When Billy Wilder's comedies clicked, whole groups of stars could settle into unexpectedly risible constellations - as they did in his most purely entertaining movie, the gangbusters Roaring Twenties farce, "Some Like It Hot." Wilder had worked with Monroe before 1959, but in "Some Like It Hot," he took her dizzy-blonde persona and ran with it. When Monroe's Sugar Kane, a ukulele-strumming singer in an all-girl band, isn't cooing or tippling, she's falling for male tenor-sax players. The way Wilder and his co-writer, I.A.L. Diamond, shape Sugar's character, she's savvy enough to know better, but not strong enough to resist.
And the way Monroe embodies her, Sugar is a bouncy sweetheart - God's gift to saxophonists, especially the one played by Tony Curtis, who along with bass-player Jack Lemmon is on the transvestite lam for inadvertently witnessing the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
As a woman, Curtis is haughty and super-refined; that's how Lemmon starts out, too, but soon he throws caution to the wind section and becomes a good-time gal. The exuberance of Curtis and Lemmon buoys the whole picture. Their parodies of femininity curb Monroe's tendency toward self-parody. Curtis desires her, and Lemmon, improbably but hilariously, wants to emulate her when he gets engaged to a millionaire (the miraculously game, 67-year-old Joe E. Brown).
In a film where almost everything is theatrically stylized, from bootlegging and murder to the row of plutocrats rocking on the porch of a beachside hotel, Monroe is intrinsically exaggerated. She's described as "Jell-O on springs" - a phrase that fits even her singing voice.
As Joe E. Brown would say, "Zowee!"
The AFI Silver is at 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. "Some Like It Hot" plays there at 4:45 p.m Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Check afi.com/silver for updates; call 301-495-6720 for general information or 301-495-6700 for pre-recorded program information.
Breakfast at Tiffany's at the Charles: Audrey Hepburn brought a bounty of spontaneous humor and emotion to her signature roles, and it's all on slapstick-sophisticated display in 1961's "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Except for Mickey Rooney's controversial comic caricature of a Japanese expatriate, it's a soft, romantic variation on Truman Capote's novella of the same name. But it creates its own goofy glamour and casts its own warming glow.
As brought to the screen by director Blake Edwards, screenwriter George Axelrod and Hepburn, Capote's gold-digging Golightly is a lovable "kook" with a melancholy past. But Hepburn manages to be electrically endearing as a flaky yet self-assured party girl, especially in a sequence that could be called "Holly Golightly's Day Off," when she leads a struggling writer (George Peppard) through her favorite Manhattan haunts. And her metropolitan silliness hit a responsive chord in the loosening climate of Camelot.
Months after the film's release, girls from grade to grad school put down guys with Golightly phrases like "quel beast" - a tribute to Hepburn's elfin delivery. And she's tremulously touching when she introduces the song "Moon River," which swiftly became the slow dance of choice at platter parties, proms and sock hops. Seeing "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a good way for movie lovers to mark the centennial of the song's genius lyricist, Johnny Mercer.
The Charles is located at 1711 N. Charles St. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" screens at noon Saturday, at 7 p.m. Monday and at 9 p.m. Thursday. Call 410-727-3456 or go to thecharles.com.
CJC Jewish Film Series tickets on sale: For 17 years, the Columbia Jewish Congregation's Jewish Film Series has been selecting high-quality films with Jewish material or themes. Its 18th program begins on Jan. 9, 2010, with "Live and Become," a fictional tale set in a real contemporary exodus. In 1977, the Falashas, Ethiopian Jews, began migrating in great numbers to flee persecution from a Marxist-Leninist regime. In 1980, they won the covert support of the Israeli intelligence agencies and military, who smuggled them into Israel. For roughly half of its long running time, this movie offers an absorbing and enraging look at integration, Israeli-style; even when "Live and Become" turns soapy and pedantic, its intelligent handling of the subject matter remains riveting.
Shows begin at 8 p.m., in Room 200 of The Meeting House in Oakland Mills, Columbia. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $28 for a four-film series, $23 for a three-film series, $16 for a two-film series, $9 for one ticket - sold at the door only. All include refreshments and optional discussion group after the movie. For information and a full schedule, go to columbiajewish.org/film_series.shtml.
Afghan women at MICA: According to the Web site of the film's director, Kathleen Foster, "Afghan Women: A History of Struggle," aims to capture "the resilience and courage of a group of remarkable women who risk their lives daily to stand up for their rights" while illuminating "the past quarter-century of political turmoil," including an analysis of the Cold War roots of terrorism. MICA will present it Tuesday along with a panel discussion, "A History of Struggle: War, Occupation and Afghanistan's Women," featuring Foster; Afghan-German economist A.G. Ghaussy; Afghan-American humanitarian activist Fahima Vorgetts; and American psychologist Anne Brodsky.
Maryland Institute College of Art, 1300 Mount Royal Ave., presents "Afghan Women: A History of Struggle" 7 p.m.-10 p.m Dec. 1, in Falvey Hall, Brown Center. For more details, visit the online press release: mica.edu/News/MICA_Hosts_Film_Screening_and_Panel_Discussion_of_Afghan_Women_A_History_of_Struggle_Dec_1.html