Today is August 1, the first day of #AMonthWithoutTheCode65! It is also Thursday. In honor of #CleanMovieMonth85, we suspended Breening Thursdays during July, replacing them with Code Concepts articles. Since today is a Thursday as well as the first day of the month which we have dedicated to un-Code films, we are starting #AMonthWithoutTheCode65 with a bang! Since there are five Thursdays in this month, I am going to breen one movie from each of the un-Code periods, the Silent Era, the Pre-Code Era, the Foreign Breen Era, the Shurlock Era, and the Rating System Era. I am going to start with the Shurlock Era (1955-1968), the period during which the Code was officially in place but was growing weaker and weaker because it was being badly enforced by Geoffrey M. Shurlock, the second Production Code administrator. The majority of the films we have breened so far have been from the Shurlock Era, since this time period is full of films which are fascinating to study because of their place in the digression of Hollywood.
The Shurlock Era film which I am going to breen is Some Like It Hot from 1959. I am going to breen challenging, controversial, or seemingly unbreenable films during #AMonthWithoutTheCode65 to show how even many of the worst un-Code films could have been good or perfect Code films, such as the ones we studied during July, if they had been breened by Joseph Breen’s PCA. What Shurlock Era film is more fitting for this purpose than Some Like It Hot, the Roaring Twenties comedy which is said to have marked the beginning of the end for the Code?
On its surface, Some Like It Hot’s premise seems far from Code-compliant. After witnessing a murder, two Chicago musicians escape the city dressed as female instrumentalists so they can join an all-girl band bound for Florida. On the train, one of the musicians, Jerry (Jack Lemmon), tries to use his new identity to get cozy with the lovesick lead singer, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), all the while trying to remind himself that he is a “girl.” Meanwhile, his ladies’ man friend, Joe (Tony Curtis), is using his disguise very effectively to gain the confidence of the voluptuous Sugar, who doesn’t realize that her new friend is just the sort of man she is trying to escape. In Florida, Joe disguises himself as a bespectacled millionaire to woo Sugar, using the information she told his female alter ego, Josephine, to win her. At the same time, Jerry as Daphne is aggressively pursued by an elderly and much-divorced millionaire, Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown), who is looking for his eighth or ninth wife and takes a fancy to the phony female bull fiddle player. Just when it seems matters couldn’t get more complicated, the racketeers who sought to kill the musicians in Chicago come to the same hotel in Florida for a gangsters’ convention. The musicians have to keep their covers, lest they lose their jobs, their friends, and their lives!
This film is really ahead of its time in terms of risqueity and other unacceptable elements. It seems like a film from the later 60s in every aspect except the fact that it features no profanity. On the other hand, it seems more like a pre-Code film, especially because it is in black-and-white and is set in 1929. Aside from the surface problems of indecent costumes, excessive violence, and risqué dialogue galore, there are significant core problems. The situation of having two men on a sleeper railroad car with a band of attractive young blondes is fraught with suggestive possibilities, and Billy Wilder didn’t miss many opportunities here. There are plenty of inappropriate scenarios with male vs. female wardrobe. As an elderly playboy takes an interest in “Daphne,” implications of perversion abound. However, the basic problem could be breened: Two male musicians witness a gangland shooting and escape to Florida in an all-girl band by disguising themselves as women. That basic premise isn’t in violation of the Code as long as it is handled properly. Let’s consider some fundamental changes which would be necessary to make this a Code film.
Let’s begin with the character of Joe. From the first moment we see him, it is clear that he is a Casanova. Within the first five minutes of his character’s appearance, we know that he is a very promiscuous fellow. To characterize him as a lady’s man is acceptable if handled properly, but to characterize him as a licentious libertine is not, since he is the sympathetic leading man. When we first see the two musicians, a scantily clad chorus girl winks at Joe. Jerry asks him if “tonight’s the night,” to which Joe suggestively replies, “I’ll say,” still looking at the chorus girl. Jerry clarifies that he was speaking about their pay, but the exchange is highly suggestive. It would be enough for the chorus girl to just wink with no line to follow, as long as Joe didn’t look at her too lustfully. To qualify his relationship with her, he could remark to Jerry that he has a date with her for after the show, perhaps mentioning a delicatessen as their destination. Later, the twosome looks for work and encounters Nellie Weihmeier (Barbara Drew), a secretary who is a lady friend of Joe’s. She is very angry with Joe because of a recent evening when he was supposed to come over to her apartment. Her description of her preparations for the rendezvous include buying a brand-new negligee, which gives the date an immoral flavor. The reference to the negligee is unacceptable. The revision of these two incidents would sufficiently reform the first impression of the character to lay an acceptable foundation for his role.
