The George (H.W.) Bush presidential library seems like a nice place, and the museum’s free “classic films” series is a great idea. (Like any good Reaganite big-business booster, H.W. gives away free Coke at these screenings, which are sponsored by the Bryan Coca Cola Bottling Company.) A cursory look at the Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton, Reagan, and Carter libraries shows that Bush 41’s library is unique in this practice, although in fairness $65 for tea with Nancy Reagan seems like a steal, particularly with a free compact and copy of I Love You, Ronnie: The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan thrown in. And Clinton’s got a badass “Art of the Chopper” exhibit going on currently.
The next title in the George Bush Library film series is Billy Wilder’s classic cross-dressing comedy Some Like It Hot, starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe. Despite the possibly contentious-for-Republicans transvestite motif, Some Like It Hot is a great choice for an all-ages, all-American event like this one: it’s not nearly as scathing as some of Wilder’s other films, it’s one of Monroe’s last great roles, and it concerns a culturally important period of American history, Prohibition.
But I can’t help noticing a possible hidden message in the selection of this film to be the first screened after Bush 41’s son leaves office under a cloud of indignity. It’s not just that Joe and Jerry, the two musicians played by Curtis and Lemmon, are having trouble finding a job in the dead of winter, a situation that surely resonates with the American people. And it’s not simply that the film takes place in early 1929, right before the first symptoms of the Great Depression became clear. If we think cynically, it might be that Bush is calling museum visitors’ attention to a dark period of Chicago history (the film dramatizes the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) right as a liberal Chicagoan takes office.
Rather, I choose to believe that the film offers a subtle, hopeful defense of Bush 43 as he enters retirement with his tail between his legs. What better message for his father to send than Some Like It Hot’s famous closing line, spoken by the millionaire Osgood Fielding III, who’s spent the film trying to seduce Lemmon’s female alter-ego “Daphne.” Optimistic till the end, Fielding isn’t even deterred in his passion when he learns that Daphne’s a man, and he coincidentally offers the only possible defense that a loving father could give when their son is the least popular president in history: