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Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot … still smoking

Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Niagara

In 1959, on hearing that Billy Wilder was making a comedy that started with a machine-gun massacre, the producer David O Selznick warned: "They're going to walk out in droves!" The first test screening seemed to prove him right – the middle-aged, small-town audience stayed silent; some shuffled in their seats and some, indeed, walked out.

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