The movie received six nominations for Academy Awards but won only one, for Best B/W Costume Design, in a year, 1959, when it went head to head against the record-breaking Oscar winner, 'Ben Hur'. It was placed at number one in the American Film Institute's list of Best Comedy films of All Time and in 1989, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." and in 2007 it was placed at number 22 in their list of Greatest films in any genre. In short, it is quite a film.
PlotThe plot revolves around two jazz musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), struggling to make a living in Prohibition-era Chicago. They inadvertently become witnesses to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and have to find a way to disguise themselves whist they find a way out of the city before the Chicago gangsters, led by 'Spats' Columbo (George Raft) find and kill them.
They flee, disguised as women, calling themselves Josephine and Daphne, in an all-girl band, Sweet Sue's Society Syncopators, bound for Miami. Both are taken with Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Marilyn Monroe), the band's sexy but vulnerable singer and ukelele player and they try to fight for her affections whilst still maintaining their disguise. But Jerry, as Daphne, attracts the persistent attentions of lecherous playboy, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), and thing get even more complicated, and funny, when the very gangsters the boys want to avoid, arrive at the Florida hotel for a gangland summit, honoring "Friends of Italian Opera".
Main CastMarilyn Monroe ... 'Sugar' Kane Kowalczyk
Tony Curtis ... Joe/"Josephine"/"Junior"
Jack Lemmon ... Jerry/"Geraldine"/"Daphne"
Joe E. Brown ... Osgood Fielding III
George Raft ... 'Spats' Columbo
Pat O'Brien ... Det. Mulligan
Nehemiah Persoff ... Little Bonaparte
Joan Shawlee ... Sweet Sue
Billy Gray ... Sig Poliakoff
George E. Stone ... Toothpick Charlie
Dave Barry ... Beinstock
Mike Mazurki ... Spats' henchman
Harry Wilson ... Spats' henchman
Beverly Wills ... Dolores
Barbara Drew ... Nellie
Edward G. Robinson Jr ... Johnny Paradise
The movie has justly become a comic legend. It is sensationally funny, fizzing from start to finish with great situations, cleverly crafted gags, breakneck timing, and terrific performances from a fantastic cast. Marilyn Monroe was at her most enchanting; Curtis's obvious self-consciousness in drag gives him an aloof control that is in superb comic contrast to the uninhibited, priceless Lemmon.
The film has one of the most famous last lines in movie history. It is funny because it is so unexpected; the last reaction the audience expects to Jerry's revelation "I'm a MAN!" is Osgood's philosophical shrug, "Nobody's perfect."
CreditsDirector ... Billy Wilder
Producer ... Billy Wilder
Production Company ... Ashton Productions, The Mirisch Company
Story ... Based on the German film 'Fanfaren der Liebe', by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan
Screenplay ... Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Cinematography ... Charles Lang
Format ... Black and White
World Premiere ... 29 March, 1959
Running Time ... 123 minutes
Academy AwardsOne Win:
Costume Design (B & W) ... Orry-Kelly
Five Unsuccessful Nominations:
Director ... Bily Wilder
Best Actor ... Jack Lemmon
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White ... Charles Lang
Art Direction/Set Direction ... Ted Haworth/Edward G Boyle
Writing (Screenplay-based on material from another medium) ... Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond