The 50 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time

Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot"

21. Sugar Kane
THE FILM: Some Like It Hot
PLAYED BY: Marilyn Monroe

The cult of Marilyn Monroe has always been more than a little sad and more than a little bewildering. Her appeal is evident to anyone with a pair of eyeballs (or without them, as a lot of her sexiness was wrapped up in her breathless, little-girl coo), but it seems perplexing that so many would look for wisdom and pithy epigrams from a woman who was as famous for being desperately unhappy as she was for being glamorous and sexy. But the whole cult of Marilyn is damn near justified single-handedly by her performance in Billy Wilder’s deliriously entertaining, hormonally over-driven cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hot. Monroe’s hot-to-trot singer in a (theoretically) all-girl band is everything a lady of her time was not supposed to be: aggressively oversexed, invariably with the wrong man (and in this upside-down world, the right man is a man in a dress), ditzy, easy prey for musically minded womanizers, none too bright, and intent on marrying a millionaire, or at least relieving a millionaire of much of his fortune. Sugar Kane is no lady: she’s a dame and a dynamite, and an overpoweringly sexy and charismatic one at that. Monroe’s defining performance offers a singular combination of physical-comedy chops and sex-bomb sensuality; to paraphrase a pearl of wisdom often attributed to Monroe, the majesty of Monroe at her best (and she was never better than she is in Some Like It Hot) allowed an endlessly indulgent public to handle her at her frequent worst. –Rabin