Jack Lemmon: Marilyn’s Congenial Co-Star

While the filming of Some Like It Hot wasn’t always smooth sailing – as director Billy Wilder and leading man Tony Curtis would say in no uncertain terms – Marilyn adored her co-star Jack Lemmon from the outset. She greatly admired him as an actor, and despite her legendary unpunctuality and demands for retakes, Lemmon remained kind and courteous throughout. “I liked her very much and I got along great with her,” he recalled. “She had a lot of problems, she was basically an unhappy girl. She drove Billy and Tony crazy, she drove me a little crazy too but I didn’t let on and it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered them.”

In an article for The Independent, Geoffrey McNab looks back on Jack Lemmon’s long career, suggesting that it was his innate likability that endeared him to audiences but also led to his being underrated as an actor.

“Lemmon is back on TV screens over Christmas in Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot (1959). The much-loved film, in which he is in drag for almost the entire running time, features one of the most famous endings in Hollywood history. Jerry/Daphne (Lemmon) tries to explain to his besotted suitor, millionaire Osgood Fielding (Joe E Brown), just why they can never marry. He is too bulky to fit in Osgood’s mother’s wedding dress; he’s not a natural blonde; he smokes; he has a terrible past; he can never have children. Osgood smiles serenely, waving aside every objection. Exasperated, Lemmon rips off the wig from his head and blurts out that he’s a man. ‘Nobody’s perfect,’ Osgood blithely replies and the credits soon roll.

It’s a perfect example of the Lemmon ‘curse’ in action. In any given film, audiences almost always take his side. That may be why they underestimate him. He’s such a genial and engaging figure that they can’t see the darkness behind his smile. Nor do they notice his versatility. Like Osgood, they refuse to reject him even when he begs them to do so.”