Mister Roberts 1955 Directed by John Ford and Mervyn LeRoy with a great cast. Lemmon is not the star but does a wonderful, light-touch job. Rent on Amazon Prime
The Apartment 1960 Produced and directed by Billy Wilder. C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a low level insurance clerk who loans his apartment to executives for extramarital liaisons in hopes of job advancement. He’s sweet on elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) who is having an affair with Bud’s boss Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), a fact Bud learns midway through the film.
In exchange for his keys, restocking snacks, and loitering in all weather, the protagonist receives only empty promises at work. Fran discovers Sheldrake is bedding any number of women and attempts to commit suicide…in Bud’s apartment. Bud finds her…Terrific film. Best Picture, Best Director Academy Awards. Free with Amazon Prime.
Days of Wine and Roses 1962 Adapted from JP Miller’s Playhouse 90 teleplay. Directed by Blake Edwards. PR executive Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) falls in love with and marries secretary Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick). He literally introduces her to drinking. They both become alcoholics. Joe is demoted, then loses his job. A moment of revelation takes him to rehab. He gets clean.
Kirsten remains in denial. Joe moves out. His wife visits, attempting reconciliation, but won’t agree to stop drinking. Powerful. Edwards admitted both he and Lemmon were heavy drinkers during production. Lemmon and Remick sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous some time after the film. Edwards put himself in rehab directly after. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Odd Couple 1968 Based on the Neil Simon play. Directed by Gene Sacks. Divorced sportswriter Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) allows friend Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) to move into his guestroom after Felix falls apart at the dissolution of his marriage. Oscar is scary messy. Felix is a compulsive obsessive neat freak who berates his host and disrupts his life. Tip of the iceberg.
A disastrous double date is attempted. Arguments erupt. Felix moves out…but the friendship mends. Frank Sinatra and Jackie Gleason were considered for the roles?! A dated character study. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Save the Tiger 1973 Directed by John G. Avildson Best Actor Academy Award. Harry Stoner (Jack Lemmon) is an executive at Capri Casuals, a Los Angeles dress manufacturer close to bankruptcy (neither as easy nor acceptable as it is now). Over the years, he’s increasingly cheated to keep the company afloat and his own lifestyle stable, even pimping for the occasional customer. (This bites him here.)
Seeing no other way, he plans to torch the warehouse for insurance. Harry’s straight arrow partner, Phil Green (Jack Gilford), is against arson but acquiesces. The title comes from a campaign to save tigers from extinction to which Stoner contributes. Lemmon waved his usual fee and worked for scale determined to make the film. A pithy morality piece. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The China Syndrome 1979 Directed by James Bridges. On a routine visit to Ventana Power Plant in Los Angeles, television news reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda), cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas), and their sound man Hector Salas (Daniel Vadez), witness an anomaly – the plant’s turbine accelerating over its design speed and corresponding emergency shutdown. Also aware, but hiding it, is shift supervisor, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon). Adams gets the incident on camera and shows experts for confirmation.
Meanwhile Godell finds a puddle of radioactive water his superior tells him to ignore. Wells and Adams confront Godell. Salas is run off the road. Godell, threatened, retreats to the plant and locks himself in. Wells and Adams return to cover the incident. A corporate SWAT team arrives, shots are fired. The truth is obvious, but painted over. Taut and unnerving. It could happen. Rent on Amazon Prime.
A Life in the Theatre 1993 Based on the David Mamet play. John (Michael Broderick) and Robert (Jack Lemmon) costar in a play and are friendly offstage. The fairly new and veteran actors approach work very differently. John asks Robert for advice, then grows to resent it. The two begin to pick at one another’s performance. When Robert asks John not to “do so much,” he doesn’t realize the latter’s vulnerability. An intimate look at egos, pride and learning to listen and learn for collaborative results. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Tuesdays with Morrie 1999 Television adaptation of Mitch Albom’s book. Directed by Mick Jackson. One night, workaholic sports commentator, Mitch (Hank Azaria) sees his retired sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz (Jack Lemmon), on Nightline discussing the ALS/Lou Gherig’s disease from which he’s dying. Mitch reaches out and begins to visit Morrie on Tuesdays. The older man imparts considerable low key wisdom helping the younger get a handle on his life and love. Connection is palpable. Kind of an articulate Chicken Soup for The Soul. An Emmy for Lemmon. Rent on Netflix.
Some Like It Hot is listed under Stream Marilyn Monroe