Those words, uttered by Joe E. Brown, playing a rich senior citizen, to Jack Lemmon, playing a musician in drag, constitute the second most famous closing line in the history of motion pictures. The most famous, of course, is and always will be: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
In “Some Like it Hot,” which hit the screen in 1959, Lemmon and a fellow musician played by Tony Curtis, both disguised as women, are hiding out from mobsters after witnessing a mob hit -- the St. Valentine’s Day massacre of 1929.
They join a women’s band, and are sent to Florida to perform at a resort frequented by rich, elderly, single men. Lacking much presence of mind, Lemmon (aged 34 when the film was made) allows himself to become romantically ensnared by Brown (aged 68), who thinks Lemmon really is a woman.
The relationship hasn’t been consummated by the time the film reaches its final scene. In that scene, Lemmon tries to wriggle out by reciting a litany of trivial reasons why he would make a poor wife, but the smitten Brown shrugs them off. Finally, Lemmon comes up with a reason that he thinks will prove uncontestable: “I’m a man.” To which Brown replies with the second most famous closing line in movie history.
Are we witnessing, today, a case of nature imitating art? Now that Vice President Biden and President Obama, in that order, have proclaimed themselves comfortable with gay marriage, are we entering an era in which that final line will no longer seem funny? At the time the film came out, the laughter it elicited from audiences invariably measured somewhere above 10 on the Richter scale.
I have a feeling that Messrs. Biden and Obama, both of them kind-hearted but lacking in financial acumen, have not considered the full implications of their position on gay marriage.
The competition among gold-diggers for wealthy, old men could increase many times over if gold-digging men enter the field. This could cost the Obama-Biden ticket the votes of outraged female gold-diggers, who constitute a large, if nebulous, voting bloc.
The supply of new gold-diggers could be enormous, because male gold-diggers don't necessarily have to be gay. Heterosexual men in straitened financial circumstances might begin to consider marriage to wealthy men as a viable way out of their plights.
Thanks to Forbes magazine and other such sources, it should be easy enough to compile a list of billionaires above a certain age cut-off -- say, ninety-five. People of that age enjoy having young people around. For them it is a form of renewal.
A clever, handsome young man might be able to ingratiate himself with an ancient billionaire who has gone through life as a straight, but is lonesome enough to consider gay marriage.
If he is clever enough, the young man might be able to bring the marriage to a successful conclusion -- read “huge inheritance” -- without things getting messy.
Assuming that his marriage partner is even interested, there are any number of ways to dodge sexual relations. Feigned headaches spring immediately to mind. But I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject. If a male gold-digger can persuade a female gold-digger to disclose the secrets of her trade, that might do the trick. The woman might insist on being paid, however.
Does all this sound grasping, greedy and devious? Well, try to remember that nobody’s perfect.