#338. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Perhaps one of the most recognizable action heroes of all time, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man of many talents. Of course, these skills usually evolve over time. From his days as an award-winning bodybuilder, he used this physique to enter the realm of Hollywood and portray other, similarly built characters. From his first role in 1969 as Hercules in Hercules in New York, his muscles and accented speech patterns have defined his acting career. Once he became older, and his muscle-bound machismo didn’t fit in the action movies anymore, he turned to politics, becoming the governor of California and holding that position for almost a decade. Despite somewhat moving on from acting in films, he still occasionally appears in them, albeit as a bit of a parody of his previous performances. This week’s two films highlight some of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best roles.

True LiesTrue Lies
Year: 1994
Rating: R
Length: 141 minutes / 2.35 hours

While most of Schwarzenegger’s roles have been in action films, he has actually done quite a few comedies as well. Often, these comedies are combined with some action so the audience can see Schwarzenegger in his element. For the better part of the 1980’s, Arnold’s roles were strictly in the “tough guy” category; but by 1988, his on-screen persona was lightened a bit with the release of Twins. At this point in his career, about half of his films were also comedies, including Kindergarten Cop (1990), Junior (1994), and Jingle All the Way (1996). Even the action/comedies of Last Action Hero (1993) and True Lies (1994) fully exploit his ability to poke fun at the action genre. Heck, we could even consider Batman & Robin (1997) comedy, for how laughably bad it was. At any rate, the fusion of comedy and action certainly worked for Arnold, and True Lies is perhaps the epitome of this.

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a loving husband and father, but what his family doesn’t know is that he is not a computer salesman. Harry Tasker is a secret agent. Therefore, when he misses a birthday party that his wife and daughter planned for him, he loses their respect. He can’t tell them that he was chasing Palestinian terrorists through Washington D.C., so he decides to make it up to his wife by surprising her for lunch the next day. It’s at this point Harry learns that Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) is being seduced by a used car salesman pretending to be a secret agent. Using his connections, he scares the con artist out of the picture but also learns that Helen is desperate for excitement in her life. They soon both find themselves entangled in the Palestinians’ plot to terrorize Miami. As Helen learns of Harry’s true identity, they must work together to save the day and save their daughter.

PredatorPredator
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours

What’s encouraging about Schwarzenegger’s action movies, is that they often aren’t purely “action.” From his role in fantasy films such as Conan in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984) to his roles in science fiction films like The Terminator (1984), Total Recall (1990), and The 6th Day (2000), Arnold has shown that action has no genre limits. What helps make these action films memorable are the one-liners spoken in his Austrian-accented English. Most of these memorable quotes have come from his roles in the Terminator franchise, but there have been many great lines from other films as well. Sometimes I’ll even get into a Schwarzenegger quote-off with my friends, he’s that quotable. With his muscular physique, he showed how to play a soldier in films like Commando (1985), but he really hit his quotable stride two years later in the sci-fi/action film, Predator (1987).

A military team tasked by the CIA to rescue a hostage in the Val Verde jungle is joined by one of their agents, former Army Colonel George Dillon (Arnold Schwarzenegger). When the team arrives in the jungle, they find their mission is not one of personnel recovery, but information retrieval. Dillon recognizes a team of Special Forces who were brutally killed in a previous attempt to recover the classified information. Arriving at the insurgent camp, the team retrieves the documents but also captures a rebel named Anna (Elpidia Carrillo). As members of the team are killed off by a mysterious creature, Dillon learns that it is hunting them for sport. Eventually confronting the alien creature, Dillion manages to incapacitate it but must escape quickly when it activates a thermonuclear device. Yelling for Anna to “Get to the choppa!” they both narrowly escape the blast via the extraction helicopter.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger roles

Bacon #: 2 (Commando / Bill Paxton -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

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#336. Angelina Jolie

One wonders if Angelina Jolie would have become an actress had her father not been Jon Voight. Perhaps her upbringing allowed her exceptional connections and nurturing of thespian talents that eventually allowed her to break into Hollywood. Of course, much of Jolie’s talent subsists in her sultry appearance and demeanor, which could have likely brought her stardom even with the absence of her famous father. Nevertheless, Angelina Jolie has indeed become a recognizable name in the realm of cinema, no doubt half in part to her relationship with Brad Pitt and the tabloids’ obsession with the couple. While she has portrayed many strong and independent women, it comes as no surprise that many of her humanitarian efforts have been to strengthen and empower women of all ages. This week’s two films highlight some interesting roles filled by Angelina Jolie.

