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Marilyn Monroe in a black dress between Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon
Screen siren Marilyn Monroe with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon

Film

Some Like it Hot

PG

12 Sep - 21 Nov

Two jazz musicians (played brilliantly by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and elude their gangster pursuers by disguising themselves as women and joining an all-girl band (that includes Marilyn Monroe in one of her best performances ever) headed for Miami.

  • Writer/director Billy Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond had no doubts that they were making the funniest film of their careers when they created this superb comedy.

    While it is often presumed that Lemmon and Curtis were dressed in old Norma Shearer and Debbie Reynolds leftovers, their clever disguises were attributed to the genius of Orry-Kelly. Lemmon and Curtis lobbied the studio for Orry-Kelly to create their frocks along with Marilyn’s; it was vital that they didn’t look like drag queens, but  rather as unattractive women. “Jack Lemmon loved telling the story of the two of them going on a lunch hour into the ladies restroom at the studio to see if anybody would notice and no one did” recounts Hollywood chronicler Leonard Maltin in Gilliam Armstrong’s documentary Women He’s Undressed.

    Orry-Kelly won his third and final Oscar® for his work on Some Like It Hot. Especially noticeable were Marilyn’s ‘barely-there’ dresses which left little to the imagination, proving that it’s sometimes what you leave out that makes all the difference. Kelly resisted the use of superfluous flourishes and embellishments, unlike many costume designers of the time. His almost minimalist approach was one of his most defining features.

    You can see dresses worn by Josephine/Joe (Curtis) and Daphne/Jerry (Lemmon) from the film’s ‘I Wanna be Loved By You’ scene in the exhibition Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood.