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13 Sizzling Facts About Some Like It Hot

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Imagine, if you can, walking into a movie theater in 1959, at the height of the conformist Eisenhower era, to see a comedy starring matinee idol Tony Curtis, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, and up-and-comer Jack Lemmon. It’s directed by the guy who made Sunset Boulevard almost a decade earlier, and co-written by uber-talented I.A.L. Diamond. When the film rolls, you get a black-and-white period piece set in Chicago during Prohibition, multiple scenes of gangland murder, and, oh, the two leading men spend most of the movie in drag.

From nearly every angle, Some Like It Hot is a weird, subversive picture: two hard-luck jazz musicians (Curtis and Lemmon) who witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre go into hiding as women in an all-female orchestra, and must navigate love and attraction–one lusts after the band’s sultry singer, played by Monroe, while the other is pursued by a wily old millionaire—all while dodging the mob. The film cuts against the cultural grain so sharply that it’s a miracle it got made at all. But that might be why it connected so forcefully with audiences and remains an unassailable American classic. It’s number 14 on the American Film Institute’s original 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time list (it clocked in at 22 on its 10th anniversary list) and it tops the AFI’s 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time ranking.

Here are 13 interesting tidbits about Some Like It Hot’s production and afterlife to help you appreciate the film even more.

1. THE QUINTESSENTIAL AMERICAN COMEDY WAS INSPIRED BY A DRY GERMAN REMAKE OF A FRENCH FARCE.

The seed that bloomed into Some Like It Hot was planted by an obscure 1951 German film, Fanfaren der Liebe (Fanfares of Love), which was a remake of an older French comedy, Fanfares d’Amour (1935). Both pictures are episodic, focusing on a pair of desperate male characters doing what they can to earn a buck. One of those schemes involves dressing like women and performing in an all-female band. Wilder and Diamond both liked that particular device—and not much else. “The humor in the German movie was rather heavy-handed and Teutonic,” Diamond said. “There was a lot of shaving of chests and trying on wigs.”

2. BILLY WILDER BUCKED ALL CONVENTION TO MAKE GANGLAND MASSACRE VITAL TO A COMEDY.

When Wilder and Diamond began writing, Wilder knew they needed to “find the hammerlock of the story, the ironclad thing in which these two guys trapped in women’s clothing cannot just take off their wigs and say, ‘I’m a guy.’” After kicking around ideas, inspiration finally hit while Wilder was driving (“Billy got a lot of his ideas driving,” Diamond said): the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. If they set the film during the Roaring ‘20s and had their guys witness one of the era’s most brutal events, the masquerade becomes a matter, literally, of life and death. “That was the important invention that made everything else possible,” Wilder said.

3. SOME LIKE IT HOT ALMOST BOASTED MARILYN MONROE AND FRANK SINATRA.

With the plot locked down, attention turned to casting. Names thrown around for the roles of Joe/Josephine and Jerry/Daphne included Danny Kaye and Bob Hope. But Wilder quickly moved to Tony Curtis for Joe, and his choice for Jerry was Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes didn’t make it into Some Like It Hot, obviously. The reason why, though, depends on whose story you believe. Curtis said Wilder wanted Sinatra for Jerry/Daphne, “but he wasn’t sure Frank would be able to play it. Frank was a little bit cantankerous, and Billy didn’t want to take a chance on that.” Wilder was a bit surly himself, which makes Diamond’s version of events seem more likely: “Billy made a lunch date with Sinatra, and he went and waited and sat there, and sat there, and Sinatra never showed up. He stood Billy up.” Wilder, who became a director to control the fates of his scripts, likely wouldn’t have reacted kindly to such an affront to his authority. Sinatra was out, and Jack Lemmon was in.