SaltSalt
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

As action films have evolved over the years, there have been more opportunities for strong female protagonists. Some actresses, like Michelle Rodriguez, make these roles into militaristically violent characters. Others, like Scarlett Johannsson, tend to mold these characters into expertly trained assassins. Angelina Jolie manages to strike a delicate balance between the badass and the professional. Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. From her starring roles in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003), to supporting roles in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004), these women live by their own rules. Even starring alongside Brad Pitt in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jolie’s character can hold her own amongst the male-dominated action heroes. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a film like Salt (2010) can use all of Jolie’s talents to bring action to the big screen.

Two years after her rescue from a North Korean prison, Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is brought under suspicion from her employers at the Central Intelligence Agency when a Russian defector enters their office and refuses to be debriefed by anyone but her. During his testimony, it is revealed that Salt is a Russian sleeper agent (a la The Manchurian Candidate (1962)) meant to infiltrate the CIA and execute a mission to destroy the U.S. Not wanting to be captured so easily, Salt escapes and performs her own mission to survive. Memories of her childhood flood her mind as she realizes the truth of her past. Unfortunately, to get Salt to comply, her present is threatened when her husband of two years is kidnapped. Wanting to sever ties with her past, while also saving the world in the process, she turns rogue and goes after the other Russian sleeper agents to stop their nefarious schemes.

The TouristThe Tourist
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 103 minutes / 1.72 hours

Much like other Oscar-winning actresses before her, Angelina Jolie received her first Oscar early on in her career for her supporting role in Girl, Interrupted (1999). This is usually seen as a vote of confidence that these actresses will go on to bigger and better things. At the very least, there are a diverse set of films in Jolie’s filmography, including Maleficent (2014) and Wanted (2008). But, as is often the case, a certain genre seems to be the prevalent force in her repertoire. Even the animated fare of the Kung Fu Panda franchise merely gives Angelina Jolie another opportunity to portray a character skilled at fighting. Of course, films like Wanted and The Tourist (2010) help to paint these characters as more mysterious than your standard action fare. This intrigue is deftly paired with the overt sexuality that Jolie can bring to these roles, which actually might be considered a step backward from previous roles.

Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) finds herself on a train headed to Venice after she received instructions from her lover, Alexander Pearce, to find a random man and pretend that this man is him. This ruse is meant to throw Scotland Yard off their trail, as Alexander has been dodging taxes for years and owes the British government nearly £1 Billion. Of course, not only are government officials after Alexander but the Russian mafia as well. Consequently, Elise chooses Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp) to accompany her to Venice where they dance the night away only to find themselves in a high-speed boat chase as their creditors track them down. While it is revealed that Elise is not who she seems, there comes a moment when Frank shows everyone that he’s been hiding something significant about his true identity as well.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 action-filled Angelina Jolie roles

Bacon #: 2 (Kung Fu Panda / Dustin Hoffman -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)

#333. Jim Caviezel

It is to the credit of an actor to be recognizable. Often, this involves acting in roles for many years. The more prolific an actor is, the more likely audiences will begin to recognize them. Usually, with enough performances under their belt, these actors will be able to move up to leading roles and thus become even more recognizable in the process. And yet, some actors who do not have a vast filmography are recognizable. Sometimes this is due to being in a leading role early in their career, but sometimes it’s just down to luck. This phenomenon can also occur when an actor is recognizable in another format, like television or theater, and makes the transition to the big screen. Jim Caviezel is an actor who is recognizable, even if he doesn’t have many acting credits to his name. This week’s two films highlight some of the more recognizable and unrecognized Jim Caviezel performances.

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo
Year: 2002
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

With a film career that started in the early 1990’s, Jim Caviezel didn’t have a starring role until Frequency (2000). At this point, his career began to turn him into a more recognizable star. Shortly afterward, he starred in the 2002 film adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. Of course, this role paled in comparison to the eponymous role in The Passion of the Christ (2004) two years later. This success was likely due to Caviezel’s convincing looks and performance that brought the role of Jesus Christ to life for many moviegoers. More recently, Caviezel has been recognizable in the starring role of John Reese in the 5-season run of the television show Person of Interest. I first noticed and was able to recognize Jim Caviezel in The Count of Monte Cristo, mostly due to how much I loved this film adaptation.