The next important, in fact, the most important, aspect of this film is the attitude of the two musicians in regard to their jobs in an all-girl band. Men don women’s clothes in many Code films, but usually only for short periods of time and in a strictly farcical way. In 1959, that element wasn’t unacceptable in and of itself. For the most part, the unacceptability is just from crude jokes and vulgar humor regarding this odd situation. The point at which it goes beyond that is when both fellows attempt to use their disguises as women to gain familiarity with the real girls in the band, particularly Sugar. However, the most serious problem involves Jerry, who gets, shall we say, too connected to his disguise. The situation with Osgood Fielding being romantically “interested” in Daphne is handled the worst way possible for the 1950s. It is this basic problem that makes the film shocking for 1959 and seemingly hopeless. However, careful handling of this point could save the film.
The men disguise themselves for an acceptable reason. They take the job because, firstly, it is the only opening for their instruments. It is perfect for their escape from the gangsters because it provides both free transportation to Florida, far from Chicago, and a convenient disguise. The gangsters who are on their trail would never look for the two male musicians in an all-girl band! They don’t join the band because they actually want to dress like women or because they have effeminate tendencies. They also don’t join with the intention of acting on the advantages of being in close proximity with unsuspecting females. Both men display proper antagonism toward the idea. When Jerry first wants to accept the job, before the shooting, it is because he is desperate for money which will provide food and clothing. Joe thinks that hunger is going to his friend’s brain, and he scoffs at the absurd idea. After the shooting, Joe feigns a strange female voice on the telephone to accept the job, since he sees it as their only chance for safety. For some reason, Jerry, who was previously all for the ridiculous masquerade, is now convinced that they will never get away with the trick. He complains the whole way to the train. It is once they are on board the train that problems appear.
Aboard the southbound train, Jerry finds himself tempted by the dozens of beautiful and scantily-clad women who surround him. Joe encourages him to keep telling himself “I’m a girl,” but Jerry compares the situation to a childhood dream he had of being locked in a sweet-filled bakery overnight. Joe seems able to control himself, perhaps because he is the wiser of the two but probably just because he is more worldly and thus not so unaccustomed to the multitude of muliebrity. In the middle of the night, Sugar visits “Daphne’s” bunk to thank “her” for claiming Sugar’s liquor flask and thus saving the tippling singer from being thrown out of the band. Sugar thinks that Daphne is a great friend, but Jerry wants to be a lot more than that. When the strict bandleader, Sweet Sue (Joan Shawlee), walks down the corridor, Sugar hides by climbing into the small bunk right next to Jerry. The dialogue and situations which ensue are highly suggestive. They drink bourbon as Jerry prepares to tell the lovelorn singer about his true identity in hopes that she will consent to an immoral affair. Before the tryst can occur, one of the other girls in the band joins them, and soon every girl in the band is in Daphne’s upper bunk! While they drink, joke, and carry on, Sugar and Josephine bond in the washroom while shaving an ice block. When things get too wild for Jerry, he pulls the emergency brake, and the train screeches to a halt, awakening Sweet Sue as the noise of the party miraculously had not done.
It is unacceptable for Sugar and Jerry to be on or in the bed together. That’s too suggestive because we know that Daphne is not a girl. Instead, Jerry should be restless. He should go to a sitting compartment on the train in the next car and be playing solitaire or something when Sugar comes in. Then, the conversation could ensue as before, but with certain revisions. Jerry should not seem to be lusting so strongly after Sugar. He should seem properly attracted to her, in a nice way. The dialogue about Sugar and her sister cuddling in a bed and about Sugar coming down with something must be removed. Daphne should say that there is something that “she” just has to tell someone. The nervousness could lead to the exchange about the alcohol. Then, the other girls could barge in. The situation wouldn’t seem so wild if it took place in a normal room instead of a berth. Then, Josephine and Sugar could go into the washroom as before to shave ice and exchange confidences.
The biggest problem in regard to the “pansy flavor” in this film is Osgood Fielding. This tippling elderly millionaire is in Florida at the Seminole Ritz during his yearly vacation. He sees all the attractive blondes from the band walk up the stairs, and he seems attracted to them, but no one catches his eye until Daphne tromps up, loaded down with luggage and still walking awkwardly in high heels. Looking interested, he goes over and helps “Cinderella the Second” after “she” loses her shoe. He then pursues the bull fiddle player through the lobby and into the elevator. Obviously, he thinks that Daphne is a woman, and that’s why he is interested. However, one has to wonder why he is attracted to that particular “girl.” Daphne is one of the least feminine members of the band, perhaps surpassed only by Josephine. Maybe it’s the “playing hard to get” angle, but it seems ridiculous that Osgood would go for a girl who is “not even pretty” and is taller than he is when he could probably attract many of the prettier girls in the band with his money. Perhaps he’s drunk, perhaps he’s dense, or perhaps he needs glasses.
The situation is bad for most of the film, but it goes absolutely wild at the end. As Osgood and Daphne are motoring to his yacht to elope, Jerry realizes that he had better get out of this ridiculous engagement (yes, they are engaged) before it is too late. He tells Osgood that he can’t marry him because he is not naturally blonde, he smokes, he has been living with a saxophone player, and he can never have children. When all these excuses don’t discourage Osgood, he pulls off his wig and say, “I’m a man!” Looking at him placidly, Osgood says, “Well, nobody’s perfect,” without even batting an eye! The implications in this ending are absolutely unbelievable for 1959! I don’t know what Billy Wilder thought he was doing, but, unfortunately, he got away with it.
