Script of the Week: Some Like It Hot

Policemen, under the supervision of the captain, are herding customers into a paddy-wagon. Fighting his way out of the wagon is our Drunk, waving his coffee cup in the air.

DRUNK
I want another cup of coffee.

He staggers into the alley, toward the side entrance of the speakeasy, CAMERA MOVING with him. Through the smashed-up side door, policemen are ushering more customers, waiters, musicians and the dancing girls.

CAMERA MOVES UP TOWARD a fire escape on the second floor. Joe and Jerry, carrying their instruments and overcoats, have just climbed through a window onto the fire escape, and are inspecting the scene below. The shot-up hearse is parked directly beneath them. Stealthily they climb down the ladder, drop to the roof of the hearse. Then they scramble over the radiator, steal down the alley away from the street. They stop in the shadows to put on their coats.

JERRY
Well, that solves one problem. We don’t have to worry about who to pay first. 

Some Like It Hot, released in 1959, was written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. It was based on Fanfare of Love, a German film written by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan. The German version (itself based on an earlier French film) has the same story but without the gangsters.

Screenwriters Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

The script stands out for its pace and clarity in the description of action, not to mention the wit and economy of the dialogue.

The first two pages/minutes contain barely any dialogue, it’s all visual. We’re thrown into the world of the story in the middle of action (in medias res) and exposition is delivered through first peaking our curiosity with the unusual image of a funeral hearse being pursued by a police car, until we find out that the hearse is delivering alcohol into a speak-easy that uses a funeral home as a front.

Not only are we introduced to the place, time and setting of the story – America during prohibition – but we also we have the themes of pursuit and disguise introduced through this action: during the rest of the story the two main characters will be pursued while they try to hide behind a disguise in the all-girl band.

Read the screenplay here

 

Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon on the set.

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