4. BILLY WILDER AND MARILYN MONROE WERE THE BEST OF FRENEMIES.

The biggest piece of Some Like It Hot casting was, hands down, Marilyn Monroe in the role of singer/ukulele player/saxophonist lover Sugar Kane. It became one of her iconic roles (she’s even depicted as Sugar on a U.S. postal stamp honoring Wilder), and it was a showcase for her talents as an actor, comedian, and all-around performer. At first, Wilder thought of casting Mitzi Gaynor in the role. But when Monroe became available, Wilder jumped at working with his The Seven Year Itch star again—even if it came with some baggage. “I knew that I was going to go crazy at moments. And there were such moments, half a dozen moments,” Wilder said. “But you always tell yourself, ‘I’m not married to her, right?’ And then you come home, you have no dinner, you take a sleeping pill, and you wake up in the morning and you start again.”

Wilder recalled that Monroe showed up for early rehearsals and was great—when she remembered her lines. “She had kind of an elegant vulgarity about her. That, I think was very important. And she automatically knew where the joke was.” But with the good came the bad. During production, she would show up hours late for work, claiming to have lost her way to the studio. Wilder would have to run 80-plus takes to get one line, like “Where’s that bourbon?” or “It’s me, Sugar.” She continually deferred to her acting coach, Paula Strasberg, in the midst of arguments with Wilder. All of this put epic strains on Wilder and the cast, especially Curtis and Lemmon, who had to be perfect on every take because Wilder would use the one where Monroe was perfect, regardless of how well they performed.

The stress led Wilder to make some disparaging remarks to the press after shooting wrapped. “The question is whether Marilyn is a person at all or one of the greatest DuPont products ever invented,” the director once quipped. “She has breasts like granite; she defies gravity; and has a brain like Swiss cheese—full of holes.” Later, he added, “I have discussed this with my doctor and my psychiatrist and they tell me I’m too old and too rich to go through this again.” This prompted Monroe to call Wilder’s home and tell him to, well, fornicate himself (we’re paraphrasing here). Wilder tried patching things up, but she died a short time later. As the years went on, he softened in his view of his experience working with her. “I had no problem with Marilyn Monroe. Monroe had problems with Monroe,” Wilder said. “When it was all done, and my stomach got back to normal, it seemed well worth the agony of working with her.”

5. THE SOME LIKE IT HOT SUPPORTING CAST IS SUPER META.

Wilder looked to actors from 1930s gangster pictures to fill out the ranks of Some Like It Hot’s cops and robbers. (It was a novelty Wilder employed on Sunset Boulevard, too, from hiring silent-screen superstar Gloria Swanson as the lead to finding places for Cecil B. Demille, Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Nilsson.) He cast George Raft (Scarface) as Some Like It Hot’s heavy, Spats Colombo; studio player Pat O’Brien as the chief lawman; and “hey, that guy!” George E. Stone (Little Caesar) as the fink. But he didn’t stop there. Wilder also built in self-referential nods to the seminal crime movies: Near the end of the film, Spats sees a hood (played by Edward G. Robinson Jr.), flipping a coin and asks, “Where did you pick up that cheap trick?” Raft’s character Rinaldo did the same thing in Scarface. Later, in a moment of frustration, Spats goes to smash a grapefruit into one his henchman’s faces, a nod to one of the most iconic moments in The Public Enemy.

6. IF THE MEN HAD TO WEAR DRESSES, THEY WANTED TO LOOK JUST AS GLAMOROUS AS MARILYN MONROE.

Once the actors were in place, it came time to turn to more serious matters: the costumes. Lemmon and Curtis knew that if they were to pass, convincingly, as women, they’d need to look the part. And that meant good clothes. “We were very cooperative,” Lemmon says about being put in makeup and high heels, “but we did put our feet down when we wanted better dresses. They wanted us to select off-the-rack stuff from the costume department. We said we wanted dresses done by Orry-Kelly, who was doing Monroe’s costumes.” Curtis stood with Lemmon in solidarity. “I didn’t want to look like Loretta Young. You know, those high-waisted things, and I wanted a new designer dress of my own, not one of those used things. I went to Billy, and I told him Jack and I wanted Orry-Kelly dresses, too. He said, ‘Okay.’”

