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Hollywood's loudest laughs:

Men In Drag Make It Big As U.S. Film-makers Name 'Some Like It Hot' As America's Most Hilarious Movie 

by Michael Ellison

The Guardian (London), 15 June 2000, page 18

The enduring appeal of the on-screen cross-dresser was borne out yet again yesterday when the Hollywood film establishment named as its funniest American movie Billy Wilder's 1959 classic Some Like It Hot

The movie, which in its day won an Oscar only for costume design, starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in a story about two struggling musicians who dress up as women and join an all-girl band to escape the Chicago mob after witnessing the St Valentine's Day Massacre. 

But the results of the American Film Institute's poll of 1,800 industry insiders to find the funniest of the funny did not leave everyone in the best of humour. 

"In large part these lists turn out to be a celebration of ignorance," said the film critic Leonard Maltin. He then took exception to the placing of Peter and Bobby Farrelly's There's Something About Mary - celebrated in large part for a semen joke - above everything by Charlie Chaplin other than The Gold Rush at 25. 

"I don't think I'm a voice in the wilderness when I say there's a possibility Charlie Chaplin is a better film-maker than the Farrelly brothers," said Maltin. But he can have had few quibbles with the success of Some Like It Hot, even if Monroe was said to have been so doped-up during filming that she was often not sure what she was doing. 

"Sensational from start to finish," Maltin says in his Movie and Video Guide, "with dazzling performances by Lemmon and Curtis and a memorably comic turn by Monroe." 

Second in the poll - participants were asked to select from a list of 500 - was Sydney Pollack's Tootsie from 1982, which stars Dustin Hoffman as failed actor who masquerades as a woman to win a part in a sitcom. 

Two other cross-dressing tales make the 100 - Mrs. Doubtfire at 67 and Victor/Victoria at 76. Woody Allen, whose films rarely do great business at the United States box office, was the director with most movies on the list: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Take the Money and Run, Bananas and Sleeper. Wilder wrote or directed a total of five and Chaplin made it with four. 

Mel Brooks appeared three times, with Blazing Saddles, The Producers and Young Frankenstein. Buster Keaton's The General was the highest-ranked from the silent era. The list arrived at by Hollywood's elite differed markedly from that of the consumers, represented by the institute's website poll. The punters' top 10 - headed by Blazing Saddles (sixth on the official tally) - included five films that did not even make the institute's 100 funniest. 

The paying customers' affection for films such as Private Parts, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Dumb and Dumber might seem to indicate more lowbrow tastes. On the other hand, they make a case for a hipper sensibility by putting Kevin Smith's slacker picture Clerks at number 10 while it is ignored completely by the institute's voters. 

The nearest thing to anything alternative high on the official list is Rob Reiner's hard-rock parody This Is Spinal Tap at 29. 

Even some of those recognised by the institute were not entirely happy. "It's nice to be nominated but I'm just a little bit leery of lists," said Blake Edwards, director of both Victor/Victoria and A Shot in the Dark, which made 48th place. 

"It's the story of my life," says Monroe's character, Sugar Kane, in Some Like It Hot. "I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop." Not this time.

© 2000 The Guardian

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