Osgood: You must be quite a girl.
Daphne: Wanna bet?
F: Yes a couple of times.
F: Been a while since we’ve had a comedy on this list. Always harder for comedies to age well but I think this stands up. Do you agree?
R: Most definitely. Here Jack Lemmon gives an even better comedy performance than in The Apartment. His timing and his mannerisms are pretty much perfect. He had me in stitches.
F: It’s his facial expressions I enjoy most. And whilst it’s fair to single out Jack Lemmon as the best comedic performance here, this film would not work without Tony Curtis playing more of a straight man (but also has his moments of farce!) and Marilyn Monroe, who I think is perfectly cast here.
R: Agreed. I think if anyone ever wonders, “why all the fuss about Marilyn Monroe?” this is the film they need to see. She proves here she is so much more than just an iconic face and figure. She could really act, and really helps make the script sing.
F: The script is so witty and quick here. Loads of one liners – I was laughing pretty much the whole way through.
R: Me too. But as truly brilliant as all the lead performances are, I do think some of the smaller supporting parts could be played better. The mafia boss for example I think is a little one-note, and some of the bit-parts feel quite flat. But I’m really just nit-picking here to stop us being too boringly positive about the film…
F: I’m struggling to find much negative. Sure some of the attitudes feel quite outdated but it is 50 years old!
R: The film is pretty progressive for a 1959 release. Most of the time you’re being encouraged to laugh at the dated attitudes, not participate in them. Or at least, it’s easy enough for an audience today to do that. The tone helps. The film obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously and the pace never lets up, from the opening car chase to the scenes on the yacht and the dancefloor.
F: Agreed, the tone is perfect. The car chase was really well done – some good stunts! Overall the physical comedy is just as important as the one liners in this film.
R: It’s true that a lot of the comedy exists outside the dialogue. The party on the train is a great example of a scene that’s funny because of how it’s filmed, not so much what’s in the script. You also get those great cuts between Joe romancing Sugar, and Daphne dancing with Osgood, which brilliantly ramp up the absurdity and I guess would have been quite innovative in 1959.
F: I like the change in music in that scene too when it cuts between the two. I feel this takes the best of silent movies and adds on a wonderful script to give one of the best films on the list!
R: That’s a good way of looking at it. I also think there’s a lot to be said for a story that is on the one hand totally breezy and carefree, while also utterly subversive in the way it glamorises deceit and rewards its heroes for doubling down on their deceptions. They really don’t make them like this any more, and what a shame that is.
Is it worthy of the top 100?
F: Of course it is!
R: For sure. I certainly wouldn’t argue with those that say it’s the greatest comedy ever made.