When I interviewed Curtis in 2004, he recalled the experience of getting fitted—and how they had some fun at Monroe’s expense: “We’re all at Goldwyn Studios and our dressing rooms are alongside of each other: Jack, me, Marilyn. And Orry-Kelly, a very prestigious-looking man, he had one of those plastic tapes. So he went in and measured Jack, and Jack came out in boxer shorts, stood in front of him and put the tape around his neck: 16, 31, 29, 18. Took all the measurements of Jack. Then he came up to me. I came out in the equivalent of Calvin Kleins. And he measured me: 13 1/2, 14, 15, 37, 29 1/2. When he finished with me, he went to Marilyn. But this is where the story came from Orry-Kelly, not from me. He goes in to measure Marilyn and she comes out in a pair of panties and a silk blouse. He stands there and measures: 29, 34, 18, goes around her [waist and rear] and he said, ‘You know Marilyn, Tony Curtis has a better looking ass than you.’ She unbuttoned her blouse, opened it, and said, ‘He doesn’t have t*ts like these!’” Curtis laughed and clapped his hands. “You can’t beat that story. She was so pissed off. I loved her for that.”

7. CURTIS AND LEMMON ARRIVED AT THEIR FEMALE PERSONAS KIND OF BY ACCIDENT.

Dressed like women, Curtis and Lemmon now needed to establish what kind of women they would be. And it was Lemmon who established the types. Curtis hemmed and hawed about leaving his dressing room first, so Lemmon took the plunge and “he was like a 20-cent tart,” Curtis said. Lemmon skipped around, talked in a high-pitched voice, and was generally bubbly and ditzy. Curtis knew the film couldn’t handle two characters like that, so he took the opposite approach: “I had to be a lady, very grand, like my mother or Grace Kelly. I held my head up, straight and high, and never went for those low-down jokes.”

8. WILDER GAVE HIS LEADING MEN VERY LITTLE TIME TO GET COMFORTABLE PLAYING WOMEN.

The last piece of the characters was their makeup. Curtis and Lemmon spent hours refining their looks. Once they thought they had it, Wilder all but pushed them into the ladies bathroom. He needed to see if it could play. “So, traipsing into the ladies’ we went, and, boy, oh, boy, the flop sweat was really flying,” Lemmon remembered. “I was scared to death. I’ve never been so embarrassed.” But it worked. No one gave them a second look. They rushed out, told Wilder, and he said, “Don’t change a thing!” But Curtis wasn’t convinced. He thought no one looked at them because they made for ugly women. So they went back into makeup, were made a little more glamorous, and went back to the bathroom. They were ID’ed immediately, so they reset to the first look.

9. TONY CURTIS HELPED BILLY WILDER REALIZE A LONG-TIME DREAM, SORT OF.

Cary Grant was Billy Wilder’s white whale. The director always wanted to work with Grant, but things never came together. In Some Like It Hot, though, Curtis got Wilder as close as possible. Besides playing Joe and Josephine, Curtis has a third role, Junior, a faux millionaire heir to the Shell Oil fortune. When it came to developing how Junior would sound, Curtis brought out his Cary Grant impersonation. “The day we were shooting that [first] scene [as Junior],” Curtis told me, “we went down on the beach and I said, ‘Billy, how am I going to play this millionaire?’ He said, ‘Well, how would you like to play it?’ I said, “Well, I do this impression of Cary Grant …’ ‘Well do it!’” So he did, and it’s quite good. “Tony Curtis gave me Cary Grant,” Wilder said. Curtis was happy with the impersonation. So was Wilder. And Grant apparently liked it, too—even if he feigned the contrary. “When Some Like it Hot finished, Billy Wilder showed it to Cary Grant,” Curtis told me. “He said, ‘Cary, how did you like Tony’s impression of you.’ Cary said [Curtis switches to his impersonation], ‘I don’t talk like that!’”

