Years ago I tried to work up a list of the 10 books, music and movies whose copies I would take with me to that proverbial deserted island where, of course, there would be all the necessary state-of-the-art equipment available for the total enjoyment of my favorites. Among the movies, an uncontested place has been reserved for the movie Some Like It Hot.
I have watched it several times, know some of those witty dialogues by heart, and never became bored by it. This year it will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Most, if not all the actors and actresses are dead by now. Yet, the unique trio of Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, under the direction of Billy Wilder will live forever in that zany, witty, hilarious all-star motion picture.
All right, but where is the Hungarian connection?
Well, you may or may not know that Tony Curtis (originally Bernard Herschel Schwartz) was the son of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant tailor from Mátészalka who settled in the Bronx. That fact, however, is only incidental.
We have to go back now, to the beginnings.
The basic original story was a French property. In the 1930’s, a Hungarian lawyer, Dr. Szentpály István, purchased it for his Atelier Film KFT. Szentpály, Tiki, as his friends knew him, loved to dabble in the performing arts as did his dear wife, Alice, who was the Founder and Editor of Mozi Ujság, the popular Hungarian movie magazine.
It happened 80 years ago. In 1939, with Martonffy Emil’s directing, Szentpály produced a movie based on the original story, under the title “Hölgyek előnyben” (Ladies First). Short of the leading lady, Nagy Alice, whose name did not survive, the picture had an all-star cast: Vaszary Piri, Szilassy László, Pethes Sándor, Pártos Gusztáv, Kiss Manyi, Bilicsi Tivadar, Dajbukát Ilona, Pethes Ferenc. The highly successful movie was also distributed in Central Europe.
Several years later, Polish-born Writer/Director Billy Wilder acquired the story. He Americanized it, planted the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in it and 20 years after the Hungarian original, with the fail-safe cast he turned it into that gem, “Some Like It Hot”.
Let’s celebrate the triple anniversary of that most enjoyable perennial piece of entertainment whose roots go back to Hungarian soil!
Olga Vállay Szokolay is an architect and Professor Emerita of Norwalk Community College, CT after three decades of teaching. She is a member of the Editorial Board of Magyar News Online.