The 1950’s was a decade whose beginning and end were marked by obvious changes in American culture and society. With the birth of television shows such as American Band stand a new teenage market was born. A market of consumerist who denied the traditionalist styles their forefathers embraced. The place of women in this society also exhibited a large range from the traditionalist house wife and mother to a sexual icon during the late 50’s into the 60’s. With all this incongruity between ideals of the older and younger generations it is not a surprise that Hollywood movies dealing with risqué topics began to find their market. Schwartz’ book is a comprehensive look at the defining event of the 1950’s and summarizes how every aspect of society from politics to entertainment changes as the years pass. In the chapter concerning 1959 the time period when Some Like it Hot was released, Hollywood was finding its footing in the market by touching on topics that television supported by advertisers was too fearful to attack.
Some Like it Hot is a movie which is truly of its time, particularly with regards to Marilyn Monroe’s role a sexual icon and a fool for love. These two roles Marilyn Monroe inhabits could be viewed as symbolic of the dualistic roles of woman during this transient time from the late 1950’s into the 1960’s. There was the submissive role which Marilyn encompasses as a fool who will do anything for a man she’s fallen, and Marilyn’s role as a sexual icon. Marilyn’s sexual presence gives her power and makes her the star of the movie. Even though she is in less scenes then Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon she is by far the most memorable figure in the movie.
This source is a historical assessment of 1950’s America as a whole and it is during this context that one is able to see clear societal influences in Billy Wilders comedy Some Like it Hot.
This website provides a brief overview and analysis of all aspects of the 1950’s culture in America. The early part of the decade was marked by a return to conservatism. The homecoming of U.S. troops from World War II, the fear of communist infiltration in the west, and a strong feeling of national pride collectively caused many disillusioned Americans to return to their traditional roots. However despite a traditionalist attitude there were still many changes occurring during this decade which would lead to the rebellious nature of the youth in the 60’ and 70’s. The introduction of television as a new form of media was a major turning point in the industry, and the birth of rock and roll both revolutionized American culture.
It was at the end of this era of 1950’s culture that Billy Wilder produced and directed Some Like it Hot. This movie essentially marks the beginning of the end of the conservatist era. Some Like it Hot cost $2.8 million dollars to make and was a box office hit grossing around $7 million. It is clear from the numbers that people of the time were becoming more open and accepting of topics that were previously banned. The publics’ response to this racy atypical comedy is significant because the audience’s attraction to the movie was based in its openness with themes of sexuality and violence. It was a movie that contained layers of understanding and innuendo that could be appreciated by audiences of all ages. This website provides information regarding the 1950’s way of life, and in understanding the peoples attitudes at the end of the 1950’s one is able to more fully appreciate the costume choices, witty references, and language used in the movie.
This source provides a proficient generic foundation of the culture of the 1950’s and contains a great deal of citations that were used and can be accessed through the database.
Born near in a small town near Vienna, Billy Wilder would come from humble beginnings to later develop into an infamous producer, whose movies that have stood the test of time. Bernard Dick’s book observes Wilders life through a very appropriate lens, his life’s work. Each of Wilders films seems to exhibit a character or signature of sorts that only the best of directors are capable of creating. In this biography of sorts each movie is treated as a venue through which the reader can understand Wilders life, and directing/producing styles that made him capable enough to transform a mediocre screen play into a box office hit.
One impressive signature of many of Wilders movies is his ability to make the characters in the film very human despite fantastical situations and unbelievable occurrences. Chapter 7 of Bernard Dick’s book called, “The Human Comedies: Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and Avanti!” address’ Wilders humanizing ability. In Some Like it Hot Wilder was able to make Daphne and Josephine (Joe and Jerry in drag) into relatable feminine figures despite the slapstick parody driven comedy of the plot and the insanity of their drag charade. Several pages of this chapter are centered upon looking at how Wilder uses comedy to enhance not substitute for character depth. Despite their antics Joe/Josephine and Jerry/Daphne are very human with emotional vulnerabilities, and individual personalities. One simple example the book offers reference the scene in the movie when Jerry decided that he wants his drag name to be Daphne, instead of Geraldine (an easy feminine twist to his name). The look on his face when deciding this is one of satisfaction, you see Jerry becoming comfortable in him feminine role and this makes the viewer more comfortable as well. Though this may seem simple little decisions such as this are what give the characters real personality.
As a source this book provides well thought out and researched insights into Billy Wilder’s life and movies. The bibliography is selective which leaves some vagueness regarding the credibility of some of the material. Additionally, some of the insights into the movies and their meanings seem to be opinion based and therefore more biased and less steadfast.
This particular book about Billy Wilde gives accounts of conversations and experiences which illustrate both his personal and social life. Zolotow looks at exchanges Wilder has with different actors, directors etc. and incorporates dialogue from these dialogues into the bibliographic form in order to give the reader a more engaging account of the events in Wilders life.
