Since the first silent films were released to the public, comedies have been at the center of the medium. The silent era was dominated by Charlie Chaplin (1889 to 1977), the English-born comedy movie maker and actor. His films “The Gold Rush” (1925), “City Lights” (1931), and “Modern Times” (1936) remain classics. The same is true of his first sound film, “The Great Dictator” (1940). Several of these are on the American Film Institute’s (AFI) “The 100 Funniest American Movies Of All Time.”
Also early on in the history of the genre, The Marx Brothers were nearly in Chaplin’s class as movie makers. Their “Duck Soup” (1933), “A Day at the Races” (1937), and “Horse Feathers” (1932) also make the AFI list.
The comedy that is No.1 on the AFI list was made two decades after Chaplin and The Marx Brothers flourished. It starred one of the most widely admired beauties in film history, the tragic Marylyn Monroe, and two of the most steady comedic leading men, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The film was directed by one of Hollywood’s widely regarded directors–Billy Wilder. Wilder won the Academy Award for “Lost Weekend”, a story about alcoholism. He also directed classics “Sunset Boulevard” (1950) and “Stalag 17” (1953)
The film atop the AFI “The 100 Funniest American Movies Of All Time” is “Some Like It Hot”. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dress as women as they try to escape the Chicago mob in 1929. They meet Monroe on a train to Miami. All’s well that ends well as Curtis ends up in a romantic relationship with Monroe.
“Some Like It Hot” won The Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Monroe earned the “Best Actress” award and Lemon won “Best Actor”. The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for “Best Director”, “Best Actor”, and “Best Costume Design”.
Famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote of “Some Like It Hot”:
Wilder’s 1959 comedy is one of the enduring treasures of the movies, a film of inspiration and meticulous craft, a movie that’s about nothing but sex and yet pretends it’s about crime and greed. It is underwired with Wilder’s cheerful cynicism, so that no time is lost to soppiness and everyone behaves according to basic Darwinian drives.