Did you know it was Billy Wilder’s birthday on June 22nd? Of course you did, who wouldn’t know a thing like that. And to celebrate, Once Upon a Screen and Outspoken & Freckled are hosting another Billy Wilder blogathon. Granted, I am a little late to the party, which isn’t something I take lightly, but I was tackling a hell of a film and I was worried I wouldn’t do it justice.
As you will be able to read from Once Upon a Screen’s blogathon announcement post, Billy Wilder was an extremely successful and talented guy with accolades coming out of his ears but it wasn’t always plain sailing. Being an Austrian-born Jewish guy working as a Screenwriter in the wake of the Second World War, he fled to Paris before moving to California in the 1930s. It was in Hollywood where he would make his most memorable cinematic moments.
The fact that Wilder was a screenwriter first, director second shines through in his films. The storytelling and the way the narrative unfolds is truly encapsulating, even when working in different genres the storytelling does not slip up. I studied Double Indemnity (1944) when I was 16 and it’s truly my favourite Film Noir. My favourite classic comedy? I would have to say Some Like it Hot.
I’m not super great at film reviews, so when I talk about a film I like to pick a certain edge and run with it. The first thing, the very first thing that springs to mind when I think of Some like it Hot is the last line of the entire film, “Nobody’s perfect.” I love that line. I love it so much I even included it in my film quotes I live my life by list. Let me set the scene. Joe and Jerry are Sax and Bass players respectively, and upon witnessing a mob hit in 1920s Chicago, they dress up as female musicians to sneak into an all-girl band that will soon be setting off to travel the country to escape the monsters who are now after their own heads.
When you’ve got the encapsulating Marilyn Monroe in the band, you know that one of the guys are going to fall for her. Comedy, comedy everywhere. Even more hilarious, when they arrive in Florida to perform, the millionaire Osgood Fielding III falls for Jerry (now Daphne) and simply won’t take no for an answer. When Daphne/Jerry tries to dissuade Osgood, he states several reasons why he wouldn’t be a good match. Can’t have children is one, not a natural blond another… Osgood just isn’t bothered. “I’M A GUY!” Jerry states in a newly masculine voice, ripping off his wig. “Nobody’s perfect” states an unfazed Osgood, and there the movie ends.
I am in love with this line for several reasons. Firstly, with a 2015 perspective, it’s incredibly accepting of different sexualities and the idea that falling in love with someone is uncontrollable. If Osgood had indeed fallen for Daphne, the person, the physical and emotional being exactly as she was (jeez, my pronouns are everywhere), then the gender of his beloved wouldn’t matter all that much. Go you, Osgood!
Of course, this is a 1950s comedy, so an ‘out there’ modern take on this line is probably not how Wilder saw it when he produced the film 9though we’ll never know). However, the throwaway (for Osgood anyway, definitely not in the film) line of ‘nobody’s perfect’ does indicate that having the correct gender is a mere minor issue, like having an overbearing mother-in-law or out-of-control spending habits or being a bit of a slob. A flaw that can be overlooked and embraced quite easily if the person is worth it enough. I love that.
Ultimately we laugh because gender for most people is a non-negoitable element to finding a partner, and being blasé about such a topic is alien and comic. It just is, I always find it hilarious. On dating sites, we check a box that we are either looking for men or women, and that we ourselves are either male or female. But re-watching a 1959 film in 2015 and noticing relevant human issues to our time? That, my friend, is what makes a truly timeless film.
So here’s to Billy Wilder, the man who created a firm comedy favourite for me in two simple words, and there’s not many people who have achieved that.
What’s your favourite Billy Wilder film? A you a fan of Some Like it Hot?