Adored Star Jack Lemmon, 1925-2001

Hollywood is a much sadder place today. On Wednesday night, two-time Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon, 76, died of complications from cancer at Los Angeles’s USC Norris Cancer Hospital, said his longtime publicist, Warren Cowan. At his side were his wife, actress Felicia Farr; his son, actor Christopher Lemmon; his daughter, Courtney, who is a social worker; and his stepdaughter, Denise. The beloved star of such classics as “Some Like It Hot, “The Apartment” and “The Odd Couple,” which costarred his lifelong friend Walter Matthau, had been in and out of the hospital for the past few months. (Ironically, Matthau, who also made “Grumpy Old Men” and his Oscar winner, “The Fortune Cookie,” with Lemmon, died at the age of 79 almost a year to the day of Lemmon’s death.) A product of Boston prep schools and the drama club at Harvard, Lemmon, a future Hollywood fixture, kicked off his professional show-biz career by playing piano in a New York beer hall. Radio, early TV and some stage roles followed before Columbia Pictures brought him west to play the love interest in some Judy Holliday and Kim Novak movies. His first big role, as Ensign Pulver in the 1955 Navy comedy-drama “Mr. Roberts” (Lemmon, in fact, had been an ensign in the Navy), brought him a supporting actor Oscar. His best actor win was for 1973’s “Save the Tiger,” and he took home other awards for his leading roles in “The China Syndrome” and “Missing.” His last role was 1999’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” (on TV), though he also supplied the voice of Old Hardy Greaves in 2000’s “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” “I’ve been fortunate,” Lemmon once said. “I’ve worked my butt off, but it’s been terrific.”

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