For those that find in them a certain joy every time the orchestra of film kicks, when those studio logos lighten the dark of the screen and the familiar trumpet notes sound, you know what I mean when I say that the greatest films ever made are a must see for everyone. Those top 100 or 200, or 500 films that everyone should see before they die. Film is subjective though, and there are many lists. Fortunately for us, the American Film Institute compiled a list of the top 100 films of the 20th Century. From top to bottom, the list compiles the greatest American films released in the first 100 years of cinema.
Billy Wilder’s second film on the AFI Top 100 also happens to have been named the number one comedy of all time. That movie is Some Like it Hot. The Marilyn Monroe star vehicle, co-starring Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis is a classic of comedic cinema.
The film is about Joe and Jerry, two musicians on the run from the mob after witnessing a gang shooting in a parking garage. The only place they can find to hide out though is in an all woman band, so they disguise themselves as Josephine and Daphne and join the band and head to Florida. It’s with the band that they meet “Sugar” Kane Kowalczyk (Monroe) and both fall for her, while still disguised trying to win her affections.
Joe cleverly takes on another disguise as a millionaire oil tycoon to woo Sugar while Jerry manages to attract his own millionaire, Osgood Fielding III. Eventually the mob finds them again on accident (they’re at an Italian Opera Convention) and chases ensue. The final scene is the four escaping on Osgood’s yacht.
The 1959 film was adapted from the story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan by Wilder and was nominated for six academy awards, of which it only won one, for costume design. Wilder is made famous in this film and a couple of others for recognizing the potential of Marilyn Monroe for comedic acting. She however had many issues on the set with remembering her lines and making it to the set on time. She was also famously pregnant during the shoot, most notable in the final Yacht scene.
There was a 1972 musical play produced based on the film, titled “Sugar” and in 2002 Tony Curtis himself starred in a musical stage version of the film. Originally planned to be filmed in color, the change was made to black and white because of “unnatural” coloring around Curtis and Lemmon’s faces during filming, when in their Daphne and Josephine makeup.
The film is considered today to be one of the great comedies of American Cinema, listed as the funniest film by the AFI, and the 8th best comedy by Total Film. Ironically, the second film on AFI’s funniest list is Tootsie, another film about cross dressing.