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A Narrative analysis of Some Like It Hot

Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959), a classical Hollywood movie by Billy Wilder in 1959, is generally regarded as a romantic comedy. Different from other comedies in that age, Some Like It Hot makes a breakthrough in subverting some conventions, that is, it tries to extend its themes to two marginalisation directions: gangsters and cross dressing. Following these two key elements, this magnificent comedy narrates the story in a humour way, reflecting fickleness of human nature in that age, showing the director’s cynicism, and proposing an advanced idea about gender, sex and love.

The biggest characteristic in Some Like It Hot is the clear narrative which makes the audience is driven by the plots absolutely. Narrative is an important organizing principle for structuring the film’s context, because it “is integral to the process of storytelling”(Casey, Calvert, French and Lewis 138). This sentence indicates that the content of narrative is sequential, so that words and images do not appear arbitrarily but in an order that makes sense to audiences. Owing to the subtle narrative, Some Like It Hot presents its story and ideologies in quite systematic ways.

Some Like It Hot commences with a gangsters narrative which seems to have no relationship with a comedy. Four hoodlums are riding in the hearse and they hear a police siren behind them. Two of them look out the back window and it is apparent that there is no glass in the widow. A second later a bullet smashes the window and, when they look out again, the window is not only broken, but very dirty. As right at the start of the film the audience is reminded, quite obviously, that what you see is not what you get. Subsequently a series of traditional elements of a gangster film appear: policemen shoot at the hearse, the gangsters fight back and so on. When the bullets penetrate through the coffin and the wine flows out of the bottles, the subtitle of “Chicago, 1929” (an age of temperance) appears. So far the director informs the audience about the background of this film. Running gangsters, chasing policemen and fighting scenes build the atmosphere of gangsters. This kind of opening is so convincing that let the audiences naturally define this film as a gangster film in the first impression and get ready to enjoy a violent and bloody story.

However, Wilder plays on the audience’s expectations. The next scene acts as a transition which unexpectedly shifts it from gangsters to comedy. As the police officer pretends to be a guest and enters the inn which is in a disguise of a funeral, the audience sees a different scene which totally opposite from the dark and dangerous atmosphere before. Noisy music, sexy dancers and drunken guests, they are all the vital elements of a funny comedy and cut off this inside world from the outside world. They are just like hints which tell the audience that a comedy is coming. After disclosing this whole scene, the camera moves towards to our heroes: Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), two struggling musicians who play instruments to make a living. This is their first appearance and their funny dialogue about how to spend the coming salary also strengthens the comedic effect.

The following several scenes follow comedic style, but add the narration of reality which reflects fickleness of human nature. Joe and Jerry knock two offices continually to look for a job but both fail. However each office is idle and quiet. How this situation cannot be associated with crimes? Here the director utilises this detail to tell the audience economy is suffering a great depression and the appearance of gangsters is logical. When Joe opens the third office’s door, Nelly appears and teases them to join in an all-women musical band. Wilder narrates the situation of begging for a job vividly. Joe’s humbleness, Nelly’s arrogance and Jerry’s tolerance seem funny and exaggerated at first sight, but they all...
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