Edmond Dantés (Jim Caviezel) was surprised to be arrested for treason, especially since he had done nothing wrong. While he endured his imprisonment in the island prison of Château d’If, it wasn’t until his cell was invaded by neighboring prisoner, Abbé Faria (Richard Harris) that he started to question why he was there in the first place. Upon successfully escaping, Edmond manages to find the treasure Faria alluded to and uses it to start a new life as the Count of Monte Cristo. Back in Marseille, Edmond finds the men who sent him to prison have the success in life he should have had in their place. Through his great wealth, the Count manages to enact his revenge on these three men, eventually revealing to them that he was the Edmond Dantés they had wronged so many years ago. With his rivals now vanquished, Edmond tries to pick up the pieces of his former life and infuse them with his new one.

UnkownUnknown
Year: 2006
Rating: PG-13
Length: 85 minutes /  1.42 hours

Sometimes a small role in a recognizable movie can be recognizable after the fact. I had no idea Jim Caviezel was in Pay it Forward (2000) until I saw it years after it was released and Caviezel had become a recognizable actor. Of course, some of the reason an actor might not be recognizable is that the work he does isn’t in the mainstream. In 2006, while he was doing mainstream action films like Déjà Vu, he was also recovering from leading role performances in flops like Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004), which was likely a film he was cast in due to the popularity of The Passion of the Christ. Aside from the mainstream roles, he also manages to perform in a variety of lesser-known and independent films that even the biggest of film buffs might not have seen. One of the better independent films I’ve seen him in was none other than Unknown (2006).

A man in a jean jacket (Jim Caviezel) wakes up in an abandoned warehouse with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Another four men are also in the warehouse, none of them recalling what had happened or who they were. Slowly, the group starts to piece together what had happened as their memories return. They manage to find a newspaper with an article in it about a wealthy businessman who has been kidnapped. The group realizes they are part of this kidnapping, but nobody knows who the kidnappers are or who the kidnapped man is. Eventually, the gang who perpetrated the crime return to the locked warehouse and proceed to tie up loose ends after receiving the ransom money earlier. With everyone’s identities and allegiances sorted out, the man in the jean jacket remembers another crucial memory that he uses to inform his actions to kill the other gang members.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 commendable Jim Caviezel performances

Bacon #: 2 (Wyatt Earp / Kevin Costner -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#328. Alec Guinness

When it comes to acting, the Shakespearian actor is often seen as the epitome of the profession. Being able to bring the Bard’s work to life on the stage requires a vast amount of skill and talent if it is to be done correctly. While many of these actors will remain in this highest form of the thespian art, some take their skills to other mediums. Of course, because of this Shakespearian background, many of these actors who do start to do movies are quite selective about the films they decide to make. Often, they will stick to Shakespearian adaptations, since that’s largely what they already know. But sometimes, the allure of a nice, big paycheck can get these actors to perform in pieces they do not fully endorse. This week’s two films highlight some moments from Shakespearian actor Alec Guinness’ career.

Doctor ZhivagoDoctor Zhivago
Year: 1965
Rating: Approved
Length: 197 minutes / 3.28 hours

Alec Guinness’ acting talent is undeniable, which is at least in part due to his regular collaboration with director David Lean. Even in supporting roles in films like Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984), the combination of the British actor and British director worked well. They would both would win an Academy Award for Best Director and Actor, respectively, for their work on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1958). Of course, this was only 5 years after Guinness was nominated for Best Actor for his work in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). He even won an honorary Oscar in 1980 “For advancing the art of screen acting through a host of memorable and distinguished performances.” While he would be nominated for Best Supporting Actor twice in his career, he really made his mark in his supporting roles like in Doctor Zhivago.

Years after the Russian Revolution that brought communism into power, General Yevgraf Zhivago (Alec Guinness) is using his military connections to find his niece, the daughter of his half-brother, Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif). When he finds a young woman he believes to fit the description, he tells her of her parents’ lives. While Yevgraf was always a military man, Yuri was a poet in the body of a doctor. Through the events of an attack on a peaceful demonstration, Yuri first meets Lara (Julie Christie). When World War I arrives, Yevgraf is sent to fight while Yuri and Lara work for the army as doctor and nurse, respectively, and fall in love. After wars and revolutions pass, Yevgraf now works for the communist military and warns Yuri that his poetry is now condemned by the new regime. After getting Yuri to safety, Yevgraf finds that his half-brother’s poetry affected many people, albeit years later.

