Hollywood Legends Lee Remick & Jack Lemmon’s Secrets


Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon shared the screen in the 1962 film “Days of Wine and Roses.” Both Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon are Hollywood legends, but what do you truly know about their glamorous lives?
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Modern audiences recognize Remick for her work in the classic horror movie “The Omen” (1976). What Remick is truly known for is her range and her dedication to acting and performing. One of Remick’s most famous co-stars, Jack Lemmon, had an interesting life himself. Read on to discover more about the actors’ fascinating lives.

Early Days

Lee Ann Remick was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, on December 14, 1935. Her parents divorced when she was seven. She and her brother moved to New York City to be raised by their mother.

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The children’s father, Frank Remick, was a Harvard-trained clothier who owned a specialty clothing store in Quincy. Lee Ann’s vocational aspirations would follow in her mother’s footsteps.

A Second-Generation Actress

Gertrude Margaret Waldo was a stage actress before she was the mother of Lee Remick. Making sure her young daughter received an esteemed education, she enrolled Lee at the Swoboda School of Dance at the Hewitt School.

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The school was a prestigious K-12 preparatory in the Upper East Side next to Central Park. Remick’s mother knew that if her young daughter was to be an actress, she would need training in performing arts.

Formal Training

At the dance school, Remick specialized in theater and dance. She received lessons from Maria Swoboda, a member of the Bolshoi Ballet. Swoboda taught dancing at many of New York’s leading ballet studios.

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Remick continued her private education at Barnard College in Manhattan and at the Actors Studio. Meanwhile, she was already acting and auditioning. Unable to balance school and work, she dropped out of Bernard College. It was a college professor who advised her to either choose acting work or school, that she could not excel at both.

The Stage

She chose acting and left college behind. Lee was a hard-working actress. She was a serious student who trained determinedly in her craft. It paid off when she landed her first gig, debuting on Broadway with “Be Your Age” in 1953.

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Though the play did poorly, closing after five shows, it brought her recognition. The stage was her first love, and she would return to it after becoming a Hollywood star.

Television Debut

After making a splash on Broadway, Remick began appearing on several television anthologies. Drama programs, some of which originated on radio shows, were aired by various networks.

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She starred on “Armstrong Circle Theater,” which aired on CBS and NBC. She also starred in a drama series by Studio One in Hollywood, as well as programs brought to television by Kraft Theater, Playhouse 90, and Robert Montgomery Presents, all major sponsors of the era.

The Crowd

Remick’s television work paid off. In 1957 she starred in “A Face in the Crowd ” with Andy Griffith. It was the film debut of both actors. The movie, directed by Elia Kazan and filmed in Arkansas, is about the overnight success of pop singer Lonesome Rhodes.

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From rags to riches, he (Griffith) was discovered sleeping on the streets. Remick plays a small-town girl and groupie who is set on marrying the star. “A Face in the Crowd” did moderately well in 1957 and has since become a classic because of its close look at the effects of fame.

Twirl a Baton

Since A Face in the Crowd was made in Arkansas, Remick had to move away from her home on the east coast. In an early example of method acting, the 23-year-old actress opted to move in with a local family to learn to speak with a southern drawl.

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While she lived there, one of the children taught her to twirl a baton. Baton twirling was required for an important scene in which Betty Lou, Lee’s character, piques the interest of Lonesome Rhodes.

Love and Marriage

In 1957, Lee’s life turned toward love and marriage. The rising movie star met her first husband, William Colleran. They married in August of that year and moved to Los Angeles. Colleran was a television director and producer.

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He was involved with major programs like “The Dean Martin Show,” “Your Hit Parade,” and “The Judy Garland Show.” They shared two children, Katherine and Matthew Colleran. Their daughter was born in 1959, and their son was born in 1961. For Lee, family life was just as important as the acting.

Remick’s Film Career

“The Long, Hot Summer” (1958) is Remick’s second film. It is based on William Faulkner’s novel “The Hamlet” as well as two shorter stories of his. Playing the attentive wife of Jody, Remick’s role as Eula established her status as America’s sweetheart.

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She said she was starstruck performing alongside Orson Welles. He wasn’t the only big name; Paul Newman, Joann Woodward, and Angela Lansbury starred too. The following year she landed a big role in “These Thousand Hills,” portraying a dancer.

A Change in Direction

Lee Remick did not want to be pigeonholed as someone who could only play a sensual character. Starring in “Anatomy of a Murder” put the actress’s career on the path toward her later dramatic roles. Playing the sultry victim wasn’t exactly what she was looking for, but she took part to veer away from being promoted as a beauty.

