“Some Like It Hot” – Problems with Sex and Identity

Some Like It Hot


Title: “Some Like It Hot”

Release Date: 1959

Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, Nehemiah Persoff





Billy Wilder’s great film is a great comedy touching upon the problem of identity and its role in the erotic field. In a perfect frame of sophisticated humour, starring Marilyn Monroe, the director treats us to a dose of extremely accurate observations on masculinity, femininity and complicated sexual relations.

“Some Like It Hot”

Billy Wilder, one of the masters of Hollywood cinema, made “Some Like It Hot” in 1959. Despite the fact that the film does not cross the boundaries of good taste and the somewhat perverse eroticism does not come to the fore, the work met with an unfavourable reception in some states of the USA, and there were even cases of its complete banning. Men in women’s clothes, as well as the homosexual subtext, shocked the vigilant censors to such an extent that “Some Like It Hot” was judged to be an indecent and socially harmful comedy. Interestingly, when one watches the film today is most impressed by Wilder’s virtuosity. He has indeed managed to touch upon many erotic issues, but with a safe boundary, and all this in the form of perfectly constructed gags and comic tricks.

“Some Like It Hot” – a perverse plot

“Some Like It Hot” has a distinctively built plot. The action takes place in the late 1920s in the United States, at the time of Prohibition and the reign of the Chicago mafia. On St. Valentine’s Day, two unemployed musicians accidentally witness a massacre carried out by gangsters. Forced to go into hiding, they find an engagement with an all-female musical group, with which they travel to Florida. Saxophonist Joe, out of necessity, transforms himself into Josephine and bassist Jerry into Daphne. However, during the tour things get complicated: Joe falls in love with a beautiful singer, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (played by Marilyn Monroe), and Jerry becomes the object of affection of millionaire Osgood E. Fielding III.

Some Like It Hot review

When the contortionist learns that Sugar wants to marry a wealthy man, he decides to pretend to be an oil tycoon as well, and his plot can only succeed with the support of Jerry, who in turn becomes engaged to the quirky millionaire. Meanwhile, the Chicago mob finds the fugitive musicians in Florida and once again forces them to flee. In the final scene the characters sail away in the eccentric millionaire’s speedboat: Joe admits to Sugar that he is not rich, and Jerry reveals to his fiancé that he is a man. However the millionaire, doesn’t mind at all and comments on this confession with a laconic “nobody’s perfect” – a famous line that went down in the history of cinema.

“Some Like It Hot” – transvestism and homoeroticism

“Some Like It Hot” offers the viewer a reflection on the complexity of the erotic sphere of life. We are dealing here with a whole range of sexual behaviour. Cross-dressing, a game of dressing up which clearly refers to transvestism, comes to the fore. It turns out that one of the musicians, Jerry, is perfectly suited for the female role and quickly gains a loyal admirer with millions. His inclinations are emphasized, on the one hand, by the scenes of dancing with the eccentric Osgood, but also by the hero’s fantasizing about their honeymoon together and by the musical instrument assigned to him in the film – the double bass, which, unlike Joe’s saxophone, is associated with female attributes.

Osgood E. Fielding III, on the other hand, is a puzzling and comical character of a man who falls in love with another man, mistakenly taking him for a woman. However, clearly the millionaire is turned on by Daphne’s masculine attributes – fair height, broad shoulders, big feet. In the end, when he discovers the true identity of his beloved, he finds that it doesn’t bother him at all. Wilder thus introduces here a clear homosexual subtext. Interestingly, Daphne is also the object of some fascination on the part of the beautiful Sugar. The scene of swimming together in the sea seems to be especially significant, when the charming singer admires her friend’s body, even touches it and confesses that she would like to have such flat breasts. The relationship thus introduces a lesbian version of homoeroticism into the film.

Some Like It Hot film review

“Some Like It Hot” – crisis of masculinity

Against this background the image of masculinity in “Some Like It Hot” looks very interesting. It is masculinity in crisis. It is worth noting that the film does not feature any character who would personify a “real man”. Even the representatives of the Chicago mafia are extremely ridiculous and effeminate. The Big Boss of Chicago is nicknamed “Gloves” because he loves to put on that piece of clothing, and his underlings admire him for his predilection for following fashion trends. The biggest problems with masculinity, however, become apparent in Joe’s character construction.

Not only is he forced to weaken his masculine identity by dressing as a woman, but even pretending to be a millionaire does not fit into the culture of “real men”. Joe, as an oil tycoon, wears thick glasses that take away his physical attributes, and what is more, in order to make the beautiful Sugar openly erotic, he pretends to be impotent. The sweet singer, on the other hand, perceives his big yacht as the most important masculine feature of the millionaire – masculinity here comes down to the size of his wallet. A large yacht, however, is also a meaningful Freudian symbol – as we know, the psychoanalyst claimed that men with small appendages compensate for this complex by purchasing large mechanical vehicles – cars or, in this case, a yacht.

“Some Like It Hot” – the bitter triumph of femininity

On the other hand “Some Like It Hot” presents a completely different image of womanhood, which triumphs on screen in all its possible incarnations. Its quintessence is, of course, Sugar – the very name brings to mind the sweetness and candy eroticism of Marilyn Monroe. Sugar’s feminine qualities are emphasized by her glamorous, chic outfits – sparkling with sequins, white, furs and glittering jewelry. Wilder’s film was undoubtedly constructed so that Marilyn Monroe could shine on the screen and fascinate the audience with her unique sex appeal. Especially the scene when the star performs the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You” went down in history.

Some Like It Hot 1959

However, Sweet Sugar has significant weaknesses – she is very naive, always chooses the wrong men, and pays for misplaced feelings and disappointments with alcohol addiction. The protagonist’s fate is a bitter and ironic reworking of the stereotypical story of the girl who dreams of a life with a handsome millionaire, but always ends up in the arms of a penniless gambler. Wilder’s calculating materialism of women turns out to be a sham, and what is really fatal is love. What is more, only Sugar does not pretend to be anyone – she is herself from the beginning to the end. Thus, the female gender appears here as a primal identity, an uncontrollable element that permeates and marks also male forms. Masculinity – Wilder observes – is subject to moral changes and is unable to find its proper expression in the contemporary world.