10. THE FILM’S ICONIC LAST LINE WAS ALMOST NEVER USED.

Wilder and Diamond were precise writers. But when it came time to Some Like It Hot’s punch line, they were absolutely indecisive. They got as far as Lemmon ripping off his wig and saying he can’t marry Osgood Fielding III because “I’m a man.” What comes next? Diamond suggested “Nobody’s perfect,” and Wilder said to keep it in so they could send the script to the mimeographer. But then they were really going to settle it. “We have a whole week to think about it,” Wilder said. “We thought about it all week. Neither of us could come up with anything better, so we shot that line, still not entirely satisfied.” Viewers felt entirely differently. “The audience just exploded,” Wilder said. “That line got one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever heard in the theater. But we just hadn’t trusted it when we wrote it; we just didn’t see it. ‘Nobody’s perfect.’ The line had come too easily, just popped out.”

11. SOME LIKE IT HOT WAS A LITTLE TOO HOT FOR SOME PEOPLE.

Some Like It Hot was a huge hit when it was released in 1959, but not everyone had the opportunity to see it. The film was condemned by the National Legion of Decency, a Catholic organization that acted as a watchdog for corruptive content, on the grounds that it was “morally objectionable” and “promoted homosexuality, lesbians, and transvestism.” With that designation, swaths of pious moviegoers across the nation would be compelled to stay away. But there were regional decrees against the film, too. It was banned in Kansas after United Artists refused to edit the love scene between Curtis and Monroe, while in Memphis a censorship board restricted viewing to adults-only.

12. THE FILM INSPIRED TWO (INFERIOR) STAGE MUSICALS.

Proving just how excellent Some Like It Hot and its Wilder-Diamond script are, the film was adapted for the stage twice. The first production, a musical called Sugar that centered on Monroe’s character, opened in April 1972 and ran for more than 500 performances. Some 30 years later, another musical was mounted, this time called Some Like It Hot, with Curtis cast in the role of Osgood Fielding III. It was Curtis’ first time singing and dancing on the stage, and he threw himself into it. When we talked about it 2004, Curtis had fond memories of the experience, if not the final product.

“We did in a year 273 performances and I never missed one,” Curtis said. “That was very hard work. Under the auspices that we were, the production end of it was very clumsy. So that was difficult. You couldn’t do what you did in the movie. Those scenes needed the up-close physicalness. The scene of me and Marilyn kissing, the scene with Jack and I on the train—all of that intimate stuff needed those big close-ups, and that’s what made the movie so appealing.”

13. BILLY WILDER DIDN’T THINK IT WAS THE BEST AMERICAN COMEDY EVER.

Comedy is such a subjective genre, that it’s impossible to say something is the “best.” Best to who? And based on what definition of comedy? But that didn’t stop the American Film Institute from ranking the top 100 American movie comedies, topped by Some Like It Hot. You’ll get no argument from most people, but Wilder was a bit circumspect at the honor. “I’m happy for it, but it’s not true,” he said. “It’s not the best because there is no best. It’s one of the best. It’s a good picture, and I’m proud of it. I’m happy people still like it so much.”

Additional Sources:
Nobody’s Perfect: Billy Wilder, A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe
Billy Wilder (Cinema One series) by Axel Madsen
On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder by Ed Sikov
Some Like It Hot Blu-ray special features
Isn’t It Wonderful? Tony Curtis Sings and Dances in ‘Some Like It Hot,’” Lillian Ross, The New Yorker, June 3, 2002
Billy Wilder, The Art of Screenwriting No. 1, The Paris Review, Spring 1996
Personal interview with Tony Curtis, 2004

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Twentieth Century Fox
Big Is Coming Back to Theaters for Its 30th Anniversary
Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox

Break out your giant piano: Big is coming back to theaters! As Entertainment Weekly reports, the hit Tom Hanks-starring comedy will be making its triumphant return to the big screen to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and 20th Century Fox.

Though the movie itself was released on June 3, 1988, these special anniversary screenings will take place next month. More than 700 theaters across the country will welcome Big back into cinemas on July 15 and July 18, with 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. screenings on both days.

Though the role of Josh Baskin—a teenager who magically gets his wish to be a grown-up, with both hilarious and dramatic complications—seemed tailor-made for Hanks and his talents, the production wasn’t all smooth sailing. Originally, Steven Spielberg (whose sister co-wrote the script with Gary Ross) was attached to direct, with Harrison Ford in the lead. When Penny Marshall came on board, Hanks was her first choice, but he passed on the part (as did Kevin Costner, Warren Beatty, Albert Brooks, and a string of other in-demand actors). Robert De Niro was attached for a time, but that eventually fell apart, too.

