John Uhler “Jack” Lemmon III was an American actor. He starred in more than 60 films including Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Mister Roberts, Days of Wine and Roses, The Great Race, Irma la Douce, The Odd Couple, Save the Tiger, The Out-of-Towners, The China Syndrome, Missing, Glengarry Glen Ross, Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men.
Lemmon was born in an elevator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He was the son and only child of Mildred Burgess LaRue and John Uhler Lemmon, Jr., who was the president of a doughnut company. Lemmon attended John Ward Elementary School in Newton and The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts. He later revealed that he knew he wanted to be an actor from the age of eight. Lemmon attended Phillips Academy and Harvard University where he lived in Adams House and was an active member of several Drama Clubs – becoming president of the Hasty Pudding Club – as well as a member of the Delphic Club for Gentleman, a final club at Harvard. After Harvard, Lemmon joined the Navy, receiving V-12 training and serving as an ensign. On being discharged, he took up acting professionally, working on radio, television and Broadway. He studied acting under Uta Hagen. He also became enamored of the piano and learned to play it on his own. He could also play the harmonica and the double bass.
Lemmon’s film debut was a bit part as a plasterer/painter in the 1949 film The Lady Takes a Sailor but he was not noticed until his official debut opposite Judy Holliday in the 1954 comedy It Should Happen to You. Lemmon worked with many legendary leading ladies, among them Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Betty Grable, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Romy Schneider, Doris Day, Kim Novak, Judy Holliday, Rita Hayworth, June Allyson, Virna Lisi, Ann Margret, Sophia Loren and many, many more. He was also close friends with Tony Curtis, Ernie Kovacs, Walter Matthau and Kevin Spacey. He made two films with Curtis, three films with Kovacs, and eleven with Matthau.
Early in Lemmon’s career, Lemmon met Ernie Kovacs during the filming of Operation Mad Ball and co-starred with the comedian in this film. Lemmon and Kovacs became close friends and appeared together in two subsequent films – Bell, Book, and Candle and It Happened to Jane. In 1977 PBS broadcast a compilation series of Kovacs’ television work, and Lemmon served as the narrator of the series. Lemmon discussed his friendship with Kovacs in the documentary, Ernie Kovacs: Television’s Original Genius .