Guest Author - Carol Taller
Actor Jack Lemmon died on June 27, 2001 of complications from cancer. He was 76 years old.
Lemmon is best remembered for his many roles acting as the “average Joe” with his good friend and actor Walter Matthau. The two actors performed together in ten films including the infamous “The Odd Couple”.
Lemmon was born on February 8, 1925 in Newton, Mass. His father was an executive at a baking company and his mother had a reputation of being the life of the party. His mother often went to the Ritz Bar in Boston with her girlfriends, and when Lemmon was a teenage he watched his parent marriage fall apart.
Lemmon was sent to the best prep school sand later attended Harvard University. He graduated with a degree in War Service Science and was a member of the ROTC. Upon his graduating Harvard in 1947 his did a brief stint in the Naval Reserve as the communications officer on the USS Lake Champlain.
After the service, Lemmon moved to New York to work in theater. On route, he worked in a beer hall playing piano, on radio and tv. Eventually he got roles on and off Broadway. He played over 400 parts over the next few years, until a talent scout for Columbia Pictures noticed him and helped him start his Hollywood career.
He married Cynthia Stone on May 7, 1950 and divorced six years later. They had one son, Chris Lemmon, while they were together. Chris appeared with Lemmon in the movie “Airport ‘77”. On August 17, 1962 he married Felicia Farr, and they remained together until he died. They had one child together, Courtney Lemmon.
Lemmon took on comic roles, invariably portraying a neurotic strait man next to Matthau’s fast talking hustler. His characters were likeable middle class men trying to get ahead in life.
By the 1980’s Lemmon took on more serious roles. He attempted to choose worthwhile projects that fell within his political views. He was known for his empathy towards his characters and earned the nickname of “the clown for the age of anxiety”.
He openly admitted a struggle with alcoholism, and those that knew Lemmon well claim that off screen he had a lingering sadness although they never knew why.
The biggest fault credited to Lemmon’s work was that he was too sentimental. He tended to overact, sometimes appearing almost hysterical. And yet, when we look back at all of his accomplishments we will remember is his sweetness and his vulnerability.