After only seeing clips and general imagery from this all time classic, I have finally watched it fully from beginning to end and luckily on the big screen too. The atmosphere in the screening was great and truly added to the feeling of how loved and humorous this movie was and 100% still is.
In 1929, two musicians playing between bands for cheques end up witnessing a shooting and run for their lives. To both hide from the gangsters and try gaining more money they join a female group in Florida. Joe/Josephine (Tony Curtis) becomes drawn to ukulele player Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and poses as a millionaire whilst Jerry/Daphne ends up annoyingly further from Sugar yet closer to his own wealthy partner.
Usually the idea of camp drag acts stirs visuals of poor comedy or the tacky ‘Little Britain’ sketches but here, over 50 years ago the whole notion never feels that gaudy or cheap. There’s a fun cleverness to the two men fleeing Chicago and donning dresses; from the way they admire the hard work women go through to just walk to Daphne him/herself getting very used to the possibility of being a girl.
Billy Wilder fantastically directs this motion picture, the way everything is set up is clear, the plot progresses at a great pace and little touches from ‘Spats’ to the dialogue Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond write are smart and laugh out loud funny. A line about the cake not agreeing with someone is a dumb but great example of the witty humour involved. Of course there’s some, if not a lot of comedy revolving around the objectification of women as the two male runaways gawp at their new female friends but as they’re stuck with no way to progress on this lustful feelings it becomes a joke also at their expense.
A yacht seduction is a neat scene of twisting the gender stereotype of making first moves and gives the movie it’s romantic genre subplot, what makes this sequence ever better is the cutting away to a long tango session between Daphne and rich man Osgood. The film develops along and so does Jerry’s obsession with an ideal of being with this elderly gentleman, the hints of homosexuality are very clear and reinforced in the last scene as Jerry explains himself.
Sugar Kane may have been used and so their whole romance feels a little wrong, her knowing of how not smart she is doesn’t even come across like much of a valid excuse for them pairing her up with a man who manipulated her into feeling things for him, thanks to pretend money, an accent, glasses and a stolen yacht. This is the only element of the movie that didn’t work, apart from that I adored every second.
Marilyn Monroe delivers a healthy amount of laughs as she dumbly parades her beauty through the script, you feel for her when she believes she’s losing a possible love though it’s still clear she’s present as a big sex symbol and songstress. Tony Curtis has the best pout as Josephine and has a brilliant determination, his voice change as Junior is so bad it’s great and he works so well with partner in crime Jack Lemmon. Lemmon himself is wonderful; stealing the show as he shrieks, cackles and gurns through the film.
The comedy is one of a grand scope for all to enjoy but can be refined to intelligence too. One of the finer funny films for sure and an out and out American great that will always be.