Some Like It Hot


The Film

Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American comedy film set in 1929, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O'Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee and Nehemiah Persoff.

Two struggling musicians witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and are now on the run from the Mob. In an attempt to hide from their pursuers, Jerry and Joe cross-dress into an all female band. In addition to hiding, each has his own problems - one falls for another band member but can't tell her his gender, and the other has a rich suitor who will not take "No" for an answer.

In 1960, the film won three Golden Globes: Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Jack Lemmon), Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Marilyn Monroe) and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It also won the the Academy Award for Best Costume Design and the BAFTA for Best Foreign Actor (Jack Lemmon).

Some Like It Hot is one of the best-loved and enduring comedy films of all time. For many, this is the greatest comedy ever made in Hollywood. Over 55 years later, it is still very funny and not the least bit dated. It is one of the true classics in the history of film.

Original 1959 Cinema Trailer




Marilyn Monroe as Sugar "Kane" Kowalczyk, a ukulele player and singer
Tony Curtis as Joe/"Josephine"/"Shell Oil Junior"
Jack Lemmon as Jerry (Gerald)/"Daphne"
George Raft as "Spats" Colombo, a mobster from Chicago
Pat O'Brien as Detective Mulligan
Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III
Nehemiah Persoff as "Little Bonaparte," a mobster
Joan Shawlee as Sweet Sue, the bandleader of "Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators"
Dave Barry as Mister Beinstock, the band manager for "Sweet Sue and Her Society Syncopators"
Billy Gray as Sig Poliakoff, Joe and Jerry's agent in Chicago
Barbara Drew as Nellie Weinmeyer, Poliakoff's secretary
George E. Stone as "Toothpick" Charlie, a gangster who is killed by "Spats" Colombo
Mike Mazurki as Spats' henchman
Harry Wilson as Spats' henchman
Edward G. Robinson Jr. as Johnny Paradise, a gangster who kills "Spats" Colombo
Beverly Wills as Dolores, a trombone player, and Sugar's apartment friend

Original 1959 cinema poster


Billy Wilder wrote the script for Some Like it Hot. The plot is based on a screenplay by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan from the French film 'Fanfares of Love'. However, the original script for 'Fanfares of Love' was untraceable, so Walter Mirisch found a copy of the German remake 'Fanfaren der Liebe'. He bought the rights to the script and Wilder worked with this to produce a new story. Some Like It Hot is often seen as a remake of 'Fanfares of Love', as both films follow the story of two musicians in search of work.

The studio hired Barbette, a famous female impersonator, to coach Lemmon and Curtis on gender illusion for the film.

Marilyn Monroe worked for 10% of the gross in excess of $4 million, Tony Curtis for 5% of the gross over $2 million and Billy Wilder 17.5% of the first million after break-even and 20% thereafter.


With regards to sound design, there is a ‘strong musical element,’ in the film, with the soundtrack created by Adolph Deutsch. It has an authentic 1920s jazz feel using sharp, brassy strings to create tension in certain moments, for example whenever Spats' gangsters appear. In terms of cinematography and aethsetics, Billy Wilder chose to shoot the film in black and white, since Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in full costume and make up looked ‘unnaceptably grotesque’ in early colour tests.


Tony Curtis was spotted by Billy Wilder while he was making the film Houdini (1953). Wilder thought Curtis would perfect for the role of Joe. "I was sure Tony was right for it" explained Wilder, "because he was quite handsome, and when he tells Marilyn that he is one of the Shell Oil family, she has to be able to believe it".

According to York Film Notes, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond didn't expect such a big star as Marilyn Monroe to take the part of Sugar. In fact Wilder admits that "Mitzi Gaynor was who we had in mind. The word came that Marilyn wanted the part - and then we had to have Marilyn".


Some Like It Hot was filmed at four locations:

  • Hotel del Coronado - 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, California, USA
  • Coronado Beach, Coronado, California, USA
  • The Lot - 1041 N. Formosa Avenue, West Hollywood, California, USA
  • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios - 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, California, USA
    (studio) (train exteriors)

The exteriors were filmed in a mere seven days at Coronado Beach near San Diego, standing in for 1920s ‘Florida’.

