When Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon first put on the female make-up and costumes, they walked around the Goldwyn Studios lot to see if they could "pass" as women. Then they tried using mirrors in public ladies rooms to fix their makeup, and when none of the women using it complained, they knew they could be convincing as women. There is a scene on the train recreating this moment.
Marilyn Monroe required 47 takes to get "It's me, Sugar" correct, instead saying either "Sugar, it's me" or "It's Sugar, me". After take 30, Billy Wilder had the line written on a blackboard. Another scene required Monroe to rummage through some drawers and say "Where's the bourbon?" After 40 takes of her saying "Where's the whiskey?", 'Where's the bottle?", or "Where's the bonbon?", Wilder pasted the correct line in one of the drawers. After Monroe became confused about which drawer contained the line, Wilder had it pasted in every drawer. Fifty-nine takes were required for this scene and when she finally does say it, she has her back to the camera, leading some to wonder if Wilder finally gave up and had it dubbed.
Jack Lemmon wrote that the first sneak preview had a bad reaction with many audience walkouts. Many studio personnel and agents offered advice to Billy Wilder on what scenes to reshoot, add and cut. Lemmon asked Wilder what he was going to do. Wilder responded: "Why, nothing. This is a very funny movie and I believe in it just as it is. Maybe this is the wrong neighborhood in which to have shown it. At any rate, I don't panic over one preview. It's a hell of a movie." Wilder held the next preview in the Westwood section of Los Angeles, and the audience stood up and cheered.
Marilyn wanted the film to be shot in color (her contract stipulated that all her films were to be in color), but Billy Wilder convinced her to let it be shot in black and white when costume tests revealed that the makeup that Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon wore gave their faces a green tinge.
A male cabaret dancer named Babette tried to teach Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon to walk in heels. After about a week, Lemmon declined his help, saying he didn't want to walk like a woman, but a man trying to walk like a woman.
Tony Curtis has said that he asked Billy Wilder if he could imitate Cary Grant for his stint as the millionaire in the movie. Wilder liked it and they shot it that way. Apparently, Grant saw the parody of himself and stated, jokingly, "I don't talk like that."
Stories of the difficulty that cast and crew had with Marilyn Monroe during the making of this film have grown to almost mythical proportions. In the "farewell" telephone conversation between Monroe and Tony Curtis, her side-to-side eye movements clearly reveal that she was reading her lines directly from an off-screen blackboard. According to Curtis, Monroe was routinely 2 to 3 hours late to the set, and occasionally refused to leave her dressing room.
A preview audience laughed so hard after Daphne's announcement of the engagement to Osgood, that a lot of the dialogue was missed. It was re-shot with pauses (and the maraca gimmick) added to allow for this.
Supposedly when Orry-Kelly was measuring all three stars for dresses, he half-jokingly told Marilyn Monroe, "Tony Curtis has a nicer butt than you," at which point Monroe pulled open her blouse and said, "Yeah, but he doesn't have tits like these!"
Marilyn Monroe was pregnant during the filming, as a result she looked considerably heavier. She had several miscarriages in her life. Due to her pregnancy, most of the publicity still photos were posed for by both Sandra Warner (who had an uncredited role as one of the band members) and Monroe's frequent stand-in Evelyn Moriarty with Monroe's head superimposed later.
In 2008, a Californian man who found a little black dress in his closet was stunned when appraisers for U.S. TV series Antiques Roadshow (1997) determined it once belonged to Marilyn Monroe. The frock - which Monroe was sewn into for Some Like It Hot (1959) - was estimated to be worth $250,000
Jack Lemmon got along with Marilyn Monroe and forgave her eccentricities. He believed Marilyn simply couldn't go in front of the camera until she was absolutely ready. "She knew she was limited and goddamned well knew what was right for Marilyn," he said. "She wasn't about to do anything else." He also said that although she may not have been the greatest actor or singer or comedienne, she used more of her talent, brought more of her gifts to the screen than anyone he ever knew
Tony Curtis's voice as Josephine was dubbed by Paul Frees (according to co-writer I.A.L. Diamond). Curtis confirmed it by stating the voice you hear as Josephine is a combination of his voice and Frees'. Curtis says he had trouble maintaining a high-pitched voice for an entire take.
Billy Wilder referring to Marilyn Monroe while making the movie: "We were in mid-flight, and there was a nut on the plane." Indeed, Wilder publicly blasted Monroe for her behavior, and she was not invited to the wrap party.
According to Jules Faith in "The Bronfmans", the only person who ever dared mock Lew Wasserman's "Music Corporation of America" was Billy Wilder in this movie. The musicians played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, looking for work, charge into an office labeled "Music Corporation of America". The only occupant is a woman sitting at a desk, drinking from a bottle.
The resort scenes were filmed entirely at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, California. One reason why Billy Wilder chose this location was Marilyn Monroe's ongoing personal problems. He wanted a location where she could live on site and not have to be transported.
Jerry Lewis was offered the role of Jerry/Daphne but declined because he didn't want to dress in drag. When Jack Lemmon received an Oscar nomination for the role that Lewis gave up, Lewis claims he sent him chocolates every year to thank him and now regrets not taking the part.