Fortunately, the project came full circle and Hanks was eventually convinced to come aboard. He earned his first of five (and counting) Best Actor Oscar nominations for the role.

Visit the Fathom Events website to find out if Big is coming (back) to a theater near you

[h/t: Entertainment Weekly]

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Columbia Pictures
10 Fun Facts About Can’t Hardly Wait
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

When the teen film Can’t Hardly Wait—which was named after the Replacements song of the same name—arrived in theaters on June 12, 1998, it grossed $25,605,015 on a $10 million budget. In the 20 years since, the movie has found an even larger audience through DVD and cable. The premise follows Preston Meyers (Empire Records’s Ethan Embry) trying to connect with his dream girl, Amanda Beckett (Jennifer Love Hewitt), all the while seeking advice from his best friend, Denise Fleming (a pre-Six Feet Under Lauren Ambrose).

Originally called The Party, most of the movie takes place during a rambunctious graduation party, featuring a before-they-were-famous cast, and Jenna Elfman as a stripper dressed as an angel. The movie culminates with Preston and Amanda sealing their romance and living happily ever after. Written and directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, the two would later team up for Josie and the Pussycats. Here are 10 fun-filled facts about the ’90s teen comedy.

1. THE PLOT WAS BASED ON LOGISTICS.

Can't Hardly Wait was Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan’s directorial debut, so they liked the idea of having a self-contained and low-budget story to direct. “It was all practical,” Elfont told TIME. “The idea of doing a movie set at a party came first, because it seemed like it would be really cheap to shoot a movie in one location. Then we thought, what hasn’t been done? Nobody’s really done a high-school movie in a while. So we kind of fell into it that way. It was kind of an accident.”

2. SEVERAL SCENES IN THE FILM WERE CHANGED TO AVOID AN R RATING.

A year before the raunchy American Pie was released and jumpstarted R-rated teen films, Can’t Hardly Wait got watered down to get a PG-13 rating. Sony had issues with the underage drinking, and the fact there was no parental supervision at the party. “Well, who would have a high school party and have your parents there?!” Hewitt asked the Los Angeles Times. Seth Green, who played the virginal Kenny Fisher in the movie, gave a rundown of deleted or altered scenes, to Vulture.

“When [Jennifer] Love [Hewitt] first walks into the party, there’s a kid behind her holding a balloon and covering his mouth,” he said. “That used to be a beer bong, but the most expensive CG in the movie was [used] to make it [look] like that kid was smiling and holding a balloon. And then, there’s a scene where Charlie [Korsmo] and Peter [Facinelli] are at the piano. They toast, and then they cut to a wide shot where neither of them are drinking and then cut back to a close-up of them putting their glasses down because you can’t show the kids drinking.”

3. ETHAN EMBRY FORCED HIS WAY INTO PLAYING THE LEAD.

“It had been a while that I had the opportunity to play the ‘guy that gets the girl,’” Embry told VH1. “I had done those roles when I was a lot younger and this was the first time that someone would see me as a lead.” After Embry auditioned for the movie, he got offered the William Lichter part, which eventually went to Charlie Korsmo. But Embry turned the supporting part down. “I wanted to play the guy who gets the girl. That was sort of the driving thing.”

4. MELISSA JOAN HART AND JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT GOT “HIGH” ON B12 VITAMINS.

Hart purposefully chose the small role of the manic Yearbook Girl, as she was working full-time on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and couldn’t fit in a bigger part. While filming a night scene with Hewitt, Hart took B12 vitamins to stay energized, and offered them to a skeptical Hewitt, who thought the vitamins were drugs. “I finally convinced her it’s a vitamin, you can do it,” Hart told TV Guide. “So we took B12 vitamins, and then there was an owl in the tree. [Hewitt] was like, ‘See I’m high now, because there’s not really an owl in the tree.’ We were having these silly night giggles and just attributing it to B12 vitamins.”

