Billy Wilder began his career as a writer before taking on directorial duties. He bucked tradition in all of his movies, setting new precedents for their respective genres. Double Indemnity essentially codified the conventions of film noir, Sunset Boulevard remains the prototypical scathing portrait of Hollywood decadence, and Stalag 17 is one of the best movies about World War II without even containing a single battle scene. And then there is Some Like it Hot. Wilder's direction of Some Like it Hot redefined the comedy genre and opened it up to new possibilities. The brilliance of the film lies in Wilder's facility with a variety of different themes and tone. Some Like it Hot expertly treads the line between outright sex romp and a sophisticated examination of gender expectations, and this is largely due to Wilder's deft screenwriting and direction.
It is the delicacy of Wilder’s direction that often yields some of his funniest gags. Wilder frequently sets up scintillating and shocking scenarios, and then diffuses them with a nimble and witty humanity. In Some Like It Hot, Wilder's treats with subtlety a volatile subject—two men in drag, one pursuing a voluptuous female companion and the other pursued by a millionaire gentleman—that is hard to imagine being handled with the same tact today. Wilder addresses serious and intense topics with the lightest of touches.
Wilder had a reputation for being a brilliant but particular and somewhat combative director, and he often locked horns with the capricious Marilyn Monroe during filming. Wilder knew what he wanted, and Monroe required a lot of handholding throughout filming. They each brought incredible expertise to the project, and the result is one of the most beloved American comedies of all time. Wilder would never admit that it was the best, however, demurring with, "It’s not the best because there is no best. It’s one of the best. It’s a good picture, and I’m proud of it. I’m happy people still like it so much.”