Friday pairing: Shirley Maclaine & Jack Lemmon

Their films:

I don't why I chose these two... probably because just recently I watched Irma La Douce for the second time, and found the film even more mesmerizing than before. Was it the chemistry between Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon?

Both The Apartment and Irma la Douce were directed by Billy Wilder, so I guess we should call this a Friday Trio? But anyway, as much as you'll definitely find that Wilder touch in both movies, there are still vast differences between both films, not only in the theme, but also in the characterization of Lemmon and Maclaine.

The Apartment tells the struggle of C.C. Baxter, who wanted so much to be promoted at work that he's willing to sacrifice his apartment as a rendezvous for affairs happening between his colleagues. Even if that means he must sleep on the street! His neighbour thought of him as a playboy because they always hear noises coming out from his room! So very much a Lemmon character, no?

Shirley Maclaine plays Fran Kubelik, his object of affection, the elevator girl slash mistress of Mr. Sheldrake, Baxter's boss. Mr. Sheldrake always 'borrows' Baxter's apartment to meet up with Kubelik, so can you guess how Baxter feels when he find out about this?

In Irma la Douce, however, they play very different roles from their Apartment roles as everyday working people. Long story short, Shirley Maclaine is a prostitute called Irma, and Jack Lemmon is the honest policeman called Patou who is determined to have Irma for his own. He even goes to the extent where he creates a whole new character that hires Irma for hours in a hotel room so that she won't be spending time with other men. It's way more notorious than Apartment, but way more amusing for me.


I love how these two have amazing chemistry in both films. They didn't overdo it; they knew perfectly well how to play their characters. The way Lemmon talks to Maclaine as if she's an angel despite her profession and situation, and the way Maclaine treats him and show her amusement of him because of his remarks, body language and comical manner. They're perfect for each other! Unlike other stunning, glamorous pairings in Hollywood, these two are different because they play common people, with tough luck and lots of flaws. That fact alone makes them lovely for me. And you know what makes it better? Billy Wilder. There's so much trust and chemistry when they were working together.



  1. Hey!

    Nick from here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We're wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we're making similar to Sight & Sound's best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at

  2. Well, The Apartment is my all time favourite film. Jack Lemmon is just wonderful really don't you think?

    For me, the pairing to be thankful for isn't MacLaine and Lemmon, it's Billy Wilder and Jack Lemmon. What incredible magic.

    But I don't mean to downplay Shirley; she is wonderful of course!

    By the way, please email me, I want to invite you to be part of an ambitious blogathon type thing.


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