There is only one possible solution for the situation with Osgood Fielding and Daphne, and that is to clearly specify that the former is drunk throughout the entire film. I don’t mean just a little drunk, as he may be inferred to be in the current film. I mean absolutely intoxicated out of his wits, as he is when returning from the tango date, complete with slurred speech, stumbling, and impaired vision. This would account for his interest in Daphne. When we first see him on the hotel’s front porch, he should look interested in every girl who walks by, and maybe even attempt to flirt with a few of them. When Daphne loses her shoe, he sees that as a chance to help, which leads to their acquaintance. It really is nothing personal. He just sees a good opportunity. This general change would improve Osgood’s character and the relationship 100%!
On the band’s first evening at the hotel, Osgood makes a date with Daphne. He wants her to come aboard his yacht, but Joe has decided that he is going to use the yacht that evening to deceive Sugar that he is a millionaire. Thus, Daphne has to keep Osgood onshore. They decide to tango until dawn. Clips of this scene are shown interspersed with footage from the kissing scene on the yacht with Sugar and Junior. Basically, this scene is tolerable. However, the business of the rose in the teeth and the transfer of it from one person’s mouth to the other is unacceptable.
Early the next morning, both friends return from their “dates.” Jerry, who is goofy and probably intoxicated, proudly announces that he is engaged. Joe, rather stupidly ignoring his friend’s current female disguise, asks him “who’s the lucky girl.” Jerry replies, “I am.” The scene is a very famous one, with Jerry shaking maracas and singing “La Cumparsita” the whole time that Joe is trying to talk sense to him. He says, “There are laws, conventions. It’s just not being done!” However, Jerry informs him that a guy like him would want to marry another guy for “security.” Finally, Joe brings Jerry back to some degree of sanity by making him repeat, “I’m a boy,” similarly to the way he made him say “I”m a girl” on the train. Apparently he took the concept too far. Finally, Jerry says, “Oh, boy, am I a boy!” and takes off his wig. Then, he wonders what he should do with the expensive diamond bracelet that Osgood gave him as an engagement present. Finally, his attitude begins to be acceptable, but we must change his earlier behavior.
I considered the possibility that Jerry could be drunk, but that can only explain strange behavior for so long. Jerry has a very clear plan: he will marry Osgood, tell him the truth after the wedding, get a quick annulment, and enjoy alimony checks every month! I’ll admit that this doesn’t sound like Jerry actually wants to be married to the other man, but it’s just a little too close to that idea. This implied lifestyle is a very controversial topic and a very serious one. It isn’t a suitable subject for comedy. Also, I can’t imagine that people who support that lifestyle wouldn’t be offended by this farcical treatment. I’m sorry to deprive the film of one of its funniest scenes, but I must remove all of Jerry’s antics with the maracas and his plans of marrying Osgood. When Joe enters the hotel room, he should find Jerry very upset. The latter should already have doffed his wig to make him seem more masculine. He should explain that Osgood proposed and seem very troubled about it, expressing uncertainty about what to tell him and what to do with the engagement present. He could, at some point, bemoan the fact that this might be his last chance to marry a millionaire, but he must never seem to consider accepting the offer.
Joe has problems of his own in the same area although on a much smaller scale. Josephine attracts the attention of a fresh young bellhop (Al Breneman) who is about half his size. The fresh kid whistles at and tries to make dates with Josephine, who shows disgust for the idea. There are enough challenges in this film without this element. The bellboy should not flirt with Josephine. He can still be a character, but there should be no such interaction.
The leading lady in this film is Sugar Kane, the band’s singer. She is supposed to be a sympathetic character, but, played by the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe, this character’s primary feature is her exploited and over-exposed body. Every costume she wears is either low-cut, unsupported, transparent, or a combination of these. They go from risqué to absolutely obscene, since many of her more famous outfits from this film leave her almost naked. Sugar tells Daphne and Josephine about her unsuccessful love life. She has been in a series of male bands, and she has had a series of boyfriends who are tenor saxophone players. She has a weakness for men who play this instrument, but they have all turned out to be bums. Her lines about getting hot dogs and potato salad in the middle of the night and eventually being left with nothing but a pair of socks and a tube of toothpaste “all squeezed out” clearly imply that she was living with these cads or at least occasionally sharing hotel rooms with them. In all, we get the idea that she is a very loose woman. I feel no sympathy for the hard luck she has had, since I think that any woman with so few morals has nothing but heartbreak coming to her.
I think it would be easier to feel sympathetic toward a nice girl who has been misused by insincere men. Naturally, in a Code film, all of Sugar’s costumes would have to be revised. She should wear covering, supported, opaque, and sufficiently loose 1920s clothes, more like those worn by Daphne and Josephine. This would do a lot toward making her seem like a nice girl. Also, it would be a lot more flattering. Miss Monroe was always a full-figured woman, and she was expectant during this movie’s filming. She would look a lot better in looser, covering dresses than the sheer things which leave her torso almost completely exposed. Secondly, the lines in regard to the saxophone players must be revised. The line about being left with nothing but the socks and the toothpaste would have to be changed to something like, “And you’re left with nothing but a few tired memories and a cheap wristwatch he gave you that doesn’t work anymore.” Later, she talks about her last beau, who sent her down from their hotel room at two in the morning for hotdogs and potato salad. Instead, she should say that he sent her down during a little party the band was having after one of their shows. These two revisions would remove the flavor that she has lived with men out of wedlock.
On the train, Sugar tells Josephine that she hopes to meet a millionaire in Florida. She wants a man with glasses, since bespectacled men are sweet and helpless. Once in Florida, Joe uses this information to woo the unsuspecting Sugar as the sort of man she wants. He steals the clothes and glasses from the band’s manager, Beinstock (Dave Barry), and presents himself to her as “Junior,” the Shell Oil heir with a yacht that sleeps twelve and a Cary Grant accent. With this elegant façade, he charms the lovelorn Sugar and invites her to his yacht for supper after the show. The scene which ensues is one of the raciest in the Shurlock Era up to that point. Junior tells Sugar that he’s harmless because he no longer is capable of feeling love or attraction for a woman. The girl he loved fell off a cliff in the Grand Canyon, so he is now numb inside. He recounts the treatment that he has been given, including counseling from Dr. Freud in Vienna, treatments from the Mayo brothers, mineral baths, Balinese dancers, beautiful French upstairs maids, and books which were banned in Boston. Nothing could cure him, but Sugar is certain his case isn’t hopeless. She suggests that he should try American girls. As he lies on the couch, she kisses him very lustfully. The kissing scene goes on for I don’t know how long, and it is absolutely disgusting. This scene is altogether too suggestive.
If handled differently, this scene could be proper and a lot more romantic. All that excessive and open-mouthed kissing in a horizontal position is so animalistic that it is anything but romantic. Firstly, the discussion about his “mental block” toward love should be changed. It should seem more like he is heartbroken than that he is incapable of romantic feelings since his beloved’s tragic death. As it is, the situation is skirting too near the idea that he has some physiological problem. He should just make it clear that he can’t think of any girl as anything more than a friend, since no one can compare to Nellie. The silly business about his medical and psychological treatments should be removed. Sugar could say, “Maybe you just haven’t met the right girl since then. No one should be alone.” Obviously, Sugar must kiss him eventually, but it shouldn’t seem like a medical treatment. I suggest that Sugar should confide some of her own unlucky romantic experiences. She too has had her heart broken and is a little afraid of love because of the painful memories she has. Then, the kiss could be mutual and blossom out of their sympathetic conversation and understanding. It must, of course, be in a sitting position with all the lights on, be close-mouthed and restrained, and not exceed a decent length. The clever cutting to Daphne and Osgood doing the tango in the middle of their kisses has no place in a Code film, since it gives the impression that the kiss continues during that time. The line about Junior’s glasses getting fogged up must be omitted, as should the line about Sugar selling kisses for the Milk Fund. Not only is this unrealistic, as the Milk Fund would not be founded until three years later in 1932, it is very vulgar.
Now we must backtrack and give some attention to the element of the gangsters. When Joe and Jerry go to a garage to borrow a car to drive to Urbana, they stumble upon gangsters playing cards. Among them is Toothpick Charlie (George E. Stone), who told the police the location of a speakeasy owned by Spats Columbo (George Raft). Before the two musicians can acquire the car and leave, a car full of rival gangsters drives in, led by Spats himself. His henchmen line up all the gangsters present and shoot them with machine guns even as Charlie pleads for mercy. Then, as their attention is diverted by the discovery of the two witnesses, Charlie, who has bullet holes in his clothes but isn’t dead, reaches for the telephone. Spats hears this and, taking a machine gun from one of his hoods, personally finishes off Charlie. Then, he walks over to Charlie’s blood-spattered corpse and kicks the toothpick out of his mouth. Even before I knew about the Code, I was surprised by the violence and grotesqueness of this scene. From the fire shooting out of the tommy guns to the blood on Charlie’s body, I found it to be extremely gory for the 1950s. This scene must be toned down. Firstly, illegal weapons are not to be shown in the hands of gangsters, so all the machine guns should be replaced with shotguns or pistols. Secondly, fire should not be shown coming out of them. Thirdly, Charlie should not have noticeable bullet holes in his clothing when he is shown reaching for the telephone. Fourthly, his body should not be shown after Spats finishes him off, and the toothpick-kicking should be removed.
In Florida, Spats and his thugs arrive at the Seminole Ritz for an “opera lovers’ convention,” which is really the annual gangsters’ meeting. All the gangster guests are searched at the beginning of the convention, and many of them are found to be carrying concealed weapons. One of them has a pistol in one pantleg and bullets in the other. This gag is permissible, since it is not a very inventive form of weapon concealment. Next, another gangster is concealing his set of machine guns in a golf bag. This idea is too inventive, and, as mentioned before, the gangsters can’t be shown with machine guns. This gag should be replaced with some other scenario.
