Job Actor, musician
Years active 1949-2000
Known for Shy young men to whom things just seem to happen; cynicism and world-weary men
Top Roles Jerry/Daphne, Harry Hinkle, Robert Tracey, Hogan, Sam Bissell
Top GenresComedy, Romance, Drama, Musical, Film Adaptation, Action
Top TopicsRomance (Comic), Based on Play, Slapstick
Top Collaborators (Director), (Producer), , (Director)
Shares birthday with James Dean, King Vidor, Betty Field  see more..

Jack Lemmon Overview:

Legendary actor, Jack Lemmon, was born John Uhler Lemmon III on Feb 8, 1925 in Newton, MA. Lemmon appeared in over 95 film and TV roles. His best known films include Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Mister Roberts, Days of Wine and Roses, The Great Race, It Should Happen to You, My Sister Eileen, Irma la Douce, The Odd Couple, The Fortune Cookie, Save the Tiger, The Out-of-Towners, The Prisoner of Second Avenue The China Syndrome, Missing, Glengarry Glen Ross, Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men. He also was executive producer for Save the Tiger (1973 uncredited), Avanti! (1972 uncredited) and The War Between Men and Women (1972 uncredited) -- and director for Kotch (1971). Lemmon died at the age of 76 on Jun 27, 2001 in Los Angeles, CA and was laid to rest in Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Jack Uhler Lemmon III was born on February 8th, 1925 in Newton, Massachusetts; a wealth suburb just outside of Boston. His early life was marked by comfort and privilege as his father, John was the president of the Doughnut Corporation of America while his mother, Mildred, stayed home to look after their only child. Lemmon showed a talent for performance at very young age, making his amateur stage debut at the age of four in Gold in Them Thar Hills. He continued to act in his school's productions and before most of us know what we want for dinner, the eight year old Lemmon knew he wanted to be an actor. During the rest of his most formative years, Lemmon was sickly child and was forced to go through a multitude of major surgeries by the time he was ten. To regain his strength, Lemmon joined his school's cross-country team, and would eventually break the school record for fasted two-mile race. Because of his family's affluence, Lemmon was able to attend some of the best schools in New England, such as the Rivers School in Weston and Phillips Academy Andover. While at Phillips Academy Lemmon threw himself into the drama department, acting in any role he was offered and even teaching himself how to play the piano. After graduating in 1943, he immediately went to Harvard University. Although a relatively lazy student, Lemmon did excel in the school Drama and Music departments. During his time the university, he also was involved in the school's ROTC Navy program, which lead to him enlisting in the Navy Reserve after he graduated in 1947. He served as a communications officer while stationed on an aircraft carrier. After being discharged from the military, Lemmon was offered a position at his father's donut business but instead headed New York in hopes of starting his acting career.

Early Career

With a 300-dollar loan from his parents, Lemmon moved to Big Apple to follow his dreams of performance. Like the usual actor narrative goes, Lemmon spent his first year waiting tables to makes end meet, while spending the rest of his time auditioning with less-than-stellar results. He eventually found job at the Old Nick Saloon, where he was able to put his piano skills to use as the house entertainment. By the late 1940s Lemmon had found work on the airwaves, acting in slew of radio soap operas as well as some off-Broadway productions. By 1949 he made his television debut in the series The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse. He then found himself on the small screen more and more, acting tirelessly in series such as Suspense, That Wonderful Guy, The Ford Theatre Hour and The Web. By 1953 his work on the small screen paid off and Lemmon was cast in his Broadway debut, in the revival of the farce Room Service. Although the play was not particularly successful, a scout at Columbia studios none-the-less saw potential in Lemmon. The next year Lemmon headed west after signing a long-term contract with Columbia Studios.

Once arriving in Hollywood, Lemmon was cast in the It Should Happen to You opposite Judy Holliday. The film was a large enough hit to have the Lemmon and Holiday immediately start work on their next film, another romantic comedy, Phfft. He next starred opposite Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and William Powell in the 1955 naval comedy Mr. Rogers. The film was huge success, making over 12 million at the box-office and giving Lemmon the best reviews of his career thus far. For his portrayer of sleazy yet somehow sympathetic character Ensign Pulver, Lemmon was award his Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His prestige in Hollywood would only grew when he partnered with director Richard Quinine for the film 1955 My Sister Eileen. The film was a moderate success with critics often pointing to Lemmon as its highlight.  Now an official "name" in Hollywood, Lemmon received top billing for the first time in another Quinine film Operation Mad Ball and would work with him again for the 1958 comedy Bell, Book, and Candle.

Breakthrough with Billy Wilder

In 1958, while still filming Bell, Book, and Candle, Lemmon received a script from director Billy Wilder for his next film, a comedy called Some Like it Hot. Lemmon immediately accepted the part of Jerry, the cross-dressing jazz musician on the run from the mob after accidently witnessing the St. Valentines Day massacre. The film also starred Tony Curtis as his fellow on-the-run and dressed-in-drag musician while Marilyn Monroe completed the cast as the clueless singer who wades in their affections. The film was massive hit, becoming not only one of the biggest moneymakers of the year, but one of the best reviews films of the year as well and is now consider one of the greatest comedies of all time. For his work, Lemmon was nominated for Best Actor in Leading Role Academy Award. He would work with Wilder again in 1960, starring in the dark romantic comedy The Apartment. In the film Lemmon plays C.C Baxter, a quiet, mild-mannered insurance agent attempting to work his way up the corporate ladder by loaning his apartment to his superiors for their extra martial trysts. Things become complicated for Baxter when the object of his affection, the elevator girl named Fran (Shirley MacLaine), turn out to the mistress of the company's CEO, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Because of its frank discussion on themes of infidelity, adultery, and suicide, the film was something of controversy when released in 1960.  None-the-less, it went on to be one of the biggest hits of the year; making over 25 million at the box-office and garnering ten Academy Awards, including one Best Actor for Mr. Lemmon.

