Originally, the working title for Wllder's classic was Not Tonight, Josephine!(its origin was reportedly taken from Napoleon Bonaparte's response when refusing sex with Empress Josephine). Set in the roaring prohibition era,
Jack Lemmon plays Jerry; a bass player, alongside Tony Curtis, a saxophonist named Joe, who disguise themselves in lipstick and heels to escape gangsters after witnessing the St. Valentines Day Massacre.
Fleeing from the ruthless Al Capone-like character Spats Colombo, played by George Raft, the slapstick duo decide to join an all girl-orchestra on its way to Florida, meeting a blonde ukulele player named Sugar Kane, played by the great Marilyn Monroe.
Whether its Lemmon's clever, laugh out loud wit, Monroe's sex appeal, Wilder's directional brilliance or Curtis' portrayal as a phony millionaire based on Cary Grant, the concoction of them all brings together a fantastic wacky film that never grows old. Curtis' and Lemmon's performances as Josephine and Daphne bring a laugh to everyone in the audience, and the movie has a spark that never goes out, with brilliant dialogue that appeals to all. Wilder was originally going to cast Frank Sinatra as Jack Lemmon's role and Mitzi Gaynor as Sugar, I for one am glad he didn't!
Despite the humour on screen, it wasn’t all laughs behind the scenes, as many of the cast and crew reportedly had difficulty working with Miss Monroe. According to Curtis, Monroe was often two to three hours late to the set, and occasionally refused to leave her dressing room. She did 47 takes to get "It's me, Sugar" right, and after take 30 the director had the line written on a blackboard so she'd remember it.
Another scene required Monroe to rummage through some drawers and say "Where's the bourbon?" After 40 takes of her saying "Where's the whiskey?", "Where's the bottle?", or "Where's the bonbon?” Wilder put the correct line in one of the drawers. After Monroe became confused about which drawer contained the line, Wilder had it pasted in every drawer. Fifty-nine takes were required for this scene and when she finally does say it, she has her back to the camera, leading some to wonder if Wilder finally gave up and had it dubbed. Due to her erratic and unreliable behavior she was not invited to the wrap party...
Despite this, the film wouldn’t be the same without the presence of this fantastic icon and after a two year absence from the screen following The Prince and the Showgirl, I think this is the most promising film of her career and legacy. Marilyn originally didn't want to play Sugar, saying "I don't want to play someone who can't tell Daphne and Josephine are really men dressed in drag". But I’m sure we're all glad she overlooked that in the end.
Upon the films original release, Kansas banned it from being shown in the state, explaining that cross-dressing was "too disturbing for Kansans". It was even given a condemned rating by the Roman Catholic legion of decency, but although the film had its ups and downs, we can all agree on the fantastic content and the good feel the movie brings.
Overall, this is a timeless classic and definitely one for the list of movies you should see before you die with one of the most iconic last lines of a movie ever uttered: "Well, nobody's perfect!" Plus, who doesn’t love the gorgeous Marilyn?
Haven't seen the film? Check it out this Sunday at 6.30pm.