One character whom I have always found odd is Detective Mulligan (Pat O’Brien). I must admit that it took me a couple of times watching this film to fully grasp that this character is a law-enforcer. He seemed so hard-bitten, cynical, and smooth-talking that I wasn’t sure on which side of the law he was positioned. Even after I realized that Mulligan is a member of the police force, I found him to be too similar to the gangsters in style. I find this character to be altogether too apathetic. He is so devoid of emotion that he seems to be unmoved by any crimes. He reminds me of Pat O’Grady, the detective in the first official gangster film of the talkie era, The Doorway to Hell from 1930. I identified this cold-hearted copper as the true villain in the complicated gangster drama in my article about this film. I think that Detective Mulligan should be given more heart and human emotion toward good versus evil so that he can be a sympathetic character in contrast to the gangsters.
Naturally, Spats and his fellow conspirators must have a violent end to their violent careers. At the gangster convention, the other racketeers decide to do away with Columbo and company. After singing “Happy Birthday” to Spats, a gangster pops out of a giant cake and shoots the Chicago gangsters with a machine gun. Having been shot severely but not yet dead, Spats groans, “Big joke,” his oft-repeated line. Then, we see him get shot to death. This scene is much too violent. Firstly, the gangster in the cake should be holding a shotgun or handgun instead of a machine gun. Secondly, two mass murders, even if gangsters are the only victims, are too many for one film. On this second occasion, only Spats should die. His henchmen should not also be killed. Thirdly, Spats should not be shown being shot, nor should he be shown after being shot, so we will have to remove his final line. After his death, his corpse should not be shown too closely or too clearly. Later, his corpse should not be rolled through the lobby on a stretcher, even though it is covered by a sheet. Aside from being grotesque, it is ridiculous to imagine that a dead body would be removed through the hotel’s lobby!
Naturally, our two hapless musicians must witness this new murder, adding to their already vulnerable position. Thus, they have to hightail it out of the hotel, leaving Sugar with a broken heart because “Junior” has to marry another woman for high finance. As Daphne is telephoning Osgood to say that “she” wants to elope on his yacht, Joe as Josephine sees Sugar singing the blues because of him. Thus, dressed in full female attire, he walks up to Sugar and kisses her right on the bandstand. Then, he runs for his life as Sweet Sue and Beinstock take notice of this strange behavior. The kiss makes Sugar realize that Josephine is really Junior in disguise, so she pursues Josephine and Daphne down the boardwalk on a bicycle. All three “girls” climb aboard Osgood’s little motor boat which will take them to Osgood’s yacht for the forthcoming marriage.
When the musicians realize they must make their getaway, Joe should surprise Jerry by telling him that he should call Osgood and agree to elope with him. The word elope rather than marry should be used. Joe should explain that it’s just a way to get out of Florida. Once they’re on the boat, he can tell Osgood the truth. Then, Joe should walk over to the tearful Sugar, who is singing, and say in his normal voice, “None of that, Sugar. No guy is worth it,” tenderly squeezing her hand. Joe should not kiss Sugar while dressed as Josephine. Sugar could recognize Junior’s voice rather than his kiss, and that could lead her to follow him to the dock. Sweet Sue could say, “Josephine, there you are! Beinstock!” In the boat, when Joe confesses who he is, he shouldn’t seem so intent on telling Sugar what a heel he is. That makes his whole masquerade as Junior extremely questionable. He should confess that he has been “one of the those no-good nicks” that she has been trying to escape. However, he should make some statement about how becoming friends with a girl has made him realize how heartless he has been. He should ask Sugar to marry him, and she should accept with a kiss.
Now we come to the famous ending. Some may think that it is horrible to suggest changing the famous final line, “Nobody’s perfect,” but it was not beloved by the filmmakers. Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond labored over how to conclude the film. Someone suggested “Nobody’s perfect,” and they just put it down because they had to send the script to print. They knew that they had a week in which to think of something better, but they never could come up with anything, so the dummy line was filmed. It turned out to be highly successful. However, for the breened version, I think that we can give them a little help with this troublesome final line. Jerry could tell all his reasons as before, with the drunken Osgood giving his same replies of “I don’t care,” “It doesn’t matter,” “I forgive you,” etc. Then, Jerry could pull off his wig and declare, “I’m a man.” Osgood should look at the former Daphne with surprise, sadness, and dismay and drunkenly sob, “Oh, how will I ever explain this to Mama?” The film could end with that. Maybe that isn’t brilliant, but it’s an example of a possible alternative to the current unacceptable line. The important thing is that Osgood must be shocked and dismayed when he discovers Daphne’s true identity.
Aside from these core problems, there are numerous surface problems in this film which must be removed or altered. Some of them have already been changed by the structural breening, so I won’t mention those. I will just make a list here of the additional points which should be fixed. This film’s problems are so numerous that I may miss a few, but I will try to be thorough.
