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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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In 1962, Lemmon proved that he was more than just a funny guy. He gave a heartbreaking performance as an alcoholic husband in The Days of Wine and Roses opposite Lee Remick. With the critical acclaim he garnered for this film, Lemmon demonstrated that he could excel at serious roles. For the rest of his career,
he would comfortably shift back and forth between light comedic fare and serious dramas.
Lemmon began his comedic partnership with Walter Matthau with 1966's The Fortune Cookie. The pair reunited two years later for one of their most famous films together, The Odd Couple. In the film adaptation of the Neil Simon play, Lemmon played the neurotic clean-freak roommate to Matthau's sportswriter slob.
For Lemmon, the 1970s were a time of great dramatic performances. He won a Best Actor Academy Award in 1973 playing a man having a midlife crisis in Save the Tiger. Returning to the stage in 1978, Lemmon starred as a press agent dying of cancer in Tribute. He reprised his role for the 1980 film version. In The China Syndrome (1979), Lemmon co-starred with Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas. He portrayed a nuclear plant employee who becomes a whistleblower about an incident at the plant.
Lemmon also undertook some light-hearted projects. One close to his heart was the 1972 television special 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous, 'S Gershwin. A longtime fan of George Gershwin, Lemmon won an Emmy Award for this musical tribute. He also reteamed with Wilder and Matthau for the 1974 newspaper comedy The Front Page around this time.
In 1982, Lemmon gave another riveting dramatic performance in Missing. He played a father searching for his politically radical son who disappeared in Chile during the 1973 coup. On the Broadway stage, Lemmon won raves for his portrayal of James Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night in 1986. Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey played his sons in this production. He soon worked with Spacey again on the film adaptation of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross (1992).
Lemmon once again became a box office sensation in 1993 with Grumpy Old Men. This film about two elderly curmudgeons, played by Lemmon and good friend Matthau, won over audiences of all ages. The pair reunited for the 1995 sequel Grumpier Old Men.
One of Lemmon's most significant later roles came in 1999 with the television movie Tuesdays with Morrie. He played the title character, a professor struggling with Lou Gehrig's disease, who develops a friendship with one of his former students (Hank Azaria). For this role, Lemmon won an Emmy Award in 2000.
By this time, Lemmon was battling cancer. He died of complications related to his disease on June 27, 2001, in Los Angeles, California. His memorial service was a who's who of Hollywood, with such friends as Kick Douglas, Gregory Peck, Billy Wilder and Shirley MacLaine among the many mourners. He was also survived by his second wife Felicia Farr, their daughter Courtney and his son Christopher from his first marriage.
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