February 8, 2017 — Jack Lemmon was one of America’s favorite comic actors.
His career lasted more than 5o years and, despite not being leading-man handsome, he was most often cast in leading man parts. His every man looks did not stop him from working opposite many of the screen’s loveliest women, including Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine (Coco Chanel), Lee Remick, Doris Day, Kim Novak, Judy Holliday, Rita Hayworth (Dancing Pirate), Jane Fonda, Catherine Deneuve, Virna Lisi, Ann-Margret and Sophia Loren (Man of la Mancha).
He appeared in more than 60 films.
He formed significant working relationships with three separate directors — Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards and Richard Quine — starring in seven of Wilder’s movies, three of Edwards’ and 5 of Quine’s. He also had an important working relationship with Walter Matthau, with whom he appeared in ten films (The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple, The Front Page, Buddy Buddy, JFK, Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, The Grass Harp, Out to Sea and The Odd Couple II).
He would win two Oscars®, one for Best Supporting Actor, playing opposite film heavyweights Henry Fonda, William Powell and James Cagney in Mister Roberts, and a Best Actor Award for Save the Tiger.
He starred with Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe in the Billy Wilder-directed classic Some Like It Hot; The American Film Institute has placed it in the top spot on its list of Funniest American Movies of All Time. He also starred in The Odd Couple, listed at #17, and The Apartment (#20).
And yet his serious roles — in Glengarry Glen Ross, Days of Wine and Roses, Missing and The China Syndrome, to name a few — proved that he was a significant dramatic actor as well.
Watch a trio of Lemmon favorites in honor of his birthday.
The Fortune Cookie is the first collaboration between Lemmon, Matthau and Wilder. Lemmon plays a cameraman, mildly injured while filming a football game, who is convinced by his fast-talking brother-in-law to claim serious injury and put in a huge insurance claim.
In Avanti (another Wilder-helmed comedy) an uptight Lemmon goes to Italy where his tycoon father has died. Once there he discovers that his father was with his mistress of long-standing when he died. And that turns out to be the least of Lemmon’s problems.
In Irma La Douce, yet another Billy Wilder film, Lemmon plays a Parisian policeman fired from the force, who falls in love with a prostitute played by Shirley MacLaine. Jealous of her clients, he decides to pay for all of her time, which proves to be a serious difficulty.
Happy birthday to Jack Lemmon, a seriously funny man.