- At the speakeasy in the first scene, the dancers’ costumes are too revealing. They must be changed to decent outfits.
- At the musician’s union, Sweet Sue and Beinstock are trying to find a saxophonist and bull fiddle player because, as Sweet Sue explains, “The saxophone runs off with a Bible salesman, and the bull fiddle get herself pregnant.” Both these reasons for leaving the band are unacceptable. She should say something like, “The saxophone marries a traveling salesman, and the bull fiddle joins the Salvation Army.”
- When referring to female musicians who may be available, the music agent, Sig Poliakoff (Billy Gray), says that one girl “slashed her wrists when Valentino died.” This overly-violent line should be replaced with something like, “She joined the Red Cross after Valentino died.”
- When Sig tells Joe and Jerry that they aren’t right for the Florida job, he says that they are the wrong shape. Joe replies, “Wrong shape? What are you looking for, hunchbacks or something?” Poliakoff wryly replies, “It’s not the backs that worry me.” Instead, he should just slyly say, “No.”
- When Jerry finally realizes that it is an all-girl band, he suggests that they could do it anyway, recalling that a job last year required them to wear grass skirts. He shakes his hips too much when saying this. He should just do the hula with his arms.
- Trying to sell Joe on the idea of masquerading as women, Jerry suggest that they get some second hand wigs and “a little padding here and there,” motioning to his body suggestively. Instead of padding, he should say, “some old clothes from the chorus girls.”
- When they are being chased through the streets by the gangsters, Joe says that, if they get them, there will be blood everywhere, “type O.” This is the second usage of the type O blood joke which was started in Nellie’s office. It is used four times in all in this film. The other three usages are acceptable, but this line should be deleted because of its goriness.
- When Joe makes the quick decision that they must masquerade as women and accept the Florida job, he says that they must shave. Jerry responds incredulously, but Joe clarifies that they must shave their legs. It is vulgar to refer to shaving legs. He should just leave it with the statement that they must shave.
- When Jerry and Joe, now dressed as Daphne and Josephine, are walking toward the train, Jerry won’t stop complaining. He says, “I feel naked!” This line must be deleted.
- Soon, they see Sugar walking in front of them, noticeably shaking her posterior in a tight black dress. Her skirt should be looser, and she should not shake so noticeably.
- Steam shoots out from the train as Sugar walks by, and she jumps out of the way. This is a quote from the famous skirt-blowing scene in The Seven Year Itch, which is notorious for its indecency, so it must be removed.
- The two men gawk at Sugar, and Jerry says, “Look at that! Look at the way she moves. It’s like jello on springs.” The italicized part of the line should be removed.
- After seeing Sugar, Jerry says, “I tell you, it’s a whole different sex!” Joe replies, “What are you complaining about? No one’s asking you to have a baby.” The reference to Jerry having a baby is unacceptable. Instead, Joe should say, “This was your idea in the first place.”
- As Josephine and Daphne board the train, Daphne trips, and Beinstock helps her up, patting her on the posterior. This action is unacceptable. Instead, he should pat her on the shoulder.
- Once on the train, Daphne confesses that she never wears a corset. “Don’t you bulge?” one of the girls asks. This is unacceptable. Instead, the girl should say, “You don’t?”
- One of the musicians in the band, Dolores (Beverly Wills), always wants to tell a joke about a one-legged jockey. Although we don’t hear the whole thing, this sounds like a dirty joke. It should be removed in all cases.
- On the train, Jerry tells Joe that, as a child, he dreamed of being locked up in a bakery full of sweets. Joe tells him they’re on a diet. This should be removed. The men, especially Jerry, should seem more embarrassed than lustful in this situation.
- Joe warns Jerry to be careful, and he grabs him by the front of his shirt. Jerry then angrily informs him, “You tore off one of my chests!” This reference to the padding they are wearing is unacceptable. Joe should disturb some other part of Jerry’s disguise, such as his wig or makeup.
- In the washroom, Daphne and Josephine catch Sugar pulling a flask out of her garter and taking a drink. We shouldn’t see her actually taking the flask out, and her garters should be higher so that they aren’t nearly visible under her skirt. As mentioned before, this neckline, like those of all her other costumes, must be raised.
- In this scene, Sugar refers to getting “the fuzzy end of the lollipop” for the first time. This suggestive line is used several times throughout the film. In all instances, it should be replaced with “the short end of the stick.”
- Sugar should not be seen replacing the flask into her garter, and the gimmick about asking the two new musicians if her seams are straight should be removed.
- After Sugar leaves, Jerry says, “We have been playing in the wrong bands!” Several unacceptable lines follow. The whole exchange should be removed. The two musicians should just look at each other after Sugar exits.
- In the next scene, Sugar sings her famous song, “Running Wild,” accompanied by convulsive shaking and dancing. In the context of this film, the lyrics of this song are unacceptable. This song should be replaced with another 1920s tune with more acceptable lyrics, such as “Button Up Your Overcoat.” Whatever song she sings, she cannot dance, shake, and jiggle so suggestively. She may dance, but it must be restrained and not include any winking.