5. JASON SEGEL HAD A CAMEO.

The actor was a year away from starring on Freaks and Geeks and seven from How I Met Your Mother when he signed on to play Watermelon Guy. Kaplan and Elfont recognized his talent immediately. “We knew how funny Jason was but there wasn’t a bigger part for him, so we were, like, let’s cast him as this watermelon guy,” Elfont told TIME.

Many other actors either got their start in the movie or became more famous as a result, including Lauren Ambrose and Freddy Rodriguez (both from Six Feet Under), Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, and Sean Patrick Thomas. “Everyone in that age range came in to read because there were no other jobs,” Kaplan told TIME. “That whole crop of people who turned out to be so talented and do so well for themselves afterward were in our movie literally, I think, because there was nothing else for them to do.”

6. EMBRY DOESN’T REMEMBER MUCH ABOUT THE SHOOT.

Embry admitted to VH1 to being “the world’s biggest stoner” while making the film. “Nothing sticks out because I was so stoned the entire time,” he said. He also confessed, “I haven’t seen the movie all the way through ... I never read the script.”

One thing he did remember, though, was the only scene he filmed with Hewitt, at the end of the movie. Before their characters kissed at the train station, Hewitt—knowing he smoked—had a basket of breath mints sent to Embry’s trailer. “And there was a basket of breath mints, you know? Like real pretty,” he said. “Like almost you give somebody flowers or a fruit basket but she gave me 50 breath mints. And it’s all different types. It was all very sweet. And that always makes me laugh thinking of that. Aww, Jennifer wanted me to smell good.” Embry took advantage of the gift and popped some breath mints into his mouth before filming. “They were rather nice cottonmouth alleviators,” he said during a Reddit AMA.

7. EMBRY DOESN’T KNOW—OR CARE—WHAT HIS CHARACTER'S LETTER SAID.

Early on at the party, Amanda finds and reads Preston’s letter and spends the rest of the film trying to find him. It must’ve been a powerful letter, because it finally brings them together at the end. “It was a prop! It was an envelope,” he told VH1. “I think I remember the directors asking me if I knew what was in there. It was a prop. It doesn’t matter. Like I know what’s in there? It’s called acting.”

8. THE CAST WOULD LOVE TO DO A SEQUEL.

In 2015, some of the cast reunited at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a screening of the film. Hewitt tweeted: “Can’t Hardly Wait reunion movie anyone? Let’s get them to make it!” In a 2013 interview with VH1, Embry was tepid about a sequel. “Maybe if they paid me more than last time,” he said about a second one. “[He and Amanda] would have to not be together anymore. Amanda and him had a horrible breakup and there were kids involved. He drinks himself silly over a typewriter. I’d make that sequel.” But in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post, Embry changed his tune. “Of course I would be thrilled to work with any of the players involved again,” he said. “If all the stars aligned, I would be happy to entertain that possibility.”

Peter Facinelli, who played Amanda’s ex-boyfriend Mike Dexter, told IFC his thoughts on a sequel. “You know how the whole movie takes place at the high school party? We could have the whole movie take place at the reunion. I thought it’d be a fun movie.”

9. PETER FACINELLI THINKS MIKE DEXTER TURNED INTO A LOSER.

If a sequel did occur, Facinelli has an idea about what happened to Mike. “Now he’s basically the loser,” he told IFC. “The nerd was the loser in the first movie. Now he’s like the loser and then he kind of climbs back and gets back on his horse. And the nerdy kid is now the Bill Gates who is kind of like the Mike Dexter, bossing everyone around. I think [Dexter’s] just literally a loser. He’s filled with self-doubt and he would basically rise to self-confidence again and come back on top.”

10. EMBRY THINKS PRESTON AND AMANDA ENDED UP WITH WEIRD JOBS.

VH1 asked Embry where he thinks the characters would be today, and he said: “She’s j*rking off dudes in Vancouver, and he’s making horror movies in upstate New York.”

Elfont took a more serious approach to the question, for TIME. “[The on-screen text at the end of the movie] says they’re still together,” Elfont said. “Who am I to argue?”

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