AMC is having a Jack Lemmon day. So far they’ve shown “The Odd Couple”, “The Apartment”, “Days of Wine and Roses”, and now they’re on “Some Like it Hot”.
Damn - he’s done a lot of great films. Since I just saw “The Apartment”, I have to say it’s one of my favorites. It is. Sweet, romantic, and it even has Fred MacMurray in a rare roll as a scoundrel! It’s one damned fine film. But “Some Like it Hot” is also fabulous. And I know there are plenty of others. I remember “Mr. Roberts” being absolutely hilarious. Haven’t seen it in a while, though.
So, what are your favorite Lemmon films? And while we’re at it, let’s extend it to other recently deceased actors. Carroll O’Connor. I just saw one of his most recent films, “Return to Me”, with Minnie Driver and David Duchovny. It’s corny, but sweet. Bonnie Hunt (who plays Driver’s best friend) wrote it, and I believe directed it. I’ve always like Hunt’s work. O’Connor was great in it, as an Irish Catholic grandpa. It was a really good roll for him - and so different from Archie Bunker.
So, now that I’ve rambled, what say the rest of you?
Carroll O’Connor’s funniest movie role had to be as the general in Kelly’s Heroes. Clint Eastwood and company blow holes through the German lines in an illicit search for Nazi gold, and O’Connor, playing a blowhard glory-hound of a general, comically basks in their military successes, oblivious to their true motives.
My favorite O’Connor moment, though, has to be the first episode of Archie Bunker’s Place. Edith has passed away, and O’Connor asks friends to remove her things from the house so that he won’t have to deal with the memories. At the end of the episode, he finds a single shoe of Edith’s under the bed and, caressing the shoe, he breaks down. Beautiful.
The draft-dodger episode of All in the Family (in which the Bunkers’ dinner guests included both a draft dodger and the father of a young man killed in Viet Nam) was a beautiful piece of the actor’s art as well.
I rarely liked Jack Lemmon’s films, and usually found his characters annoying, especially in comedies.
Only two of his performances really impressed me. I think he was great in “The Days of Wine and Roses” (hard to forget the scene where he’s tearing up the greenhouse, trying to find the plant pot in which he’d hidden a bottle of booze). But he was brilliant as Sheldon “the Machine” Levine, in “Glengarry Glen Ross” (actually, a LOT of guys were superb in that film).
Perhaps it’s because I disliked Lemmon’s usual persona that I liked him best in unsympathetic roles! Regardless, his performance in “Glengarry” was remarkable. SHeldon Levine was a formerly successful real estate salesman who’s fallen on hard times, and can’t make a sale now to save his life. Lemmon was touching, even heartbreaking, portraying Levine as a sad-sack loser for most of the film. But toward the end, when Levine finally makes a big sale, we get to see a subtle shift in character. For the brief time that it appears he’s back on top, Lemmon shows a glimpse of what an arrogant SOB Levine must have been, when he was on top.
But far too often, Lemmon played the same hapless Felix Unger-esque characters… and that got REALLY old for me, a long time ago.
Although I’ve seen many of his films, he is not one of my favorites. IMHO, it seems that the charaters he played were too predictable. If it’s a Jack Lemmon film, the charater will be the “regular guy” with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he’ll fight anyone and anything in a nervous, hyper style, that if you’ve seen it once, well, you’ve seen it in almost all his films.
Having said that, I do think he was excellent in Some Like It Hot, and The Days of Wine and Roses. He was great in Glenngarry Glen Ross too, but after seeing that film a second time, it seemed like a flashback to Save the Tiger, or Missing.