the objet of the male characters’ attention. Wilder expanded the opening sequence in which the characters board the train to Florida by inserting a scene of Marilyn wobbling across the platform in high heels and then skipping past a puff of steam that blasts across her bottom.
Despite the changes, Marilyn, newly pregnant, was both difficult and uncharacteristically abusive on the set. Wilder, a caustic and cynical man later summed up the situation by saying, “I knew we were in mid-flight and there was a nut on the plane”.
Born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, Curtis – the star of such diverse films as The Defiant Ones and The Boston Strangler - had a miserable time working with Marilyn. One scene required Curtis to nibble on a chicken leg over and over again because it took 42 takes before Marilyn got her lines correct. He tended to be freshest in the earlier takes, while Marilyn’s performance got better retake after retake. One oft-shot scene in which the couple smooched prompted Curtis to grumble that kissing Marilyn was “like kissing Hitler’. Curtis later expressed regret over his remark, claiming that he did not realize how ill Marilyn was.