From the start of his film career, Massachusetts native Jack Lemmon brought a nimble comic touch to his roles. He made his first impression in a Judy Holliday comedy, but it was Billy Wilder’s Mister Roberts (1955) that launched his career.

Lemmon excelled as a bemused middle-class everyman utterly uncomprehending the harsh realities of the outside world. His memorable sparring with Walter Matthau in this Neil Simon stage hit established a formula for many more successful collaborations.

It Should Happen to You (1954)

Harvard-educated Jack Lemmon made his movie debut in 1954 in this romantic comedy starring Judy Holliday. It established him as the consummate American actor, and his career grew from there.

This drama about a dress manufacturer and her failing business starred Walter Matthau alongside Jack Lemmon and is one of his best roles. It was a middle period role that encapsulated the crushed idealist in a world that no longer understands him. Released the same year as The China Syndrome, it proved prescient.

Mister Roberts (1955)

Hewell departed Hawaii on 28 August for Midway Island to film Mister Roberts. Lemmon and Walter Matthau reunited onscreen for the first time since Howard Hawks’ screwball classic His Girl Friday and their distinctive sparring lifts this lesser screenplay by Billy Wilder.

Henry Fonda, who originated the role on Broadway, is at his finest as a Naval officer yearning for combat and his performances are matched by James Cagney and William Powell. Subtle it isn’t but this broad farce, with its powerful ending, is still hugely entertaining.

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

Lemmon is at his best here as a businessman who loses faith in the American dream. This powerful drama was released just 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.

One of the first movies to pair Jack Lemmon with Walter Matthau, this funny movie adaptation of Neil Simon’s play is a must see. Their great chemistry shines through in this delightful comedy.

The Apartment (1960)

After a string of brisk comedies and an Oscar-winning turn as Ensign Pulver in Mister Roberts, Lemmon shifted gears to explore his dramatic range. In Constantin Costa-Gavras’ harrowing Missing (1982) and Blake Edwards’ sombre Days of Wine and Roses (released in 1962), he won another Cannes award and an Oscar nomination.

In Billy Wilder’s bittersweet comedy, he paired with Shirley MacLaine for a sharp-tongued study of ambition and society’s growing commercialism. It was their final prime wire film together. Their chemistry is irresistible and shows off the breadth of his comic skills.

The Notorious Landlady (1959)

After a string of comedic roles, Lemmon gave himself dramatic credibility with this shrewd portrait of an ordinary man at the end of his tether. He was superb.

Lemmon combines his trademark idiosyncratic comic style and musicality to good effect in this navy comedy drama. He’s boundlessly likeable as hapless Ensign Pulver.

The Notorious Landlady (1961)

A hapless foreign diplomat (Lemmon) becomes implicated in the landlady’s confused homicidal shenanigans. A wry, crackerjack comedy with an excellent Kim Novak.

This archetypal middle period Lemmon role as the owner of a failing dress company contemplating arson in order to claim insurance, won him a second Oscar. His sparring with Walter Matthau is skilfully timed and stinging. They went on to collaborate on eleven films together. The chemistry is irresistible. From drama to farce, he could convey both pathos and hilarity. With a flair and ease that few others have equaled.

The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Newly arrived American junior diplomat Bill (Jack Lemmon) doesn’t know that his landlady Carlye Hardwicke is a murder suspect when he rents her rooms in London. He soon finds out and tries to clear her name.

Walter Matthau and Lemmon’s legendary sparring lifted this Billy Wilder comedy. Equal parts satire and sentiment, the film remains one of Lemmon’s finest roles.

The Fortune Cookie (1963)

After accidentally getting clobbered by a pro football player, CBS-TV cameraman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is advised by shyster lawyer Whiplash Willie (Matthau) to feign a crippling injury in order to collect an insurance payout. Cliff Osmond is a fine adversary as the remorseless private detective hired to crack the case.

Billy Wilder’s black comedy showcases a stellar cast, including Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in one of their most memorable collaborations. Previn’s score includes a number of lesser-known Gershwin tunes, in keeping with his other Wilder work, such as Irma La Douce and One, Two, Three.

The Notorious Landlady (1964)

In this Navy comedy-drama adapted from the stage, Lemmon and Walter Matthau’s idiosyncratic comic manners and musicality are on full display. Lemmon’s boundlessly enthusiastic performance as hapless Ensign Pulver is irresistible and clearly shows how he became such a likeable screen presence.

A heartbreaking domestic drama, Blake Edwards’ startling picture proves that Jack Lemmon was equally adept at dramatic and comedic roles. He and co-star Kim Novak give impressive performances in this powerful study of a man’s descent into a world of alcoholism and despair. The film also features a fine supporting cast.

The Notorious Landlady (1965)

By the time this comedy-drama about a London landlady who might or might not have murdered her husband opened, Lemmon was well established as a first-class comedic actor. The movie, which co-starred Kim Novak, Fred Astaire, Estelle Winwood and Lionel Jeffries, is a fine example of the literate, witty scripts he often worked with writer Blake Edwards.

Lemmon earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in this tense drama about a patriotic American father whose son vanished during Pinochet’s Chilean chaos. It was a departure from his more lighthearted work, such as collaborating with Walter Matthau on Grumpy Old Men.

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