Continued Success

At the start of the new decade, Lemmon found himself in familiar territory, starring in comedies such as Pepe and The Wackiest Ship in the Army. In 1962 he took a darker turn in the Blake Edwards drama Days of Wine and Roses, chronicling a young married couple's struggle with alcoholism - once again, Lemmon was nominated for Best Actor Academy Award. In 1963 he would reteam with Billy Wilder and Shirley MacLaine for the Parisian comedy Irma La Douce. His partnership with Wilder would continue in 1966 with the comedy Fortune Cookie. The film also marked the time Lemmon would work with Walter Mathau, with whom he would form a life-long creative collaboration and dear friendship. Two years later the pair would work together on their most famous of films together, The Odd Couple. Based on the Neil Simon play, the film centered on the relationship between the neurotic clean freak Felix (Lemmon) and the relaxed but slovenly Oscar (Matthau) as they attempt to live harmoniously in the same apartment.

In 1972 Lemmon worked with Wilder in the American/Italian produced film Avanti! The film was a failure at the box office and with critics giving it a merely passing score. The next year he starred as the down-and-out businessman, Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger. His bleak portrayal of man collapsing during a midlife crisis earn Lemmon another Oscar this time for best Leading Actor in a Movie. In 1974 he worked with Wilder and Mathau for a big screen adaptation of the play The Front Page and in 1975 he won an Emmy for his role in The Entertainer. Lemmon gained another Oscar nomination in 1979, this time for his role as a quick thinking engineer in the nuclear thriller The China Syndrome. 

Later Career

By the 1980s Lemmon began taking more character roles and returned frequently to the stage. In 1981 Lemmon appear in his last Billy Wilder film, teaming with Matthau to star in the comedy Buddy, Buddy. He returned to Broadway for 1986 revival of Eugene O'Neill's song day's Journey Into Night as James Tyrone and played the character for its television adaptation. He continued playing character roles into the 1990s with film like JFK and his critically lauded performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. In 1993 Lemmon and Matthau showed they still were a powerful box-office draw with the surprisingly successful Grumpy Old Men and its equally successful 1995 sequel Grumpier Old Men. Two years later Lemmon starred in the Showtime's television production of 12 Angry Men. Although he was nominated for the Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film, he lost to Ving Rhames for his performance as boxing promoter Don King. What ensued was one of the Golden Globes most memorable moments when Rhames invited Lemmon on stage and surrendered the statue to its acting idol. The next year Lemmon and Matthau starred in their final film together, the ill-fated Odd Couple II. He earned his final Emmy nomination for his performance in the 1999 TV movie Tuesdays with Morrie and made his final film appearance as Old Hardy Greaves in The Legend of Bagger Vance. Although clearly still active, by this time in his life Lemmon had taken ill with Cancer. Jack Lemmon on June 27, 2001 in Los Angles, California. He was 76 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Jack Lemmon was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning two for Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (as Ensign Pulver) in 1955 for Best Actor for Save the Tiger (as Harry Stoner) in 1973.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1955Best Supporting ActorMister Roberts (1955)Ensign PulverWon
1959Best ActorSome Like It Hot (1959)Jerry/DaphneNominated
1960Best ActorThe Apartment (1960)C.C. 'Bud' BaxterNominated
1962Best ActorDays of Wine and Roses (1962)Joe ClayNominated
1973Best ActorSave the Tiger (1973)Harry StonerWon
1979Best ActorThe China Syndrome (1979)Jack GodellNominated
1980Best ActorTributeScottie TempletonNominated
1982Best ActorMissing (1982)Edmund HormanNominated

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Jack Lemmon's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #123 on Jun 29, 1963.

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Jack Lemmon Quotes:

Margie MacDougall: [outside Baxter's apartment on Christmas Eve, after leaving a bar] Night like this, it sorta spooks you, walking into an empty apartment.
C.C. Baxter: I said I had no family; I didn't say I had an empty apartment.

[Joe offers to reconcile with Kirsten - but only if she quits drinking]
Joe Clay: You remember how it really was? You and me and booze - a threesome. You and I were a couple of drunks on the sea of booze, and the boat sank. I got hold of something that kept me from going under, and I'm not going to let go of it. Not for you. Not for anyone. If you want to grab on, grab on. But there's just room for you and me - no threesome.

Chambermaid: [to Felix as he walks by] Goodnight.
Felix Ungar: Goodbye.

read more quotes from Jack Lemmon...

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Jack Lemmon Facts
Lemmon passed away four days shy of one year after his frequent co-star, Walter Matthau.

He and The China Syndrome (1979) co-stars Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda have all won Oscars for Leading Roles. Lemmon won for Save the Tiger (1973), Fonda won for Klute (1971), and Douglas won for Wall Street (1987).

He was pleasantly shocked by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames in 1998 when Rhames called him up to the stage and actually gave him the award for Best Actor in a TV Movie, which he had just won, to express his admiration to the veteran actor.

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