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The winner of two Oscars, Jack Lemmon was one of Hollywood’s finest actors, known for his roles in films like Some Like it Hot and The Odd Couple.
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Jack Lemmon, born on February 8, 1925 in Newton, Massachusetts, acted on TV before moving to Hollywood for the big screen, starting a career that spanned decades. He took on both comedic and dramatic fare— including Some Like It Hot, The Odd Couple, Save the Tiger, Missing and Grumpy Old Men—and was nominated for seven Oscars, winning two. He worked with actor Walther Matthau on many films.
A versatile performer, actor Jack Lemmon was equally adept at comedy and drama. He grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. The son of a doughnut company executive, Lemmon had an affluent upbringing. He attended private schools and studied at the prestigious Phillips Andover Academy.
In his teens, Lemmon taught himself how to play piano. He enrolled at Harvard University in 1943 where he got involved in the theater. Lemmon even served as the president of the famed Hasty Pudding Club, known for its musical comedy performances.
Lemmon took a break from his studies during World War II. Serving in the U.S. Navy, he was stationed on an aircraft carrier for a time. Lemmon returned to Harvard after the war and finished his degree in 1947.
After college, Lemmon borrowed $300 from his father and headed to New York City. He spent much of his first year there, playing piano in a bar. But before long, Lemmon started to land roles on the raido, the stage and television. He appeared in such television programs as The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse and Robert Montgomery Presents.
In 1953, Lemmon made his Broadway debut in Room Service, a comedy revival. The production only lasted for a few performances before closing. While disappointed, Lemmon soon had reason to cheer. He landed his first film around this time, appearing in George Cukor's It Should Happen to You (1953) with Doris Day.
Two years later, Lemmon tackled the role that made him a star. He appeared in the comedic war drama Mister Roberts (1955) with Henry Fonda and James Cagney. Playing Ensign Pulver, Lemmon managed to make his scheming, somewhat sketchy character appealing and sympathetic. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for this film.
Lemmon went on to work on a number of films with comedian Ernie Kovacs, including Bell Book and Candle (1958). The pair became good friends off-screen as well, up until Kovacs's death in 1962. In 1959, Lemmon gave one of the top comedic performances of his career in Some Like It Hot. This comedy starred Lemmon and actor Tony Curtis pretending to be women in an all-female musical group, which also included Marilyn Monroe. This film marked the first collaboration between Lemmon and writer-director Billy Wilder.
Working again with Wilder, Lemmon also enjoyed great success with 1960's The Apartment. He played a young professional seeking to get ahead by loaning out his apartment to executives in his company for their romantic trysts. The movie, which also starred Shirley MacLaine, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
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