_______ [staccato breathy voice] "Just. you. nobodyelse. but. you"
I'd forgotten how dreamy Marilyn Monroe was, singing and puckering up for the camera in Some Like It Hot (1959) as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk. I'd been a little cool on her for the past few years. I was tired of seeing her. Those ready to go lips (and resulting lipstick print) are beautiful but overly familiar. They're even part of the logo at her official site.
But this happens to a lot of icons. Their estates overexpose them. You see them all the time through the inevitable over merchandising. They infiltrate every large discussion since they're so busy signifying something else, something less flesh and blood; an abstraction personalized. Monroe is Hollywood. Monroe is sex (the movie variety). Monroe is that Troubled Actress™ we're still always reading about.
But here's the niftiest thing about Monroe: watching her work her magic provides an instant cure to the disease of her over familiarity. Just pop the DVD in the player and ta-dah: her radiance, her talent, that breathy delivery...she huffs and she puffs and she blows the Icon down. For a couple of hours in the resultant rubble you're left with a fine actress and the character she's playing, just as it should be.
Some Like it Hot, one of the comedy greats, gets a lot of mileage from her kissability. It's not just the puckering but the literal smooching. In one of the film's most famous sequences, Joe (Tony Curtis) whom she knows in drag as "Josephine" fools her into sexcapades with an elaborate charade as a yacht-dwelling frigid millionaire named "Junior". It's a little icky. The audience is essentially asked to root for the cad to trick her into putting out. Without Monroe's deft playing this scene would play too misogynistic for comfort. Her unique pathos and aggressive sexuality (it's still eyebrow raising to watch her pounce --she's the top) keep the comedic ball in the air. The love scene that could've felt like an abusive game of dodgeball plays more like a tennis match.
For all of Sugar Kane's funny enthusiasm, Monroe never hides the character's heartbreak either. Soon Sugar is "Through With Love" a broken hearted songbird right there on the stage. And whaddya know, she melts the jerk's heart. The con artist is finally feeling for her rather than objectifying her and knows he's done her wrong. Joe plants another on her, but this time the kiss is honest --he does it as Josephine, thereby giving up his game.
Chaos that has nothing at all to do with Sugar erupts as gangsters chase Joe through the hotel and he runs for his life. The songbird also gives chase "Wait! Wait for Sugar!" Guess she wasn't through with love after all.
a-deedalee deedalee deedalee-dum, boop boop-a-doop!
previously on "kissing" (new series) Volver