Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hollywood Tidbits: Some Like It Hot

My obsession with Some Like It Hot continues, one year later.

I got the late, great Tony Curtis' last book, The Making of Some Like It Hot: My Memories of Marilyn Monroe and the Classic American Movie for Christmas. I started reading it this morning and I haven't been able to put it down.

Curtis had a really simple, engaging style of writing. It's more conversational -- like he's narrating this high point in his film career directly onto the page.

There are those (film critics, celebrities and the general public) who label Curtis as an outright liar and paint him as an opportunistic man prone to exaggeration. Did he or did he not impregnate Marilyn Monroe? Did they really have a torrid, top secret romance? Curtis says yes, while others point out that Monroe isn't around to tell her side of the story. Nor is the film's director Billy Wilder or his co-star Jack Lemmon. Curtis wrote his book in 2009, many, many years after the deaths of Monroe, Lemmon and Wilder (and a year before his own).

Regardless, I take everything Curtis wrote with a grain of salt. I know to make sure I don't fall into any traps as I read The Making of Some Like It Hot. But damned if the man doesn't spin a great behind-the-scenes yarn. I'm a sucker for those largely unknown Hollywood dramas that often played out in between takes, I'm only 60 pages into the book, but here are some interesting (and likely true) tidbits in this gospel according to Curtis:

* He was once roommates with Marlon Brando for four months: "I respected him. But I wasn't interested in the Method. He was great because he was Marlon, not because of the Method. I thought it was phoney. Why complicate the job of acting? Memorize your lines. Learn the part. Find out what the director wants. Then show up on time and act. This idea of trying to remember when your sister stole your peanut butter sandwich so you can give an angry performance is bullshit. If you can't turn it on by yourself, you don't belong in front of the camera." (p.39)

++ An interesting commentary on the much respected Method acting technique (introduced by Brando), to say the least.

* Marilyn Monroe's intelligence: "Marilyn was not unintelligent. She was bright, perceptive and insightful -- but only about other people. When it came to herself, or to issues relating to herself, she didn't have a clue. She needed constant reassurance." (p.39)

* His first encounter with Marilyn: "We walked to my car and I opened the door for her. I got behind the wheel, drove out the gate, and turned left, heading for Hollywood. I angled the review mirror a little so I could see her face. To my surprise she winked at me. We laughed." (p.31)

* The first time he and Jack Lemmon walked in front of the cast and crew dressed as women: "I blushed under the makeup and let the actor in me take over. I launched into a little routine. I was coy. I was reluctant ...When Jack came out he did it in a big way. He was in character as Daphne. He flew out, twirling and pirouetting. He danced ...I just stared. How the fuck could he do that? I was envious, but it was the first and last time. I loved the guy." (p. 59)