After shooting was completed, Billy Wilder threw a celebration dinner at his home for cast members and friends. Marilyn Monroe was not invited. The crushed star had to have it explained to her that she had cost the production roughly half a million dollars with her delays and unprofessional behaviour. Wilder had generally unkind things to say about her after this film. When asked if he would do another project with her, he replied, "My doctor and my psychiatrist ... tell me I am too old and too rich to go through this again." After reading some of the things Wilder said about her in print, Monroe called his home and told his wife to please give her husband the message - "to go f*** himself." Wilder changed his tune later, commenting, "It takes a real artist to come on the set and not know her lines and yet give the performance she did." A year later, at the premiere of The Apartment (1960), Monroe threw her arms around him, told him how much she loved the picture, and whispered that she would like to play the lead in Irma la Douce (1963), a role that eventually went to Shirley MacLaine.
The character of Spats Colombo is in several ways reminiscent to the notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone. Capone was responsible for the Saint Valentine's Day massacre in 1929, in which his rival gang members were gunned down in a nearly identical fashion as shown in the film. The massacre occurred in a Chicago warehouse on Clark Street, which is also mentioned in the film.
The last door Jerry and Joe open in the office building where they are looking for work says "Jules Stein, President" stenciled on the door. Jules Stein is a real person who founded the Music Corporation of America, also stenciled on the door. Billy Wilder played cards with Stein.
According to I.A.L. Diamond, he and Billy Wilder spent a year developing the script. Initially, the script was set in contemporary times because they felt they needed a situation more powerful than poverty to compel the characters to dress as women. Diamond suggested that a period setting would make it easier for the audience to accept female impersonation and Wilder then came up with the idea to set the story during the jazz age and have their characters witness a gangland slaying as motivation for hiding out.
Marilyn Monroe recorded a vocal version for the theme to the film. It was to be played over the opening credits, but an instrumental overture took its place in the final version. The title track later appeared on an LP in the mid-'70s, with Marilyn's three other songs from the film.
In the opening scene when Joe and Jerry are playing at the "funeral", all of Gerald's "supposes" eventually become true: The Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks get divorced. Also, of course, the stock market crashed later in 1929.
Tony Curtis hated that his own performance deteriorated over the course of the 30 or more takes often needed to get a good scene out of Marilyn Monroe. As a result, Billy Wilder ended up having to use more footage of Marilyn than him.
In Russia, the film is titled "V dzhaze tolko devushki," literally "In Jazz, There Are Only Girls," or poetically and figuratively "Only Girls Are Allowed In Jazz", thought by some to be a much more appropriate title.
When Daphne and Osgood Fielding are discussing what to do after the girls' first night on the bandstand in Florida, Fielding indicates that the roadhouse has a hot Cuban band "that's the berries." That was a phrase prevalent in the roaring twenties meaning the band was the best! It was similar in usage to the "bees' knees."
Tony Curtis had been going to analysis as much as four times a week for several years. And when the time came for him to appear on the set in drag for the first time, Jack Lemmon had to take him by the hand and literally pull him out of his dressing room
The sequences set in Florida were shot on location at the Hotel Del Coronado Resort near San Diego, California, which is where the production of Some Like It Hot began on June 1, 1958, which was Marilyn's 32nd birthday; production on this film ended on November 5, 1958, two months over schedule and over half a million dollars over budget.
Tony Curtis was spotted by Billy Wilder while he was making Houdini (1953), as he thought he would perfect for the role of Joe. "I was sure Tony was right for it - because he was quite handsome, and when he tells Marilyn that he is one of the Shell Oil family, she has to be able to believe it".
In addition the songs performed in the film, portions of the following tunes were used: "Sweet Georgia Brown," "By the Beautiful Sea," "Randolph Street Rag," "La Cumparsita" and "Park Avenue Fantasy" (also known as "Stairway to the Sky")
According to Tony Curtis himself in his 1993 autobiography, he had a premonition that Marilyn would be dead within one to two films, after production on Some Like It Hot ended in November of 1958; sadly, Curtis' premonition came true on Sunday, August 5, 1962, when Marilyn's death at age 36 was announced earlier that day.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The now-famous closing line, "Nobody's perfect," was actually never intended to make the final film - it was apparently to be replaced by the writers once they thought of something they liked better. I.A.L. Diamond and Billy Wilder each credit the other for the genesis of the line. Wilder later fashioned his own epitaph with the similar line: "I'm a writer, but then nobody's perfect."
According to George Raft, Marilyn Monroe suggested to Billy Wilder that he end the movie with Sugar and Spats tangoing off into the sunset. Wilder liked the idea, but decided on the ending with Osgood and Jerry.
The Nehemiah Persoff role originally was offered to Edward G. Robinson, but Robinson had vowed never again to work with George Raft, with whom he had a fist fight on the set of Manpower (1941) when for a scene Raft spun him around too hard. (Despite the avowal, Robinson did co-star with Raft in A Bullet for Joey (1955)) However, the role of Johnny Paradise, the kid homaging Raft's "cheap trick" of coin-flipping, is also the man with the Tommy gun in the birthday cake who mows down Spats and his gang. The actor is Edward G. Robinson Jr.