I’m not sure if this was the first time this visual joke was played, but it feels like it should be.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen the gag time and again in various films and television shows: a couple has an amorous moment causing one half of the couple (even both sometimes) to come away with glasses that have fogged up from the heat. It’s a cute gag, playing off the increase in temperature – both physical and emotional – between two people as they show physical affection. However, seldom has the bit seemed more fitting than this instance, when Tony Curtis cozies up to Marilyn Monroe.
As Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, Marilyn might be at her sexiest. As she makes her entrance, Jerry mentions to Joe that she moves in her own way. He specifically references “Jell-O on springs”. Her presence is so hot in fact that it causes the locomotive to let off a jet of steam as she passes by, an image that somewhat paraphrases the iconic Subway grate moment in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. She enters the film as Jerry and Joe are trying to get a handle on passing as women…like some cosmic force has just thought “You want to be women? OK, here’s the bar.”
So with the goddess in place, we now need some dumb mortal to try to worship her. That’s where Tony Curtis comes in.
He starts by personifying Josephine, the savvy saxophone player that can’t understand why someone as stunning as Sugar doesn’t have a fella. As she opens up to him (as women are more like to do when guys aren’t around), he gets all the inside information he needs. But he’s still a nogoodnik – a two-bit musician trying to string gigs together and hiding from the mob. So, upon arriving in Florida, he pretends to be “Junior”; the heir to The Shell Oil Company. He thinks that’s the sort of man Sugar would be drawn to, and wouldn’t you know it – he’s right. The funny part in all of this, is that almost every moment he spends with Sugar in this film, he’s never doing so as himself.
Perhaps that’s because he can see just how unattainable she is, even if she does confess to dating jokers. He watches her perform (in a dress that seems to defy physics), and feels the heat coming off her the same way that locomotive did. So he comes up with his scheme, and as deceitful as it is, he gets her. Just to make sure, he greases the rails and pretends to be impotent, just so Sugar will put a little English on it.
Sure enough, when they finally get physical, the heat coming off her is enough to steam up his glasses.
Perhaps it seems silly to spend five hundred words to say “Marilyn Monroe is Hot”, but I emphasize that it’s about the perfect marriage of a joker and a joke…a singer and a song. I feel like many “sexy” actresses in Hollywood today could be put into this same scene and it wouldn’t work. Either they wouldn’t have the right charm, the right sense of humour, the right “down-to-earth” quality, the right presence, or the right something else. Marilyn Monroe had those characteristics (and more) in ways that so few actresses have had.
If anyone was ever going to steam up anyone’s glasses – it was Marilyn Monroe.
Here’s three more from SOME LIKE IT HOT for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far