The Moves

Fiona was feeling low, so we put on SOME LIKE IT HOT, and by the end, she was feeling pretty good.

I’m glad I haven’t been asked to write professionally about this one, as it strikes me as hard to say anything that’s both new and useful about this particular masterpiece of comedy. It doesn’t seem to be exhaustible as a viewing experience though — if you watch it with a friend, each of you will probably only remember half the funny lines, so there will still be a lot of laughter. And, as with a good Preston Sturges, if you’ve “used up” the best jokes by overexposure to them, you’ll start to find even the spaces in between funny.

This time Fiona was particularly enjoying the character’s movements, which I can only suggest in still images.


I gained a fresh appreciation of Pat O’Brien’s contribution. Fiona tells me George Raft LOVED sending himself up. But why couldn’t they get Edward G. Robinson? They even cast his “Hollywood bad boy” son, Junior. You’d think that would have helped…

13 Responses to “The Moves”

  1. The opening establisher title (Chicago, 1929) got a huge laugh when I saw it at a very middle-class suburban theater during its first run. Funny because it pithily explains the crazy goings-on we’ve been watching for the last minute or two. Depends, of course, upon a nodding acquaintance of 20th Century American history, which Wilder and Diamond correctly took as a given with a typical middle-class American audience. Saw the film in New Zealand in 2000 or so, and I was the only one who chuckled at the same moment, a chuckle stifled by a Kiwi audience who wondered what the hell I was laughing at. They enjoyed the rest of the picture, though. A very revisitable comedy. And isn’t the score perfect?

  2. Marilyn is all about movement. Unlike any other Movie Goddess I can think of she’s never truly still.

  3. Monroe in this movie certainly can’t be still, as her body is still quivering and rippling for long seconds after each movement, something Wilder’s camera is very attentive to.

    I’m sure I’ve heard an audience in Scotland laugh at the bullet-ridden coffin full of whisky, with the Chicago 1929 caption. I think Prohibition is pretty well understood here… Although I haven’t asked my new batch of millennial students yet.

  4. I’m not sure if it’s apocryphal, but supposedly Wilder and Diamond wanted Robinson to play Little Bonaparte opposite (“So wuzza few months between FRIENDS…?!”), but Robinson and Raft had gotten into a fistfight on the set of some earlier Warners film and Robinson refused to even be in the same room as him. I swear I’ve seen this particular story repeated in a couple different books/docus/etc., but it always seems to be second hand storytelling, I dunno if any of the principles confirmed it as true…Maybe casting Jr. was a last ditch attempt to try to get Sr…? (Beyond it just being one of several gangster movie in-jokes.)

  5. I can well believe all of that… Of course, it wouldn’t be too hard to shoot that scene with the two gangsters never on stage at the same time, using a stand in here and there in long shots and reverse angles, but I don’t think Wilder thought or worked like that.

  6. Matthew Davis Says:

    Edward G. Robinson Jr reminds me of another abortive casting in-joke in Sunset Boulevard. When walking around the studio at night Holden turns to Nancy Olsen and mentions going back by way of Washington Square. The original lead for Sunset Boulevard was supposed to have been Montgomery Clift, whose previous film was “The Heiress” based on Henry James’s “Washington Square”. An actor in one role effectively alluding to himself in a previous role, possibly even walking through the same set in which he had performed but which was also simultaneously based on a real location. Reality and movie art swallowing each other.

  7. bensondonald Says:

    At the climatic dinner Raft is stopped from smacking one of his goons with a grapefruit. Did they want Cagney at some point?

    There’s a stage musical, variously titled “Sugar” or “Some Like It Hot”. Some very engaging songs, but the book is tripped up by the time necessary for the two actors to switch in and out of female drag. The film makes the changes impossibly fast. Also, the plot is quasi-streamlined by eliminating the gangster convention. Spats and his goons just show up, and the goons shoot Spats by mistake.

    It ends with a full stop for a set change to the yacht (giving us time to reflect there’s no reason for anybody to be fleeing) and there we get the motorboat dialogue from the movie. Again, what’s quick and unexpected on film plays out like one-joke TV sketch.

    I’ve seen a couple of productions, but not the original which cast Robert Morse and Cyril Ritchard in the Lemmon and Brown parts.

    “The Apartment” made a more successful transition (“Promises Promises”), in part because it was a much different animal despite hewing close to the movie’s story. Set in the present (the mid-sixties, with colorful sets and Burt Bacharach songs) and given a more outright comic tone (book by Neil Simon), it trades Wilder’s poignance and edge for well-done musical comedy.

  8. I don’t think there would have been room for Cagney in this, and it would have been confusing to have him in the Robinson role. The grapefruit is just part of the jamboree of period jokes and references crammed into it. Wilder & Diamond were still doing the same thing in The Front Page, where references to Ruth Schneider and Roxy Hart are shoehorned in.

    They got to do the grapefruit gag with Cagney in One, Two, Three… where Horst Buccholtz threatens Jimmy with the breakfast fruit. But Cagney had already spoofed his iconic Public Enemy scene in Hard to Handle, where he’s busted for involvement in a grapefruit-related swindle.

    “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, I never even seen a grapefruit,” he protests.

    “Take him away and show him a grapefruit,” snaps the police chief.

    Fascinating about the Washington Square gag — they didn’t even bother to change it when they lost Clift. Or maybe they just put it in to tease him after he walked out?

  9. Charles W. Callahan Says:

    Regarding Robinson & Raft: The fight happened on the set of Roaul Walsh’s MANPOWER with Marlene D. It had a great cast: Frank McCugh, Alan Hale, Ward Bond, Walter Catlett, etc. There’s a photo to document it. The look on Robinson’s face is fierce. Bond is featured in the still and looks like he’s having a swell time, the scamp.

  10. Ha! I just read a good Raft story which will get its own post…

  11. Maybe the discussion of the gangster roles is getting worn out, but I think that James Cagney should have played George Raft’s role of Spats Columbo. Just change his name to Spats Sullivan or something like that. Then, there would have been a more meaningful joke about the grapefruit. You know, I’ve watched that movie many times, since Jack Lemmon used to be my favorite actor, but I had completely forgotten about the grapefruit joke until someone mentioned it in a comment here. I haven’t watched this movie since I have seen the grapefruit scene in “The Public Enemy.” I agree that the joke was just slightly worn out by 1959, but I think “Some Like It Hot” was entirely composed of old jokes. Also, it would have been interesting to get the famous team of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien back together again. There’s another thing that I have noticed. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I think that the Opera Lover’s Convention features a reference to the first Warner gangster film, “The Doorway to Hell” from 1930. In that, Louie Ricarno (Lew Ayres) organizes the whole liquor racquet and makes himself boss. They call him the Napoleon of the underworld, and the character in this movie is called Little Bonaparte. I think that’s just too similar to be a coincidence. It would have been funny with James Cagney, since he played Louie Ricarno’s assistant in that movie.

    By the way, “The Great Breening Blogathon” begins tomorrow. Do you have any idea what topic you will choose? I would be happy to give you suggestions. Of course, you do not have to decide just yet. You have through Sunday to submit your article to me. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

  12. But Little Napoleon is clearly a paraphrase of Little Caesar, a much more recognizable reference.

    I like Raft a lot in this — he’s admirably cold-blooded. Cagney tended more towards heat…

  13. Oh, yes, that does make sense. Mr. Raft is excellent at being cold as Spats Columbo.

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

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