- Sugar should not lift her leg so high when she knocks the flask out of her garter.
- That night, the female musicians prance around the train in undergarments, skimpy negligees, and flimsy wrappers. They should all be wearing decent nightclothes.
- Since the element of Jerry being so aroused by the girls in the band has been considerably toned down, some of the exchange between Jerry and Joe when the former is in the upper berth is unnecessary. Thus, we may remove the questionable line, “Suppose there’s an emergency?” and its reply, “Pull the emergency brake.”
- When Sugar and Daphne are drinking, Sugar toasts, “That’ll put hair on your chest,” and Daphne replies, “No fair guessing!” This toast should be replaced with something like, “Here’s luck to you!”
- In the bathroom, Sugar recounts her unhappy past with saxophone players. Her manner is too flirtatious as she talks about “really loving them.” She should seem sadder.
- As Sugar and Josephine talk about meeting millionaires in Florida, they are sitting too close together. I know that there was real chemistry between Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis, but it must be controlled when he is dressed as a woman.
- At the hotel, Osgood tells Daphne that his mother thinks that he is out on his yacht, “deep sea fishing.” He says this part of the line too pointedly. The line may remain, but he shouldn’t say it so suggestively.
- Sweet Sue warns one of the girls to keep her kimono buttoned when she orders room service. This line is too suggestive.
- As Sugar and Josephine are walking to their respective rooms, Sugar says, “I wish they’d put us in the same room,” and Josephine says, “So do I.” This is unacceptably suggestive because Josephine is really a man. This exchange should be removed.
- When Jerry joins Joe in their room, he complains that he just got pinched in the elevator. Joe asks him, “Would you rather be picking lead out of your navel?” Instead, he should say, “Would you rather be running from Spats and his thugs?”
- Jerry accuses Joe of wanting to stay with the band because he’s after Sugar. He says that he saw them on the bus, “all lovey-dovey and whispering and borrowing each other’s lipstick!” The italicized part of this line should be removed.
- Sugar soon comes in and invites the girls to go swimming. Josephine reminds Daphne that she doesn’t have a bathing suit. Sugar says, “That’s alright. She doesn’t need one. I don’t have one either.” Daphne thoughtlessly replies, “See? She doesn’t have one either.” Suddenly, realizing what that means, Jerry says, “You don’t?” Sugar explains that they can rent them. This implication of nude swimming is unacceptable. She should just say, “That’s alright. She doesn’t need one. We can rent them, etc.”
- Josephine warns Daphne not to get burnt, and Sugar says that she has suntan lotion. Daphne suggestively says that they’ll rub it on each other. This exchange should be removed.
- At the end of the scene, Joe pulls the glasses he stole from Beinstock out of his garter. He should remove them from a pocket instead.
- Some of the girls in the band, especially Sugar, don’t have enough support or coverage of their chests in their bathing suits.
- When they are splashing around in the water, Sugar asks Daphne, “What do you think you’re doing?” Daphne replies, “Just a little trick I picked up in the elevator.” The implication that he pinched Sugar must be removed.
- After they emerge from the water, Sugar tells Daphne that she envies how “flat-chested” she is. “Clothes hang better on you than they do on me.” Jerry looks at his own “figure” and then at Sugar’s. This exchange must be removed.
- On the beach, Sugar meets Junior, the disguised Joe. He tells her that he has a yacht, and she asks if it is the big one in the harbor. He replies that he doesn’t think it is safe to have a yacht that sleeps more than twelve. This line and all future references to the yacht sleeping twelve are unacceptable and must be removed.
- Sugar introduces Daphne to Junior as an alumnus of Bryn Mawr, trying to pass both herself and her friend off as society girls. Joe says, “I heard a very sad story about a girl from Bryn Mawr. She squealed on her roommate, and they found her strangled with her own brassiere.” It is unacceptable to discuss such an intimate item of female apparel. The italicized word should be replaced with something like stocking.
- Back in the hotel, Sugar tells Josephine, who is in a bubble bath, all about Junior. After Sugar has mentioned Junior’s yacht, Daphne says, “Not only does he have a yacht, he has a bicycle!” This line and Daphne’s later line about Joe having a bicycle are suggestive and must be removed.
- After Sugar leaves, Joe and Jerry are left alone. When Joe tells Jerry his plans for the yacht and Osgood that evening, Jerry says, “Oh, no. Not tonight, Josephine!” This line, which is a quote from Napoleon, is suggestive if you know the history behind it. Instead, he should say something like, “No, sirree. Not me!”
- That evening, we see the band playing. Daphne and Josephine are wearing black dresses which match those of all the other musicians. In later scenes, we realize that these dresses are partially transparent. I never thought that costumers would want to exploit Jack Lemmon’s figure, but it seems that they did! These dresses should be fully-lined.
