Wednesday 9 September 2015

On virtuosity

Name the movie:

"That's it for tonight This is Sweet Sue saying good night, reminding all you daddies out there that every girl in my band is a virtuoso, and I intend to keep it that way."

Some Like it Hot, of course. Billy Wilder's sublime comedy  movie has no shortage of good lines, and a couple of great ones. The one I've singled out above isn't often listed as a quotable zinger but I've always liked it, redolent of a time when there was still a modicum of wit and verbal dexterity in the Hollywood backlot, before "Lock and Load!" and "This ends now!" and "Nooooo!" and "Let's move!" and "Loser!" and so on. 

You won't need reminding that in Wilder's movie (made the year I was born) Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis have escaped from Chicago, where, a couple of reasonably innocent speakeasy musicians, they have stumbled acrtoss the 1929 St. Valentine's Day massacre and are now on the run. They join an all-girl show band, Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators where they bump into Sugar "Kane" Kowalczyk, played by . . . well, you know who. The two men spend most of the film in flapper drag (pencil skirts and pillbox hats). One of them falls in love with Sugar while the other is wooed by an ardent millionaire (the satchel-mouthed Red Skelton who delivers the film's immortal punchline). It's a very funny film, has a Shakespearean structure and moments of sublime silliness and even poignancy, and is one that should be seen and enjoyed with a large well-oiled audience, when the dialogue often disappears completely under thunderous laughter. Watching it alone on DVD is an oddly unsatisfying experience. The pauses between lines (included by the edit to allow the audience laughter to subside) seem slightly awkward, for a start.  

The bandleader is played by Joan Shawlee, a Wilder favourite (she can also be seen in The Apartment and Irma la Douce). She turns in a great performance. Everyone does. They're all virtuosi, and have remained so. 

The subject of this blog is - or was to have been - virtuosity.  I want to compare three very different poets and compare degrees of virtuosity. But I'm out of time and will return to the subject tomorrow. Or the next day.

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