A book such as this gives a good background perspective on Wilders life and personality from exchanges he has with people. It is through gaining this greater understanding of the director and his life that one gains insight into the director’s work. Billy Wilder was a dynamic genius who gave his movies a great deal of attention and care which is how he was able to produce several masterpieces. It is the often overlooked and even the seemingly inane details that make scenes in Wilders movies works of art. One example the book offers of Wilders cinematic brilliance is from a scene in the movie Some Like it Hot. In the scene when Daphne (Jerry) tells Josephine (Joe) that he is engaged a rich billionaire, Wilder insisted that Jack Lemmon who plays Daphne have maracas and shaken them after every line. In this scene the maracas were added to give the audience a chance to laugh during the maracas shaking sequence, and then settle down in time to hear the rest of the witty dialogue. A simple detail such as this shows the care and consideration Wilder has for his audience.
The conversationalist tone taken by the speaker gives this book the feel of a story. And while this tone makes the book reader friendly it also gives it a seemingly less credible foundation. The lack of references and a background research section also make the book a questionable source.
Richard Buskins book is essentially a window into the world of one of the most extraordinary cinematic talents of this century, Marilyn Monroe. This book takes an interesting form in its attempt to paint a picture of the woman, and not just create a biographical compilation of the events in her life. Buskin looks at Marilyn’s life by following her career from one movie to another, and capturing a three dimensional view of her life by quoting; Marilyn herself, and fellow actors, directors, friends, and admirers who she knew.
In this books attempt to draw a line through Marilyn’s life using her career, the 1959 picture Some Like It Hot is a notable stop on the way. Arguably one of Marilyn Monroe’s most famous performances this starlet was the heart of the movie, a sexual sweetheart who always got “the fuzzy end of the lollypop”. After Buskin does a brief synopsis of the movies plot, the book delves into life behind the scenes, and we catch a glimpse of the devil behind the Monroe’s angel face. Screaming, cursing, undependable, and insisting on dozens upon dozens of takes she was difficult to work with to say the least. But in the end the director Billy Wilder admitted that “she was actually worth all the aggravation.” Some Like It Hot is a movie defined by the talent of its cast, and this book gives an essence of the star actress. Marilyn was and still to this day is a star, with a presence and reputation that surpasses her time.
In terms of reliability as a source this book is strongly rooted in primary sources using quotations from Marilyn’s fellow actors and directors to characterize her. The author spent almost a decade to write this book, named a great deal of notable institutions in citing his research, and acknowledged several dozen people who interviewed with him about their personal relationship with Marilyn Monroe. Therefore I would consider this source to be fairly trustworthy.
This source looks at Billy Wilder’s social life and career. The fourteenth chapter is the most relevant regarding the movie Some Like it Hot. In this chapter there are many details and quotes concerning Billy Wilder’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe and the many trials of making a movie with a star. Wilder was very patient with Marilyn whose temper was tolerated because her talent was immense. Wood’s book also slips in historical and external aspects affecting the making of Some Like it Hot. For example during the time when the movie was being shot Marilyn’s husband Arthur Miller was under investigation for communist allegiances, and later in the production she became pregnant (a baby which was miscarried one of the last days of shooting). This small bit of information might explain Marilyn’s exceptionally unruly temperament during this productions making.
Some Like it Hot was so much more than just another Wilder film, the entire survival and later success of the Mirisch Company a fairly new instillation in Hollywood at the time, was dependant on this movies success. This book does an excellent job of interweaving Hollywood politics, Wilders life, and movie making process to paint a full picture of the framework for one of the greatest comedies of all time.
In assessing this source it was determined to be reliable in its factual representation of the surrounding Wilders life. Written fairly early the author had access to many first hand sources for information about Wilders life.
Reviewers, “Some Like it Hot.” The Catholic World 189 (1959): 156
This review from a 1959 journal provides a multifaceted snapshot of the movie world in 1959. The review is a good template for analyzing the focus of some movie reviewers at the time, and what aspect of a film was considered to be of importance. In reading several reviews from the time it seems as if reviewers of this era looked at the success of the movie in its attempt to create world the audience could relate to.
For the section on Some Like it Hot the reviewers focus seems to be on Billy Wilders production style in this movie rather than the cast and plot of the movie itself. After a brief summary of the basic occurrence in the film Billy Wilder is then praised for his ability to make a mediocre script into a hilarious comedy. However this praise is not untainted for soon after Wilder is criticized for what the reviewer thought to be over the top suggestivity particularly in scenes where Marilyn Monroe wore very slinky clothing. This opinion is clearly colored not only by its author’s personal preference but also by the journal in which this review is contained (The Catholic Word). It is interesting to see the angle and criticism doled out by a magazine with a catholic spin.