- That night, Sugar sings “I Wanna Be Loved By You” with the band. Her manner is much too flirtatious when she sings this. She practically puckers at the camera, and she jiggles, although she doesn’t dance. Of course, the biggest problem with this number is the dress she is wearing, which is practically transparent. If she were wearing a decent dress, it wouldn’t seem as questionable. However, her manner and the spotlight which moves to show and then conceal her figure should be toned down.
- During the instrumental section of this number, Daphne and Josephine talk about Osgood Fielding, whom they see in the audience. Joe suggests things that Jerry could play miniature golf with Osgood that evening. “Oh, no,” Jerry says. “I’m not gonna get caught in a miniature sand trap with that guy!” This too heavily emphasizes the idea that Jerry is actually nervous about being with the other man. The lines about miniature golf should be removed.
- At the end of the song, Sweet Sue says her parting words to the audience, ending, “And reminding all you daddies out there that every girl in my band is a virtuoso – and I intend to keep it that way.” Her wink drives home the innuendo. This line should be removed. She should just say, “This is Sweet Sue saying goodnight.”
- Per Joe’s request, Jerry contrives to keep Osgood ashore. Standing outside the hotel, Osgood pleads with Daphne to go to his yacht. Daphne plainly says, “I’ll throw up.” This line is vulgar, so it should be changed to, “I’ll get sick.”
- At the end of this scene, Osgood growls flirtatiously at Daphne. That is unacceptable. He should just chuckle.
- The only element which I didn’t mention earlier about the tango sequence is the end of the dance. Osgood dips Daphne, and she kicks her leg up so high that her garter shows! There should be no kicking and no garter visibility.
- The kissing between Sugar and Junior on the hotel steps needs revision just as the kissing on the yacht does. It should be restrained, and all references to the Milk Fund must be omitted.
- I addressed this in my core problems, but this is a little different. In the scene after Joe and Jerry have returned to their hotel room, Sugar comes in, and she is wearing a flimsy, short, and completely unsupported wrapper. She should be wearing a covering nightgown and robe.
- In regard to her evening with Junior, Daphne asks Sugar, “Did he get fresh?” Sugar responds, “Of course not. As a matter of fact, it was just the other way around.” This line is too suggestive that Sugar is a loose, flirtatious woman. The italicized part of the line should be changed to, “He’s a perfect gentleman.”
- Sugar continues, “You see, he needs help.” “What for?” Daphne replies, looking at Joe. These two lines should be removed, since they are no longer relevant after the changes made to the yacht scene.
- As Jerry and Joe enter the lobby the next morning, Jerry and Joe discuss Daphne’s engagement to Osgood and their whole situation. This conversation centers too much on the controversial betrothal. It should be replaced with some other conversation.
- Jerry and Joe soon realize that Spats Columbo and his gang have come to the Seminole Ritz for a gangster convention. Despite their attempts to avoid them, they end up in the same elevator car. In their exchange, the gangsters refer to the two “women” as broads, a forbidden expression for women. Broads should always be replaced with dames.
- Up in their room, Jerry and Joe pack as quickly as possible. Joe expresses concern about what’s going to happen to Sugar, but Jerry thinks that their own safety is more important. He says, “Those guys have got machine guns ready to blast our heads off.” Firstly, machine guns should be replaced with revolvers or some other type of weapon. Secondly, blast our heads off is too grotesque. Instead, he should say bump us off.
- Joe calls Sugar on the telephone as Junior. She tells him about a dream she had. She says that, as they sailed on his yacht, she wiped the steam off his glasses. Since the earlier line about his glasses getting steamed up has been removed, this line should also be deleted.
- After receiving the news that Junior is sailing to South America to marry another girl, Sugar sadly comes into Daphne and Josephine’s room. She tells them about her beloved’s marriage, saying, “That’s what they call high finance.” Daphne says, “That’s what I call a louse!” The italicized word is a forbidden expression, so it should be replaced with the word jerk or cad.
That concludes my breening of this film! Many people think that this movie is so bad that it didn’t even get a PCA Seal of Approval. Unfortunately, it was granted a Seal by the lax PCA led by Geoffrey Shurlock. An even commoner myth is the idea that the National Legion of Decency condemned it. This is also untrue, since the Legion gave it a B for partial moral objectionability. This movie was a big financial and commercial success, and it remains highly popular to this day. In 2000, the AFI ranked it as the best comedy ever. Could this movie have been better if it were self-regulated by the Joseph Breen Production Code Administration? I think that it could have. There are things which I love about this movie, such as Jack Lemmon’s acting, but I haven’t watched it in years because of the distasteful elements in it which disgust me now that I know about the Code and always bothered me. I would watch this film regularly if the changes which I suggested had been made during production. What do you think? Did I go too far? Did I miss anything? Well, nobody’s perfect!
By the way, please join our month-long study of un-Code films, #AMonthWithoutTheCode65! Throughout August we are not going to watch any American Breen Era films (except for our weekly new Code films), and we are inviting participants to do the same. Writers can join this celebration with articles about their opinions and discoveries about films that were not breened during the month, and we will republish them on our website. What have we learned during sixty-five years without Joseph Breen’s Code enforcement?
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