From its high-octane opening car chase to its cartoony portrayal of hotheaded gangsters, “Some Like It Hot” firmly establishes itself in conversation with gangster movies of the ’30s. Those movies often exaggerated real, ripped-from-the-headlines stories of Prohibition-era gangsters, and in the process influenced the public idea of such figures. For instance, Howard Hawks’ 1932 film “Scarface,” even if it was tamer than Brian De Palma’s controversial remake 50 years later, used a loose fictionalization of the Al Capone story as its narrative engine.
“Some Like It Hot” would draw from reality as well, as indicated by the title card by the movie’s opening: “Chicago, 1929.”
Chicago gangland characters survive a narrow chase from cops. Afterwards, these men, who we learn are employed by one “Spats” Colombo (George Raft, a regular actor in ’30s gangster movies including “Scarface”) enter a bar through the back entrance of a funeral home, carrying liquor in a casket. Meanwhile, cops talk with an informer named “Toothpick” Charlie (George E. Stone), who tells them everything they need to know to enter the hidden bar.
When the heroic musicians, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), spot the cops between sets, we learn just about everything about their characters in less than a minute: they’re fairly unprincipled, broke, in debt to a large number of people, and ready to bounce the second things are getting difficult. They narrowly avoid getting caught by the cops, but the next day they end up in a parking garage, having planned on using a friend’s car to get to a gig in Urbana. It’s there they see the massacre.