If you’re not familiar with SLIH, it’s a classic Billy Wilder film from 1959 starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, with a memorable supporting performance from Joe E. Brown. I do not use the word classic lightly here – this movie deserves the term richly. It is wondrously funny, delightfully naughty, and always entertaining – the great Billy Wilder at the top of his game.
Speaking of people at the top of their game, this movie may have been the most perfect vehicle that Marilyn Monroe was ever cast in. Her character appropriates the entire mythos of Marilyn off-screen and puts it into the movie so thoroughly that it is ultimately difficult to say where Marilyn ends and the character begins. There are many stories concerning Wilder’s exasperation with Monroe during filming, but it is plain that he knew exactly what he had in her and how to use it. Curtis and Lemmon are likewise impeccably cast and utilized, though I noticed something this time around that I’d never noticed before – most of the lines delivered by Curtis in his “Josephine” character have apparently been looped – that is, the voice was dubbed in later. My primary speculation would be that Curtis either had trouble doing the voice consistently during filming, or perhaps they decided during post-production to do the voice differently, but speculation is all I have on that one.
Now if you have by some chance missed SLIH before now, I heartily commend it to your attention. As for Billy Wilder, he was responsible for writing and/or directing enough great movies to keep any cinephile occupied for a long, long time. Among his many classic films are Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, The Seven-Year Itch, The Apartment, and The Fortune Cookie, to name but a few.
I was almost finished with this post when I realized that I have one bit of memorabilia that I want to share. It’s an autographed photo from the late Mr. Wilder himself. He died in 2002 at the age of 95. This photo was signed about a year before that, and though it is inscribed “To Chuck – Billy Wilder” I never had the pleasure of meeting the man. This was procured for me by my friend FP, who – how can I say it – has a way of getting things done! I’m not really much of a collector of autographs or memorabilia, but some things are just so special that you have to make room for them, and to me, this is one of those items!