Some Like It Hot has got to be, in my humble opinion, the funniest English-language comedy film of all time. (Brief aside: I remember when I first heard about the movie when I was much younger, I thought it must be a dirty movie - by modern standards. A character in either a TV show or film briefly mentioned it - wish I could remember what it was - and something about the way she talked about it made me think that. Don't know why.) It's Marilyn Monroe at (arguably) her sexiest, and for laughs per minute, it doesn't get much better than Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag.
|That mouth of his was a little creepy.|
Brown's road to show business had some very unusual twists. He was a circus tumbler at the age of nine, touring around the country. Then he got into baseball - almost became a Y-nk-- but preferred to go into showbiz instead, first Broadway and then the movies. He would go on to be a broadcaster for them in 1953, though. Among his '30s films include three baseball-themed movies, plus his son Joe L. would eventually become the general manager for the Pittsburgh Pirates for over twenty years.
|With Olivia DeHavilland in Alibi Ike (1935)|
In Cameron Crowe's book Conversations With Wilder, Wilder stated that he was aware of who Brown was, but that he didn't realize Brown was still around until he saw him at a Los Angeles Dodgers ball game and realized he was perfect for the role of Osgood Fielding III in Some Like it Hot:
...So I asked him, "Would you like to read [for the part]?" "Would I? Of course I would." He did the part, and shortly after, he died. [He actually didn't die until 1973.] He was an absolute surprise to people, to young people, because they'd never seen him. He had the biggest mouth in the world. He was the nicest guy.The sexual innuendo in Hot cannot be understated, and Brown was so marvelous at pulling it off. This scene where he meets Lemmon (in disguise, of course) for the first time is brilliant.
Look at his face at 1:10. His character is totally convinced that Lemmon's not only a chick, but a desirable one - and of course, the "Pull in your reel" line can only be interpreted one way. And Lemmon gives as good as he gets at 1:31 when he talks about slapping his fiddle. The dialogue by Wilder and co-writer IAL Diamond is pure gold, of course, but it's brought to life magnificently by these wonderful comedic actors.
That famous last line was suggested by Diamond, at first as a placeholder until he and Wilder found something funnier:
...We never found the line, so we went with "Nobody's perfect." The audience just exploded at the preview in Westwood.... it wound up to be our funniest last line. I was asked by many people, "What is going to happen now? What happens now to Lemmon, what happens to his husband?" And I always said, "I have no idea." "Nobody's perfect." Leave it up there on the screen. You cannot top that.
|With Buster Keaton in the Disney short |
"Mickey's Gala Premier" (1933)
I vaguely remember Peter Potamus from early in my childhood. Despite his "Hippo Hurricane Howler," he didn't make much of an impression on me, I'm afraid - and no wonder, if all his cartoons were as lame as the one at the link. I don't remember Lippy the Lion, but he seems completely indistinguishable from PP.
Brown was indeed quite a character. Next time one of his early movies shows up on TCM, I hope to catch it - especially if it's one of his baseball movies!