Star Wars: A New HopeStar Wars: A New Hope
Year: 1977
Rating: PG
Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours

Do actors have regrets? Sure they do, and Alec Guinness is no different. While he praised the special effects and technical aspects of Star Wars (1977), he absolutely hated the dialogue (amongst other factors). Even though the film netted him his first Best Supporting Actor nomination, Guinness loathed that it was essentially the only film most people knew him from. Because of his hesitations, he was quite the shrewd businessman and managed to get a sizeable payday and a good chunk of the royalties for his work on the film. Always the professional actor, he did the part and interacted with everyone involved in a courteous manner, despite regretting the attention he received after the films entered into the realm of “fandom.” In fact, Guinness himself wanted his character killed off in the first film so he wouldn’t have to play him as much in the later films of the franchise.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) is an old hermit who lives in the remote areas of the desert planet Tatooine. One day, he finds a familiar droid by the name of R2-D2 and learns that the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), needs his help to get the plans of a devastating weapon to their headquarters on Alderaan. Deciding to comply with Leia’s request, he also enlists the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who initially found R2-D2 and is the son of his former protégé, Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones). Upon chartering a ride to Alderaan on the Millennium Falcon, the sudden disappearance of the planet causes them to be captured by the Galactic Empire on the Death Star. Kenobi allows the Falcon to escape, but at the cost of his life. Now that the Rebels have the Death Star plans, Luke sets out to assist them in destroying the moon-sized weapon.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Alec Guinness performances

Bacon #: 2 (Kafka / Theresa Russell -> Wild Things / Kevin Bacon)

#325. Ron Perlman

Some actors just have that “look.” When they’re cast as distinct characters or stereotypes, and they just fit the role so well, there’s no doubt they’re the right person for the part. Perhaps the easiest archetype to cast is none other than the “tough guy.” From large muscles to tattoos to gruff voices, these characteristics are dead giveaways for the tough guy persona. Because of this, Ron Perlman is often cast as the tough guy in a large variety of movies. Not only does he have the “look” for live-action films, but he has the voice for animated fare as well. The real trick with this character archetype is that they can appear in almost anything. From dramas to comedies and from sci-fi to fantasy, Ron Perlman has done them all. This week’s two films highlight some notable performances from “tough guy” Ron Perlman.

CronosCronos
Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

Despite being in many “direct-to-video” projects, Ron Perlman has managed to collaborate with a few different directors over the years. One of his most notable collaborations has been with Guillermo del Toro. From their first film together, Cronos (1993), they have gone on to make four other movies together: Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), and Pacific Rim (2013). Perhaps because Cronos was so early in Perlman’s career, his ability to play tough guy characters was proven here. At the very least, his work with del Toro has enforced this stereotype for him, mostly due to his portrayal of Hellboy (which we’ll get to in a minute). While being pigeonholed into a stereotypical role might seem a disservice to an actor’s career, I think Perlman manages to use these roles to his advantage, continuing to prove what a badass he is.

Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman) is searching for a device known as “Cronos.” The rumor states that whoever possesses the device is given eternal life, which is why Angel’s wealthy, dying uncle, Dieter (Claudio Brook), set him on task to find it. While many of the archangel statues that could contain the device prove to be empty, Angel just happens to run across an antique dealer at a party. This antique dealer was licking blood off a bathroom floor, giving Angel enough of a hint that he pressures the man to divulge where the device is located. When the man refuses to talk, Angel kills him, only to find that it is not that easy to kill an immortal man. Of course, by now Angel is tired of waiting for his inheritance and decides to take his fate into his own hands, despite Dieter coming quite close to obtaining the Cronos device.

HellboyHellboy
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

Sometimes, to play a tough guy, all you need is the voice. Ron Perlman has had many roles where either he’s covered in makeup, or only his voice is used to convey his character. While Hellboy has been his most recognizable role in this state, he has also played the titular Beast in the Beauty and the Beast TV series that ran in the late 1980’s. Regarding his voice work, he’s lent it to characters in such animated fare as Titan A.E. (2000), Battle for Terra (2007), and Tangled (2010). He has even voiced CGI characters in live-action films like Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013). Perhaps his voice is all he needs to convey that Ron Perlman swagger, but it is still fun to watch him work his acting magic when he’s covered in makeup. Case in point, I have trouble separating many of his other characters from his eponymous role in 2004’s Hellboy.

