John Uhler “Jack” Lemmon III died on June 27, 2001 at the age of 76; he was an American actor and musician. Born on February 8, 1925 in an elevatorat Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston.
He was the only child of Mildred Burgess LaRue (née Noel) and John Uhler Lemmon, Jr., the president of a doughnut company. His paternal grandmother was from an Irish immigrant family.
Lemmon attended John Ward Elementary School in Newton and The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts. He stated that he knew he wanted to be an actor from the age of eight.
Early in Lemmon’s career he met comedian Ernie Kovacs while co-starring with him in Operation Mad Ball. Lemmon and Kovacs became close friends and appeared together in two subsequent films, Bell, Book and Candle and It Happened to Jane.
In 1977, PBS broadcast a compilation series of Kovacs’ television work, and Lemmon served as the narrator of the series. Lemmon discussed his friendship with Kovacs in the documentary Ernie Kovacs: Television’s Original Genius.
Lemmon was awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1956 for Mister Roberts (1955) and the Best Actor Oscar for Save the Tiger (1973), becoming the first actor to achieve this rare double (the only other actors to achieve this are: Robert De Niro, Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey, and Denzel Washington).
He was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in the controversial film Missing in 1982, and for his roles in Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The China Syndrome (1979), and Tribute (1980).
He won another Cannes award for his performance in Missing (which received the Palme d’Or).
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 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.