The ‘Miami’ hotel, where Daphne and Josephine (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) hide out with Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and the girl band, is the Hotel Del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue.

This 700-room Victorian fantasy, built in 1888, has long been frequented by the rich and famous, including no less than eight US presidents, stage actress Sarah Bernhardt, Charlie Chaplin, and – according to legend – it’s where King-to-be Edward met Mrs Wallis Simpson.

Its other connection with movie history is that this is where Frank L. Baum wrote much of The Wizard of Oz, and its fussy Gingerbread appearance is said to have inspired the description of Oz. So, fittingly, Buddy Ebsen spent a month recuperating here from the effect of breathing in aluminium dust – and considering whether to sue MGM – after starting work as the original Tin Man in the 1939 film.

The Coronado is also the setting for Richard Rush’s brilliant, Oscar-nominated 1980 one-off, The Stunt Man with Steve Railsback and Peter O’Toole.


Such is the enduring quality of Some Like It Hot, it was re-released in cinemas in 2000. Michael Thomson of the BBC reviewed it then:

'Because we've grown used to seeing almost every possible subversion and set-up on screen, it's almost impossible to think back to 1959 and realise that, in mixing an affectionate view of cross-dressing with a light-hearted look at the mob, Billy Wilder was being daring in the extreme. And it was because he laced his own script with continuous charm and big fun that he was able to express those ideas in the mainstream.

For those who haven't seen it, 'Some Like It Hot' is one of the greatest comedies ever. In a story of increasingly wild absurdity, it follows the antics of two idiot musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who, after witnessing the St Valentine's Day Massacre, struggle to escape the gangsters (including a severely unsmiling George Raft) by dressing up in drag and joining an all-girl band. Comic complications aplenty ensue when Tony Curtis - now a pouting girlie - strives to express his lust for Marilyn, while Jack Lemmon - equally high-voiced and simpering - is being pursued by an amorous Joe E Brown, who has one of the funniest - and most radical - final punch-lines in screen comedy.

'Some Like It Hot' is one of those rare movies where all the elements gel all the time. Both Curtis and Lemmon display a real feeling for sexual ambiguity and full-blown silliness, while Marilyn provides a suitably contrasting innocence to the antics of the two rogues. Wilder presents all three with great comic scenes which soar on the back of originality and great timing and embrace both slapstick and super-sharp wit.'

Original 1959 cinema poster

Original 1959 cinema poster

Original 1959 cinema poster


Some Like it Hot received widespread critical acclaim. It was voted as the top film on AFI's "100 Years.....100 Laughs" poll in 2000.

Roger Ebert wrote about the film:"Wilder's 1959 comedy is one of the enduring treasures of the movies, a film of inspiration and meticulous craft."

New Yorker's John McCarten referred to the film as "a jolly, carefree enterprise".

The Guardian's Richard Roud claims that Wilder comes "close to perfection" with the film.

Filmsite Review

The all-time outrageous, satirical, comedy farce favourite, Some Like It Hot (1959) is one of the most hilarious, raucous films ever made.

The ribald film is a clever combination of many elements: a spoof of 1920-30's gangster film with period costumes and speakeasies, and romance in a quasi-screwball comedy with one central joke - entangled and deceptive identities, reversed sex roles and cross-dressing. In fact, one of the film's major themes is disguise and masquerade, for example the drag costumes of the two male musicians, Joe's disguise as a Cary Grant-like impotent millionaire, and Jerry's happiness with a real wealthy, yacht-owning retiree.

It's also a black and white film, reminiscent of the early film era, filled with non-stop action, slapstick, and one-liners reminiscent of Marx Brothers and Mack Sennett comedies.

The exceptional film was the all-time highest-grossing comedy of its time, one of the most successful films of 1959, and Wilder's funniest comedy in his career.

Only a few other cross-dressing comedies have come close to approximating the film's daring hilarity: Tootsie (1982), La Cage Aux Folles (1978) and Victor/Victoria (1982). Some Like It Hot also inspired the Broadway musical Sugar that opened in 1972.