Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy Birthday: Jack Lemmon!

Jack Lemmon (February 8, 1925 – June 27, 2001). He starred in more than 60 films including: Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Mister Roberts (for which he won the 1955 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), Days of Wine and Roses, The Great Race, Irma la Douce, The Odd Couple, Save the Tiger (for which he won the 1973 Best Actor Academy Award), The Out-of-Towners, The China Syndrome, Missing (for which he won 'Best Actor' at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival), Glengarry Glen Ross, Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men.

Video: Kevin Spacey on Jack Lemmon.

Please click here to view past Jack Lemmon movie reviews.

Lemmon's film debut was in a small part as a plasterer/painter in the film, The Lady Takes a Sailor(1949). He became better known in the film, It Should Happen to You(1954).

He was also close friends with Tony Curtis, Ernie Kovacs, Walter Matthau and Kevin Spacey. He made two films with Curtis, three films with Kovacs, and eleven with Matthau.

Early in Lemmon's career, Lemmon met Ernie Kovacs during the filming of, Operation Mad Ball. Lemmon and Kovacs became close friends and appeared together in two other films: Bell, Book, and Candle and It Happened to Jane(1977).

He became a favorite actor of director Billy Wilder, cast in his films: Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Irma la Douce, The Fortune Cookie, Avanti!, The Front Page and Buddy Buddy.

He also had a longtime working relationship with director Blake Edwards, starring in Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The Great Race (1965) and That's Life! (1986).

Lemmon recorded an album in 1958 while filming Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe. Twelve jazz tracks were created for Lemmon and another twelve were added. Lemmon played the piano and recorded his own versions of Monroe's songs, I Wanna Be Loved By You and I'm Through With Love, for the album which was released in 1959 as, A Twist of Lemmon/Some Like It Hot.

Lemmon was awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1956 for Mister Roberts (1955) and the Best Actor Oscar for Save the Tiger (1973), becoming the first actor to achieve this double. He was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the controversial film Missing in 1982 and for his role in Some Like it Hot.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) was one of his favorite roles. He played Joe Clay, a fun-loving alcoholic businessman.

Lemmon's production company JML produced the film, Cool Hand Luke (1967).

Lemmon appeared in many films with his friend Walter Matthau. Among their pairings was 1968's The Odd Couple(1968), The Fortune Cookie (for which Matthau won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), The Front Page and Buddy Buddy. In 1971, Lemmon directed Matthau in the comedy, Kotch. It was the only movie that Lemmon ever directed and Matthau was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his performance.

Also, Lemmon and Matthau had small parts in the film, JFK(1991) (the only film in which both appeared without sharing screen time). In 1993, the duo teamed up again to star in one of my favorite films, Grumpy Old Men. During the rest of the decade, they would go on to star together in, Out to Sea, Grumpier Old Men and The Odd Couple II.

A rare death scene for Lemmon came in, The China Syndrome, for which he was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1982, he won another Cannes award for his performance in, Missing (which received the Palme d'Or). At the 1998 Golden Globe Awards, he was nominated for "Best Actor in a Made for TV Movie" for his role in , Twelve Angry Men, losing to Rhames. After accepting the award, Rhames asked Lemmon to come on stage and, in a move that stunned the audience, gave his award to him.

(The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which presents the Golden Globes, decided to have a second award made and sent to Rhames.)

Jack Lemmon movies I have seen:

1997 Out to Sea
1995 Grumpier Old Men
1993 Grumpy Old Men
1979 The China Syndrome
1977 Airport '77
1970 The Out of Towners
1968 The Odd Couple
1966 The Fortune Cookie
1965 The Great Race
1965 How to Murder Your Wife
1964 Good Neighbor Sam
1963 Under the Yum Yum Tree
1962 Days of Wine and Roses
1962 The Notorious Landlady
1960 The Wackiest Ship in the Army
1960 The Apartment
1959 It Happened to Jane
1959 Some Like It Hot
1958 Bell Book and Candle
1957 Operation Mad Ball
1957 Fire Down Below
1955 My Sister Eileen
1954 Phffft
1954 It Should Happen to You


  1. Dawn, I always liked Jack Lemmon, but didn't I realize how much until he was a TCM Star of the Month a year or so ago. Every time I watched one of his movies, I'd say: "Yep, he was really good in that one." My favorites of his performances were in THE APARTMENT and the underrated AVANTI! Thanks for spotlighting him on his birthday.

  2. Classic Film and TV Cafe, I did not realize how much I liked Jack Lemmon, until I looked at how many of his DVDs, I have in my collection. I have not yet seen his film, AVANTI. I will look for it on TCM.


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