It's taken a few weeks, Tony, but I'm really starting to feel like a woman. I have like fifty useless receipts in my purse.
Above, a sound stage photo of Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in costume for their roles in Some Like It Hot, in which they starred with Marilyn Monroe. The movie premiered today in 1959 in Memphis, Tennessee, for some reason, then hit Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City later in the month.
Ha! Caught you looking at my ass. I knew you didn't really care about art history.
It's difficult to find a photo of Marilyn Monroe that stands apart. So many were made, and of course she looked good in all of them. But this unusual shot of her checking out a book on Spanish artist Francisco Goya shows the most photographed person of her era in an interesting and slightly different way. It's from 1953.
Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon give jazz a swing.
On this promo poster for the Marilyn Monroe comedy Certains l'aiment chaud, aka Some Like It Hot, it looks like Russian illustrator Boris Grinsson went a little strong on Monroe's wink, making her look like she got a splinter of glass in her eye, but Monroe actually looked that way in the promo photo used as the basis of the art, which you can see at right.
You know all about this movie, so we won't bother to go over it. We'll just mention, if you haven't seen it, don't be surprised that it's in black and white. There are so many color production photos from this one—like the several we've shared below—that we even forgot. And we'd seen the movie several times, though not in about ten years. When it opened with documentary style footage of a car chase and shootout followed by a title card reading “Chicago, 1929,” we were thinking, “Ah, this is where it shifts to color.”
But of course it didn't, and we suddenly remembered that this was a later black and white production, made the same year Technicolor films such as Ben Hur and North by Northwest hit cinemas. According to our research, Monroe actually had a stipulation in her contract that all her films had to be in color, but director Billy Wilder wanted black and white because the heavy makeup worn by Curtis and Lemmon—who spend most of the movie disguised as women—looked green in Technicolor. He lobbied Monroe and she finally agreed her co-stars could not be green.
Does Some Like It Hot fit under our self-defined umbrella of pulp? Of course—there are gangsters, the aforementioned shootout, and it's about two jazz musicians on the run. And few Hollywood figures are more pulp in essence than Monroe. The character of nightclub singer Sugar Kane is one of her better creations. Sit back and enjoy. Some Like It Hot premiered in the U.S. in February 1959, and opened in Paris as Certains l'aiment chaud today the same year. Another promotional poster by Grinsson appears below, and you can see the very different West German promo poster here.
Yes, we’ve heard of gym clothes, but we're not in a gym, are we smart guy?
Promo shot of gifted comic actor Tony Curtis, née Bernard Schwartz, who appeared in such cinema classics Some Like It Hot, The Sweet Smell of Success and Spartacus, seen here joking around with wife Janet Leigh, circa 1960. Tony Curtis died yesterday at age 85.
Monroe delivers in a classic comedy.
It had a classic premise: two Jazz Age musicians witness the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and have to flee Chicago before the Mafia massacres them too. They disguise themselves as women and hide as members of an all-female musical troupe. One of the men, played by Tony Curtis, falls in love with fellow musician Marilyn Monroe but can’t reveal his gender; the other man, played by Jack Lemmon, is pursued by a rich and persistent suitor who thinks he’s found the woman of his dreams. It was called Some Like It Hot, and it was the type of absurd adventure only a confident veteran like Billy Wilder could have directed. He used all of his experience to coax top-notch acting out of a troubled Marilyn Monroe, who needed twenty to thirty takes to get some of the scenes right. In the end you’d hardly notice—her performance as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk looks effortless, as does those of Curtis and Lemmon as the two bickering buddies running for their lives. The final result was an award-winning comedy that even fifty years later has the power to deliver out-loud laughs. Above you see the film’s German promo art, which in our humble opinion is a masterwork in its own right. Some Like It Hot premiered in West Berlin today in 1959.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
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