Pros: Excellent cast, funny story and clever dialogue
Cons: Might not move fast enough for some
Since I have seen this movie twice in the past couple weeks, I want to share why this movie is such a treasure. I suppose I am a fan of the movie's director Billy Wilder, as two of his movies, Stalag 17 and Irma La Douce, are also among my favorites.
Tony Curtis (Joe, a sax player) and Jack Lemmon (Jerry, a standup bass player) are struggling musicians in Depression-era Chicago. Today, Joe would be called a player. He is constantly borrowing money from women and gambling with it, breaking dates, and generally acting like a heel. When trying to get to a gig, they witness the St. Valentine's Day massacre. By a stroke of luck, they manage to escape. They know they have to get out of town and finagle their way out of town to a new gig. The only catch is that they have to be in drag because it is an all-girl band.
Their new job will take them by train to Florida, where they plan to ditch the band and hide out. Their plans change when they meet Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), the classic blonde bombshell, who is constantly getting duped by saxophone players. From a conversation with Sugar, Joe (Josephine, in drag) hatches a plan to become the kind of man, Sugar will want, shy sensitive and wearing glasses.
Upon arriving in Florida, Jerry (Daphne, while in drag) meets Osgood (Joe E. Brown), an aging millionaire looking for a bit of fun, and maybe another wife. Daphne uses Osgood for his yacht, so Joe can pretend to be the shy millionaire that Sugar wants.
I could go on and tell you more about the plot. I can tell you that of course they will have to have the final showdown with the Mafia chasing them and the ending will surprise you.
Why You Will Enjoy This Movie
I have seen another review of this movie, in which the author expresses their enjoyment of the colorization of the movie. I do not share that author's views. Part of the charm of the movie is its lack of color. The director chose for it to be in black and white and I think that should be respected. Then again, I look down at my mouse pad and see a colorized picture of the Three Stooges, so maybe I can put up with it under certain circumstances. To me, there is something sacred about this movie.
Aside from the cleverly executed plot, the dialogue is just perfect. It is fast paced and a little racy with sexual overtones. Despite their lives being often in jeopardy, Joe and Jerry often come up with a clever quip. Clever lines are often repeated in the perfect situations for them.
The chemistry among the cast seems very natural, though I have heard that Marilyn was a very insecure actress, and Tony Curtis has made no secret of his agreement with that assessment. She is a very capable comedic actress though, as this movie will show you. I don't know if Curtis and Lemmon have been in other movies, but they seemed to have good timing together.
The character actors are all dead-on to their roles. George Raft makes an excellent heavy as Spats Columbo. Famous director Otto Preminger is perfect as Spats' rival, Little Bonaparte. The actors playing Sweet Sue (the band's conductor) and their manager Beanstalk are also excellent in their limited screen time. Joe E. Brown makes an excellent comedic foil as the lovestruck Osgood, determined to make Daphne his despite her(his?) initial rejection of his advances.
I don't know that I have given this movie the analysis it deserves or can properly express what a joyful experience it truly is. This is the risk of trying to describe something that means so much to you. I have seen it a couple dozen times and I still find little things to enjoy that I don't recall from before. Next time you go to rent a movie, look for this one. You will enjoy it as I have.
This was a bit disappointing. I rented this one through Netflix, which I will try to review at some point. I would've like to have seen behind the scenes footage, but I suppose those extra scenes and footage were likely discarded. There was a bonus in the form of several trailers from Billy Wilder movies. They are time capsules of a different era. I do think that it is worthwhile to get the DVD that contains the trailers.