Based on his performance in Billy Wilder's screwball classic Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon could have gladly spent the rest of his life in a dress and heels, preferably with a set of maracas on hand. He's that exuberant. Whether stomping out the tango with a flower in his mouth, batting his eyelashes coquettishly from the bandstand, or going moony over an engagement proposal from a wealthy old suitor, Lemmon brings a sense of joy that permeates the whole movie. A large part of what makes Some Like It Hot a perennial favorite is that it has the go-for-broke commitment of an early Marx brothers farce, but it's harnessed by a well-structured script that keeps building on itself. It's no fluke that the capper is the most famous closing line in movie history.
Remarkably, Wilder and his screenwriting partner I.A.L. Diamond get through the entire first reel before even suggesting that Some Like It Hot is a comedy. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, the story opens with the cops closing in a gangster-run speakeasy where Lemmon and Tony Curtis work as part of the orchestra for a burlesque show. After witnessing the St. Valentine's Day massacre, they're forced to get out of town in a hurry, so they take jobs playing with an all-female jazz band in a Florida resort, but there are complications. Curtis falls hard for bubbly sexpot Marilyn Monroe and reinvents himself as a rich oil magnate, courtesy of a pair of smart-guy glasses and a devastating Cary Grant impersonation. Meanwhile, Lemmon fends off the advances of an actual millionaire (Joe E. Brown) who won't take no for an answer.
Outside of the expected anecdotes about the horrors of working with Monroe, whose instability led to numerous meltdowns and infinite takes on a single line, the new Some Like It Hot DVD isn't the package the film deserves. Diamond's son provides some historical context on the commentary track, but all credibility goes out the window when he introduces contributors Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (City Slickers) as one of the few screenwriting teams worthy of his father and Wilder. And if that isn't a bracing reminder of how screen comedy has devolved in recent years, just look at the imitators, from the fine Tootsie down to Mrs. Doubtfire to the barrel-scraping Connie And Carla. For now, Some Like It Hot's place in Hollywood's upper echelon seems pretty secure.
Key features: The commentary track, a pair of making-of documentaries, and a Curtis interview with Leonard Maltin.