Monday, June 13, 2011

Heated Memories

I don't normally like celebrity tell-all books, but Some Like It Hot is one of my all-time favorite movies, so when I saw Tony Curtis's The Making of Some Like It Hot in the local library I decided to give it a try.

The book had some of the anticipated drawbacks.  Curtis wrote the book about 50 years after filming the movie, with the help of a writer named Mark Vieira who researched the parts Curtis had allegedly forgotten.  Curtis quotes and requotes ad nauseum Billy Wilder's statement that he chose Curtis for the part because he was the handsomest kid in Hollywood at the time.  And although Curtis never wanted to be considered just another pretty face and apparently spent years in therapy, most of the book is surface observations.  ("I don't know why Marilyn was so insecure...")

Despite these issues, however, I found the stories behind the movie fascinating.  I've always thought, for instance, that despite all the makeup Jack Lemmon's face did not look at all like a woman's, but Curtis claims that when Lemmon had his picture taken in drag next to his mother, they could have been sisters.  Who knew?  The film, like most movies, was shot out of sequence, and the process dragged on so long that the costume and continuity people had a devil of a time making it all look right despite Marilyn Monroe's advancing pregnancy.  Lemmon and Orry-Kelly, the dress designer, were furious when Monroe appropriated a black dress meant for Lemmon at the start of the shoot.  Curtis's stories about Billy Wilder are respectful; his comments about Monroe's then-husband, Arthur Miller, are much less so.

On balance, though, I rather wish I hadn't read the book.  I feel a little like Dorothy must have felt when Toto grabbed the curtain and revealed the real Wizard of Oz.  I was too young when Marilyn Monroe died to know much about her troubled life.  As interesting as many of the anecdotes about her were, I'll never be able to watch the movie again without thinking of the agonizing work involved in getting her performance on film.  I would have preferred to go on thinking that she got as much enjoyment out of making Some Like It Hot as I've always had watching it.

"Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It's like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it's a whole different sex!" ~Jerry [Jack Lemmon's character], Some Like It Hot

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