Film: Irma la Douce (1963) BUY IT
The Principals: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Lou Jacobi
The Premise: Irma la Douce is set in the wholesale
food district of Paris where the streets are constantly buzzing with
butchers and grocers and throngs of men toting, boxes, brooms, and
sides of beef. It’s the story of Nestor Patou (Jack Lemmon), a police
man who in spite of his personal imperative to lock up every crook
and hooker on the streets, falls in love with one of the prostitutes,
Irma La Douce (Shirley MacLaine). After getting fired for his
naivety, he sticks around town among the very crowd he’d try to bust.
Most of his time is spent in Chez Moustache, the popular hangout for
the prostitutes and pimps. That’s where he bumps into Irma again.
He is taken in by the kind prostitute,
and he even becomes her business manager (pimp!). Slowly but
ironically he begins to enjoy the life. Inevitably, her job gets in
the way of their romance and Nestor decides he needs a plan. He
dresses up, eye patch and all, and masquerades as Lord X, a proper
and filthy rich gentleman who buys all of her time. But keeping her
to himself becomes a round-the-clock job as he must work double
shifts in the meat and vegetable markets by night to earn the 500
francs a visit that he pays Irma la Douce. The ensuing disaster of
exhaustion and costume changes and misunderstandings, and love
triangle in which Lemmon’s character plays two of the points, makes
for an endearing story and one of Jack Lemmon’s best roles. (He was
nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.)
Shirley MacLaine won a Golden Globe for
her portrayal of Irma la Douce–a character synonymous with green
stockings and an alcoholic dog. I watched this movie as a kid and
remembered nothing but the green tights and waited years to see the
image again to learn that it was Irma la Douce that I’d fallen in
love with. It was a treat to see it all over again recently, now
knowing MacLaine and Lemmon and being able to appreciate the
whimsical and comedic treatment of the subject matter.
Is It Good: It is fun. And it is also quite decorated with awards. The screen play is adapted from the
1956 musical Irma la Douce, and won an Oscar for Best
Score–Adaptation or Treatment. The colorful sets and the minor
characters who are caricatures of themselves seem to owe their
brilliance and larger-than-life feeling to their roots on the stage.
There’s lots to enjoy with this film, and it was fun to take a trip
back to the 60’s. Please note the boobie tassels below!
You are welcome.
Is It Worth A Look: If you’re a fan of Lemmon or MacLaine,
or enjoy the work of director Billy Wilder who also brought us The
Apartment, The Seven Year Itch, and Some Like It Hot, among others, you’re bound to appreciate this one.
If you’ve seen this film before and liked it even a little bit, I
recommend returning to it. It’s a great reminder of what makes Jack
Lemmon Jack Lemmon, with the
large expressions and full-body comedy. And as far as casting
goes, when you watch it again, imagine Marilyn Monroe in the role of
Irma la Douce, because that’s whom Wilder had in mind for the role
before she took herself out of the lineup forever. Interesting to
I think it’s good to return to the past
every once in a while for the Movie of the Day, because there are
just too many good little staples that might fall through the cracks
if we don’t blow the dust off and share them. Irma la Douce still
brings it, folks.