The funniest movie ever made is also one of the most intelligent statements fit ever made about sex, gender and morality. It’s also one of the first movies to use very violent situations as the basis of comedy, and it probably was the first to ever incorporate a real, violent event in its fictional story. The fictional characters Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) become Josephine and Daphne because they witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre that happened in 1929 in Chicago.
Most of the movie is about the hilarious charade that Joe and Jerry have to play to save their lives. But we do see the gangsters of the massacre several times in the movie. The mob may have a goofy name, The Friends of Italian Opera, and some of them may be pretty stupid, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous since Joe and Jerry aren’t very bright either. There’s a moment when the head of the Friends of Italian Opera watches the hit he ordered. He was just speaking to a group and adjusts the volume on his headset when the noise of the gunshots is too much for him. He sits back in his chair and casually enjoys the show. This scene gives a parallel between the head mobster and Joe and Daphne. Joe and Daphne are innocent witnesses of the violence, so they’re not desensitized to violence but they are desensitized to the harm that can be caused by misogyny and too casual a view of sex.
Joe is unquestionably misogynistic. From the very beginning of the movie we see the results of his using and abusing women to meet his self-centered desires. Jerry is disgusted by Joe’s actions against women, but he isn’t much better because he has absolutely no self-control. Although its unintentional for him, he objectifies women just as much as Joe does.
Meeting Sugar (Marylin Monroe), another character who’s not very bright, is the perfect situation for misogynists to take advantage of to get what they want, except that they have to convince her and everyone else that they’re women to stay alive. Their con against the conmen didn’t just save their lives but also rescued them from their perverse views of women and their self-centerdness. They had to become sensitized to the personhood of women if they wanted any chance of their scheme working. They had to learn what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. They had to learn how to look out for the good of other people and not just themselves.
So the funniest movie of all times is a movie about organized crime, violence, social justice, and sexual morality. The humor never detracts from the message and the message never detracts from the humor. That’s quite an achievement. Thank you Billy Wilder.
Other Billy Wilder movies I’ve reviewed:
The Apartment (1960)