Billy Wilder, already the brilliant director of Double Indemnity and Sunset Blvd., approached his first out-and-out farce with the shrewd calculations of a Patton. The story’s premise—two musicians (Curtis and Lemmon) resort to drag to escape the mob—played way too garishly in color screen tests, so Wilder shifted his production to black and white. Reuniting with his buxom star from The Seven Year Itch was a Faustian bargain (the Lohanesque Monroe was “very tough to work with,” Wilder later told Cameron Crowe), but he’d suck it up for the box office. And when his colead Curtis improvised a burlesque of Cary Grant—an actor Wilder had never been able to cast—the director embraced and encouraged it.
The result was a classic: the Great American Comedy (if you discount the Marx Brothers). Some Like It Hot speeds along—the first rule of laughs is pacing—and in its gender-soft neurotic heroes, you can see everything from Woody Allen to Seth Rogen. As for that famous last line, “Well, nobody’s perfect,” it’s best left uncontextualized for those who haven’t seen it. It’s Hollywood’s subtlest moment of compassion, a wink and a hug at the same time, and the reason why the movie will always be immortal.