Even though Some Like it Hot is now regarded as one of the all-time great comedies, I think one of the most remarkable things about Some Like it Hot is how easily it could have been just another run-of-the-mill movie instead of the classic it is today.
There have been times when I’ve tried explaining the plot of Some Like it Hot to someone who has never seen it before, only to have the person seem less than impressed by its premise. In all fairness, I can see how people might get that impression because when you strip it down to its bare bones, it doesn’t sound particularly unique. The whole trope of men dressing up as women for comedic purposes is one of the oldest tricks in the book; it’s been done for centuries. Even one of Some Like it Hot‘s most memorable scenes, the party in the train compartment, is very reminiscent of the infamous stateroom scene from the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera.
However, the fact that Some Like it Hot is anything but mundane is a testament to the talent of Billy Wilder. It’s like he figured out the recipe for the perfect comedy and it’s a recipe that hinges on the quality of the ingredients. Everybody involved with it needed to bring their “A” game or it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it did.
First of all, there’s the brilliant writing by Wilder and his frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. It may not have been the most original premise for a movie, but it’s easy to forgive that when it’s written so well. Add to that three outstanding actors in the lead roles and one rock-solid supporting cast. But most importantly, the actors were under the direction of someone who really brought out the best in them; even the notoriously difficult Marilyn Monroe. All of these things combined are what took a movie that seems so common on the surface and elevated it to a much higher level.