Sunday, February 26, 2017

Irma la Douce (1963)

An honest Parisian cop (Jack Lemmon) is fired for calling a raid on street walkers. He then falls in love with one of them (Shirley MacLaine) and becomes her pimp. It’s the classic love story.

What was originally a musical was adapted into a rather strange film. Themes like crime, prostitution, infidelity, domestic violence, and even murder are treated with a bizarre whimsy. Universal Protagonist Jack Lemmon suffers through all of it. He loves Irma and cannot stand it when she serves her customers, so he concocts a bizarre plan to deal with his jealousy, but no spoilers here.

Marilyn Monroe and Charles Laughton both were set to appear but were totally croak-city come production. A Marilyn Irma (or EAR-ma) would have been an interesting change. Surely she would have highlighted the character’s stupid qualities. Laughton would have played bar owner Moustache, and would have been wonderful but I don’t see how he could have improved on Lou Jacobi. Who wasn’t dead yet was Grace Lee Whitney as Kiki the Cossack, whom geeks will recognize as Yeoman Janice Rand. Also interesting is the the film debut of James Caan and an early appearance of Bill Bixby. Look them up, ya damn millennials!

Very bawdy by early 60’s standards. Unlike another Billy Wilder film made a few earlier (which I will soon cover), the sexuality holds up. Many shots of topless women from the back, MacLaine included. It’s a twelve-year old’s dream. Before the internet, that is. It is a good example of how Hollywood changed during these times. What a difference eight years makes.

MacLaine didn’t think much of the script nor the film, but it earned her an Oscar nom none-the-less. The tone is almost off-putting with it’s flip treatment of dark material, but it doesn’t fail to entertain. The dialog is clever and witty like (almost) all Wilder films, and it is visually appealing. But that’s another story. AMRU 3.5.
“It's a hard way to earn an easy living.”

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