Wednesday, 18 March 2009
High on Mr Gnome's list of Desert Island films is Billy Wilder's 1959 comedy Some Like It Hot.
It's one of those rare works of art where all the elements - script, casting, photography - come together with zinging, can't-imagine-it-otherwise perfection.
Small-time Chicago bandsmen (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) find themselves needing to get out of town fast having been spotted by the Mob while witnessing the St Valentine's Day Massacre.
Cue the comic set-up that drives the plot - Joe and Jerry transform themselves into Josephine and Geraldine to join an elite all-female combo: Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators.
Enter down-on-luck vocalist Sugar Kane (the touchingly incandescant Marilyn Monroe) and Joe and Jerry are falling over each other to gain her attention.
So far, so farcical.
What sets this film in a class of its own is Wilder's teasingly sophisticated take on the cross-dressing theme.
In particular, as the film progresses something weird, worrying and very funny starts to happen to Jack Lemmon's Geraldine. Fifty years on, his journey still seems transgressive and loopily subversive - it's about so much more than a bloke in a frock.
The film is packed with glorious moments: the scene in the sleeping compartment, the bowtie-twanging bell-hop, the bicycle gags and the incomparable Joe E Brown as the millionaire with the hots for Geraldine ('Zowie!').
And, of course, it's Brown who gets to utter the film's glorious, shining, immortal final line.