Jack Lemmon’s talent shines in new DVD collection

By Doug Nye
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
During his career, Jack Lemmon became one of the most beloved movie stars in Hollywood because he was the same kind of person in real life that he often played on the screen.
That’s the theory of someone who should know – Lemmon’s son Chris Lemmon.
“Pop really was a nice, humble guy,” Chris said during a recent telephone interview. “That’s what really set him apart and had this ability to draw on who he was as a person every time he took on a role.”
The Oscar-winning actor’s talents are perfectly on display in “The Jack Lemmon Film Collection” (Sony, $59.95) which showcases five of his funniest movies. The set also includes a two-part documentary about his career and features Kevin Spacey, Andy Garcia and Shirley MacLaine sharing their memories of Jack.
The films are:
“Phffft!” (1954): Lemmon and Judy Holliday star as a married couple who divorce and find out being single again isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Kim Novak and Jack Carson also are in the cast.
“Operation Madball” (1957): Lemmon heads a cast that includes Ernie Kovacs and Mickey Rooney in this film about enlisted men who plan a party and try to keep it a secret from a nosey officer.
“The Notorious Landlady” (1962): Lemmon plays an American diplomat living in London who discovers his landlady (Kim Novak) might have killed her husband. Fred Astaire also is in the cast.
“Under the Yum Yum Tree” (1963): Lemmon is the landlord of a young couple (Carol Lynley and Dean Jones) and has designs on the woman. Edie Adams, Imogene Coca and Paul Lynde co-star.
“Good Neighbor Sam” (1964): Lemmon plays a happily married advertising agent who is conned into posing as his neighbor’s husband so she can inherit $15 million. The cast includes Romy Schneider, Dorothy Provine and Edward G. Robinson.
“He touched so many people’s lives,” Chris Lemmon said. “This collection shows Pop during a 10-year span and we’re able to see him develop as an actor during that time. Of course, he was already pretty good when he started in films because he had done so much work on stage and TV. He came into the business well prepared.”
Chris shared his own feelings for his father in the book “A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father” (Algonquin, 2006, $22.95), which chronicles the many moments and trips they shared. Jack Lemmon died in 2001.
“He was not only my father, but my best friend and I still miss him,” Chris said. “We both played what we called ‘sitcom golf’ which means we weren’t very good. But we would play together at Pebble Beach in the Pro-Am every year. I found it hard to get excited about playing golf after he was gone.”
Writing a book about his dad turned out to be good therapy for Chris. The idea came to him while his father was battling bladder cancer, the disease that would eventually take his life.
Although Chris is full of praise for his father, he also knows that Jack Lemmon wasn’t perfect and didn’t always make the best choices when it came to picking movie roles.
“There was the time Pop invited his great friend Walter Mathhau to a screening of one of his films,” Chris said. “After the screening was over, the audience filed out quietly, which is never a good sign. Pop turned to Walter and said ‘Well, whatdda you think?’ Walter sat there a minute and then said ‘Get out of it!”‘
Fortunately, Jack Lemmon made a lot more good movie choices than he did bad ones. Few people enjoyed acting more than Lemmon did.
“Whenever he was about to do a scene, he would say ‘It’s magic time’,” Chris said. “That magic still lives. As long as we have Pop’s movies to see, he will always be with us.”

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