Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot

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Billy Wilder’s 1959 Some Like It Hot is a romantic comedy that makes a point, consistently throughout its run, to overturn established conventions of genre, playing on not only storytelling tropes but the celebrity status of its stars, Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane), Tony Kurtis (Joe) and Jack Lemmon (Jerry).
As with any film made under the star system of Hollywood’s Golden Age, certain expectations come with a film depending on which stars are attached to it. Monroe, as Hollywood’s leading sex symbol, attaches to the film a certain expectation of a sexual undercurrent, a certain expectation that the film would cater to ‘the male gaze’, as Laura Mulvey put it. Wilder’s spin on that expectation, in objectifying the two leading men in the same
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The sequence is also framed like the first exchange between a slightly prudish, upstanding young woman and an overly aggressive courter, made comedic only by the fact that we know that Daphne is not a woman. Throughout the scene, we see close ups of Daphne’s ankle as it is fondled by Osgood, unwanted sexual advances in the elevator, and consistently suggestive dialogue with a sexual undercurrent. Not only is Wilder flipping the gender script, he is also playing as comedy something that perhaps would not have gotten past the censors otherwise. While this kind of crossdressing comedy certainly reinforces rather than challenges the gender binary, what is significant about the way Daphne is treated in this sequence—and the way Daphne and Josephine are presented on their first reveal as women—is the singular kind of self-awareness Wilder exhibits. He is playing by the book in terms of dialogue and even editing, but there is a knowingness to it, a sly nudge-and-wink to the audience—that because this is a Marilyn Monroe film, and because of the kind of fame that is attached to her and to Tony Curtis, this is what you expect and not what you expect. The…show more content…
Just as in the scene prior to Daphne’s arrival at the hotel, where Sugar calls Jerry a ‘sweetheart’ when he picks up her luggage—as a hopeful courter—and Daphne calls Osgood a ‘sweetheart’ when he does the same for him, there is significantly no shirking from the romantic nature of this meeting. However, Daphne’s meeting with Osgood is more strictly adherent to gender expectations—a man pursuing a woman—than Sugar’s is with Junior—a woman pursuing a man. Here, again, we see Wilder’s wink to the audience—this time a true subversion of gender expectations. Therefore, this scene and to a wider extent, this film, works by doing the unexpected even as it follows the rulebook to the letter. It is ultimately the act of pushing convention—but not too far—that makes this comedy so
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