SOME LIKE IT HOT

SHOOT­ING DIREC­TOR BILLY WILDER’S CLAS­SIC CROSS-DRESS­ING COM­EDY PROVED ANY­THING BUT A DRAG

Closer Weekly - - Contents -

The clas­sic cross-dress­ing com­edy is about to turn 60 and we’ve got all the be­hindthe-scenes se­crets from the set.

It might’ve been luke­warm with­out Jack Lem­mon, but the ac­tor wasn’t the orig­i­nal choice to play a mu­si­cian who dresses as a woman to es­cape the Mob in 1959’s Some Like It Hot. “The first of­fer went out to Jerry Lewis, who turned it down be­cause he said, ‘Drag just isn’t funny,’ ” Jack’s son, Chris Lem­mon, tells Closer. Af­ter Jack earned an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for the com­edy, “Pop would send Jerry a box of choco­lates ev­ery year at Os­car time.”

As the movie cel­e­brates its 60th an­niver­sary, a new Blu-ray re­veals even more sweet be­hind-the-scenes tidbits. Af­ter Jerry de­clined the role, “the money peo­ple thought Jack wasn’t a big enough star,” said Bar­bara Di­a­mond, whose hus­band, I.A.L., cowrote the script with direc­tor Billy Wilder. The orig­i­nal plan was to have Frank Si­na­tra co-star with Tony Cur­tis and Mitzi Gaynor, but “Billy made a date with Si­na­tra for lunch, and Si­na­tra stood him up,” Bar­bara said. “That pretty much took care of that.”

Ev­ery­thing changed when su­per­star Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe got a hold of the script and told Billy she wanted to do it. Ex­plained Bar­bara, “Once Billy had Mar­i­lyn and Tony, Jack was plenty big enough.”

NO­BODY’S PER­FECT

Mar­i­lyn brought her own prob­lems to the set, how­ever. She was in­se­cure, of­ten late and re­quired mul­ti­ple takes to get her lines right. “She was dif­fi­cult, there’s no ques­tion of that,” Jack later said. Still, he in­sisted, “I loved work­ing with Mar­i­lyn.”

Trans­form­ing Jack and Tony into be­liev­able women was also a chal­lenge. Once they thought they had nailed their looks, the guys went into a women’s re­stroom to see if any­body no­ticed. “We went right to the mir­ror and started putting on lip­stick,” Tony re­called. “I fin­ished mine, and as we got to the exit, a girl walked by and said, ‘Hi, Tony!’ ”

Out­siders’ ex­pec­ta­tions for the film weren’t high while it was in pro­duc­tion. “An aw­ful lot of peo­ple thought it was go­ing to be a dis­as­ter,” Jack said. “They thought Billy was try­ing to make a fea­ture-length farce out of a five-minute bur­lesque sketch.”

When the movie was first shown to pre­view au­di­ences, “no­body laughed,” Tony said. “No­body re­ally got it. They weren’t quite sure what it was about — they thought it was a melo­drama.” But Billy cut only one 60-sec­ond scene be­fore the film was re­leased.

The ini­tial re­views were mixed, and the pow­er­ful Catholic Le­gion of De­cency con­demned the movie as morally ob­jec­tion­able for pro­mot­ing ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and transvestism.

De­spite the fact that it was banned in places like Kansas, Some Like It Hot be­came a ma­jor word-of-mouth hit. “No­body paid much at­ten­tion to it un­til all of a sud­den it started to erupt,” Tony said. “The au­di­ence got it be­fore any­body else.”

The movie snagged six Os­car nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing best direc­tor and best adapted screen­play, but won only one, for best cos­tume de­sign. “We kind of got left in the dust by Ben-Hur,” said pro­ducer Wal­ter Mirisch. “But the Academy made it up to Billy the fol­low­ing year by giv­ing him Os­cars for writ­ing, di­rect­ing and pro­duc­ing The Apart­ment,” which also starred Jack.

In the years since, Some Like It Hot has ce­mented its rep­u­ta­tion as “the great­est com­edy of all time,” Chris Lem­mon says. As Mirisch asked, “What more could film­mak­ers want than the fact that a film has passed the test of time?”

— Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by Amanda Cham­pagne-Mead­ows

“It was orig­i­nal, it was out­ra­geous, and it took a lot of courage to do.”

— Tony Cur­tis

“We knew we had a good pic­ture,” said Billy, di­rect­ing Tony Cur­tis and Jack Lem­mon. The lead­ing men went through five days of makeup tests be­foreset­tling on their fi­nal looks. “I had a won­der­ful time with her,” Tony said of his on­screen love in­ter­est Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe.

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