Summoned from a portal that led to hell, Hellboy (Ron Perlman) has spent the last 60 years hidden away in a secret government facility. The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) uses Hellboy, along with a team of supernatural beings, to perform missions to keep the United States safe from the dangers of the paranormal world. In that time, he has developed a crush on a pyrokinetic human named Liz Sherman (Selma Blair). Unable to express his true feelings to her, he watches in jealousy as a new FBI agent, John Myers (Rupert Evans) starts a friendship with her. Meanwhile, Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), the man who brought Hellboy into this world, has been causing trouble for the BPRD as he continues to execute his plan to bring hell to earth and control the supernatural powers for his sinister benefit.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Perlman performances

Bacon #: 2 (Enemy at the Gates / Ed Harris -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

#321. Marilyn Monroe

What makes someone into an icon? Is it an accumulation of moments and sound bites, or can a single picture cement an individual as a piece of our popular culture? We all know that “sex sells,” so perhaps the idea of an icon isn’t as accurate as saying someone is a sex symbol. For whatever reason, Marilyn Monroe is the de-facto sex symbol of American history. A few moments from her career and life have made her into a muse for an enormous amount of artists and entertainers, even if it is occasionally in parody. From her sultry birthday song to former President John F. Kennedy to the famous subway grate scene from The Seven Year Itch (1955), her suicide in 1963 only fuels the never-ending obsession with Hollywood’s favorite “dumb blonde.” This week’s two films highlight bookends to Marilyn Monroe’s film career.

Some Like it HotSome Like it Hot
Year: 1959
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

In the decade before the end of her life, Monroe was on a hot streak on Hollywood. She appeared in such films as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), which included the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and The Seven Year Itch, with its aforementioned subway grate shot. In the height of her popularity, she even started her own film company, which released The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), the filming of which was the main plot of the biopic, My Week with Marilyn (2011). Part of the appeal of her roles in these films came from the “dumb blonde” persona. When she acted like a beautiful girl without a brain in her head, often comedy would ensue. If anything, it perpetuated a negative female stereotype. At any rate, one of her final films was none other than the classic, Some Like it Hot (1959).

Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) is a singer and ukulele player for an all-female ensemble en route to Miami for a gig. When their train leaves from Chicago, they pick up a saxophone player named Josephine (Tony Curtis) and a double-bass player named Daphne (Jack Lemmon). When Josephine and Daphne join in on Sugar’s forbidden drinking, the trio becomes fast friends. Sugar bemoans the fact she can’t find a good man and hopes to turn her luck around with a bespectacled millionaire in Florida. As luck would have it, she finds such a man, but only because Josephine is actually a man named Joe. He and Daphne (nee Jerry) dressed as women to escape the mob. Donning another disguise as Junior, Joe woos Sugar but cannot keep the ruse up for long as the mafia soon finds the two men again. In a rushed kiss during their escape, Sugar learns that Josephine is both Joe and Junior and decides to run away with him.

All About EveAll About Eve
Year: 1950
Rating: Approved
Length: 138 minutes / 2.3 hours

Even with half a dozen movies under her belt, Marilyn Monroe was still relatively unknown by 1950. Often, a pretty face will get you in the door, but you need something extra to break through into stardom. By 1953, with such hits as Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and How to Marry a Millionaire, Monroe had finally grabbed everyone’s attention by simply oozing sexuality. What is interesting about her films before this point is seeing her in minor roles and thinking, “Isn’t that Marilyn Monroe?” Despite many of these earlier films not standing up well over time, All About Eve (1950) still remains culturally relevant. As the Best Picture for that year, All About Eve focuses on what it takes to get ahead in the theater. Interestingly enough, the heavily Marilyn-influenced TV show, Smash, revealed the same amount of backstabbing in today’s theater world as well.

Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is pleased to find an endearing fan in Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) and hires her to run some of the minutiae of her life. During a surprise party Eve set up for Margo’s boyfriend, Bill (Gary Merrill), Margo gets drunk and soon learns that her producer, Max Fabian (Gregory Ratoff), has agreed to audition the beautiful arm-candy of theater critic Addison DeWitt (George Sanders). Miss Casswell (Marilyn Monroe) auditions with Margo’s new understudy, Eve. Since this was news to Margo, she starts to recognize the warning signs: Eve is trying to replace her. After all, the papers are touting Eve as an up-and-coming star who fits in the roles better than the “mature” actress that Margo has become. Now Margo is on full alert, but it is already too late. Eve has played the system and is soon recognized for her accomplishments.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 marvelous Marilyn Monroe roles

Bacon #: 2 (Some Like it Hot / Jack Lemmon -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#320. Jack Lemmon

Comedy has many styles. From the wordplay of The Marx Brothers and slapstick of the silent comedians to the “gross-out” approach of modern comedians, very few entertainers have a comedic style quite like Jack Lemmon. If I were to put a label on it, his comedy would be “reactionary.” Life can be so full of ridiculous and hilarious situations that Lemmon’s reactions to them make his comedy relatable to the “everyman.” There are plenty of tools in this reactionary comedy toolbox, not the least of which are the double take, the sudden realization, and the moment of disbelief. Jack Lemmon is a master of all of them and more, mostly due to his incredibly expressive face. Granted, Lemmon has also had many dramatic roles, but most people remember him for his comedy. This week’s two films highlight the comedy of Jack Lemmon.

The ApartmentThe Apartment
Year: 1960
Rating: Approved
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

Sometimes an actor’s comedy is due to their collaborative work with the director of a film. The Apartment (1960) was only the second film Lemmon did with legendary director, Billy Wilder. By 1960, comedies were Wilder’s bread and butter and both he and Lemmon would go on to collaborate on five more of them. Even their next film after The Apartment, Irma la Douce (1963), brought back Shirley MacLaine since their combined chemistry worked so well in the Best Picture-winning The Apartment. Lemmon earned two Best Actor Oscar nominations for his work with Billy Wilder. He would earn another with Blake Edwards (another comedy director) for his acting in Days of Wine and Roses (1962), even if two more of their collaborations together wouldn’t produce another Oscar nomination.

Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is shrewd when it comes to advancing his career. While he might not have any exemplary skills, he does possess one thing that can give him an edge toward a promotion: an Upper West Side apartment. Because it’s far away from the suburbs and close enough to their work, some of the managers at Bud’s job have been giving him glowing recommendations for the shared use of the apartment to conduct their extra-marital affairs. When Bud’s boss learns of this, he wants in on the action, putting Bud out of his apartment for the night but compensating him for the inconvenience. Unfortunately, Bud’s date for the evening stands him up, which is made all the more surprising when he goes home and finds her unconscious in his apartment. Being the gentleman he is, Bud nurses the woman to health, spurring them both to fall in love with each other, despite the gossip at work.

Some Like it HotSome Like it Hot
Year: 1959
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

A single year after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Mister Roberts (1955), Jack Lemmon received his first Best Actor nomination for Some Like it Hot (1959), which was also his first film under the aforementioned Billy Wilder. Lemmon would not win the Best Actor Oscar until Save the Tiger (1973), at which point in his career he began earning nominations for his dramatic work, including Best Actor nominations for The China Syndrome (1979), Tribute (1980), and Missing (1982). In total, Jack Lemmon won two Oscars with eight nominations. Perhaps in his aging years, the comedy did not come quite as quickly in his younger exuberance. Of course, he used both to his benefit in Grumpy Old Men (1993) and in its sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995). Still, I feel his best comedic performance came as a cross-dressing jazz musician in Some Like it Hot.

Jerry (Jack Lemmon) and Joe (Tony Curtis) need a gig and a quick ride out of town. Unfortunately, the only open positions in a jazz ensemble they can find are exclusively for women. Not wanting to be associated with the mobsters they used to play music for, the two men disguise themselves as women and head to Miami. While Joe manages to adopt a second disguise to woo their bandmate, Sugar (Marilyn Monroe), Jerry’s female persona earns the unwanted attention of millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown). As Jerry keeps Osgood occupied so Joe can maintain his disguise as a fake millionaire, this eventually leads to Osgood proposing. Jerry accepts the engagement in the hopes that he can get a lot of money during the divorce when his ruse is revealed. When the mob comes around searching for them, Jerry and Joe need to act fast to escape again. It’s at this moment that Jerry learns it won’t be easy to leave.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 laugh-filled Jack Lemmon roles

Bacon #: 1 (JFK / Kevin Bacon)