This source is opinion based but despite this is still credible in its role as an indication of the movies reception during its time. Essentially the value of this source lies in its opinionated foundation that expresses one of the many attitude that reviews had regarding this Wilder flick.
This book looks at the career life of Marilyn Monroe and in the process goes through each movie she has appeared in. For each movie Conway provides a basic summary of the plot and an excerpt speaking of the publics’ reaction to the film. The most valuable information contained in this source is the snapshot reviews of how critics’ responded to the each of Marilyn Monroe’s films during the time when they were released. Reading short excerpts from different reviews gives a bit of a diversified picture of the publics’ response to the movie during its day and age. This perspective is invaluable information when looking to understand the movies time period cues and appreciate how the film was viewed during a different time in American culture.
The section focused on in this book was the few pages which concerned Marilyn Monroe’s role in Billy Wilder’s movie, Some Like it Hot. This section provides a short strictly factual summary of the occurrences in this “twisted” plot, and then gives portions of 1959 critics to this film. The three critics A.H. Weiler of the New York Times, Hift from Variety, and Archer Winsten from the New York Post, collectively help to paint a picture of where the epicenter of the movies success stemmed from, and this was the cast. These excerpt reviews all celebrate Marilyn Monroe as both a sex icon and a skilled comedian whose amazingly believable performance as Sugar made the characters more accessible despite the surreal plot. The songs she sings and provocative costumes she wears accentuate her natural sex appeal, and yet despite this mature body Marilyn is a convincing innocent young girl looking for love.
This source has cited references from dozens of literary reviews and is very direct and factual in its attempt to summarize movies as well as Marilyn’s life. Therefore I would consider this source to be of value when researching any of Marilyn’s movies or her life in general.
This source is particularly notable because of its analysis of cinematic history. The pages specifically cited are contained in the chapter entitled Demise of the Production Code, which briefly analyzes the effect of the production code on Hollywood and the movies. This chapter follows a chronological progression of the Production Codes impact and influence in Hollywood from 1922 onward, and takes a concentrated look at the Production codes evolution under different leaders. For a good deal of time prior to 1955 Joseph Breen enforced the tenets of the production code with an iron fist. However, upon Breen’s retirement his associate assumed control over the production codes enforcement. This shift of power from Breen, a strict enforcer of the code, to Shurlock, a more flexible realist, also signified a shift in mainstream movie content. In 1956 the production code underwent a revamp that softened its restrictions and allowed it to become more lenient toward drug use, sexual themes, and violence. Shurlock saw the need for Hollywood to follow the counterculture and at the same time managed to appease the conservatist overlords of the government who kept a watchful eye on the workings of the movie industry.
It was only in this atmosphere of transition and increased openness that Billy Wilder’s movie Some Like It Hot (1959) could be brought to the big screen. This movie is a smorgas board of sexual innuendo, blatant transsexual referencing and gang violence all of which are softened using parody. Had it not been for the more open minded and less restrictive practices of the “new” production code conceived under Shurlock, a movie such as Some Like It Hot would have never been released. Haines’ book lists Some Like It Hot as one of “the notable titles made during the blacklist error” and the fact that this movie was not only released but was a box office hit was due to the changing time and atmosphere.
This book contains an extensive notes section, appendix and bibliographical section citing several sources for each major topic and chapter covered in the book. I would consider this book from reviewing its sources to have a fairly credible grasp of the history which it focuses on.
Reviewer. “Wonderfully Wacky” Newsweek 53 (1959): 113
This reviewer proclaims of Billy Wilder’s movie Some Like it Hot to be the much awaited revival of slapstick comedy. For a long time prior to the release of Wilders film the box offices were overwhelmed with movies that reflected the agonies of the time instead of using humor to assuage the pains of the American public. This review lacks the atypical full plot synopsis and instead just looks at the overall purpose of the film, to make us laugh. This review has a heavy focus on the stars of the show and even includes a brief interview with Jack Lemmon about playing the role of Daphne/Jerry. One unique characteristic that this film took on was that Jerry and Joe make a real transformation into womanhood, not the partial half man half woman transition which was customary in earlier movies involving drag. Jack Lemmon comically asserted that in order to encompass his feminine role but still be a distinct male character simply continually reminded himself that, “…we were not playing girls; we were playing men who were playing girls. There’s a world of difference.” This article provides insight into how one of the stars of this classic film views his role, and access to the actor’s perspective allows one to see the movie in a new light. Jack Lemmon towards the end of his interview also offers his opinion on the topic of television stars. Reviews such as this provide panorama view of the movie from audience to actor response.
This source is a opinion based article but does contain primary source information in its interview with Jack Lemmon. Additionally Newsweek is a reputable and popular magazine of the time and the opinions within its pages have more validity due to the journals reputation.