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In “Anatomy of a Murder,” she played a victim named Laura. The movie is about her husband’s murder trial. He is accused of killing the man who she said harassed her. The 1959 movie was directed by Otto Preminger and featured music by Duke Ellington.

Lana Turner

Lana Turner agreed to star in “Anatomy of a Murder” as Laura. Preminger thought he had his lady, but she said she had one condition. She asked that her personal tailor provide gowns for costuming. It was a dealbreaker. Gowns were not even suitable for the role, yet Columbia Pictures’ executives were ready to bow to the diva. But, the director refused to alter anything and looked to Remick.

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Remick, who thought she had been passed over for Turner, was so convinced the part could never be hers that she hung up when she got a call that said she had the part. She believed it was a prank. Previously, director Preminger offered her a minor role, but she turned it down. However, when Ms. Turner walked away, the lead went to Remick.

Courting Controversy

“Anatomy of a Murder” took a bold step in American cinema. It brought words to the silver screen, which were, frankly, offensive to many audiences. It was one of the first movies to include such words. The trial scene in the movie brought out many explicit words.

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These words did not sit comfortably with folks in this era. Leadman James Stewart’s father was so vexed he placed an ad in the newspaper advising moviegoers to stay home.

Wild River

Elia Kazan knows a thing or two about casting great talent. He cast James Dean in “East of Eden” and Marlon Brando in both “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “On the Waterfront.”

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But many a critic look to “Wild River” as Kazan’s best work. The director put a star on Remick’s dressing room door with “A Face in the Crowd,” and he invited her back for “Wild River.”  She appeared in the 1960 film with Montgomery Clift and Jo Van Fleet.

Busy Bee

While filming “Wild River,” Remick was also shooting a television movie based on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” She starred alongside Richard Burton, playing Miranda. More film roles were on the way.

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She chose “Sanctuary “(1961), “The Farmer’s Daughter” (1962), and “Experiment in Terror” (1962). Meanwhile, she gave birth to her second child in 1961. Balancing her work and life had become a challenge.

Rise to Stardom

Remick was offered more roles than she could handle. Her name was hot. She proved to be a complex actress who could play a wide array of feminine roles.

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Flitting effortlessly from film to TV, she worked on the television movie “The Farmer’s Daughter” while shooting “Sanctuary” with Yves Montand. The studio wanted to promote her as an American Brigette Bardo, but Remick resisted.

Oscar Ready

Remick worked under director Blake Edwards when she was nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress for her effort in his film “Days of Wine and Roses “(1962).

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At the same time, she was making “Experiment in Terror.” The dedicated actress dove into her roles, spending uncounted hours preparing for her part. Still, she had a young family at home.

Heavy Drinkers

To prepare for the movie “Days of Wine and Roses,” both Remick and co-star Jack Lemmon attended a meeting where drinkers can talk about their experiences. The two played a married couple who fell drank too much together.

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As they spiral and hit bottom, the audience hopes for their recovery when they attend A.A. meetings. In retrospect, the movie was instrumental in bringing awareness and acceptance to the program.

Keeping it Real

Many efforts were taken to achieve authenticity. The co-founder of A.A. was on hand as a technical advisor. Lemmon and Remick visited people who have suffered from heavy drinking.

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Lemmon said he found the difficulty of those men very scary. Those experiences greatly influenced the film. Remick even went through hypnosis to get into the headspace of an extremely drunk, according to the director. Both actors would attend A.A. meetings after making that film.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin were scheduled to headline “Something’s Got to Give.” Production was underway, but Monroe, six months before her tragic end, was ill with the flu. She also had commitments like shuttling off to Madison Square Garden to sing “Happy Birthday” to the president.

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As a result, she was showing up to only a fraction of the film’s shooting schedule. Finally, the production chief fired the iconic blonde. She was devastated. But it opened the door for Remick, and she gladly took part.

The Diva 

With Remick playing the leading lady in “Something’s Got to Give” and Monroe fired, Dean Martin, the lead man, took a stand. In support of Monroe, he quit the film.

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The studio stood by Martin and signed him and Monroe to a new film called “Move Over Darling.” They doubled the diva’s contract and commenced shooting, but the star was dead a month before its scheduled completion.

More Duties

Keeping up with demand, Remick made two movies in 1964. She starred with Laurence Harvey in the suspense-thriller “The Running Man” and with James Garner in the high finance comedy “Wheeler Dealers.”

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“The Running Man” was a British crime movie about a man who fakes his death to get back at his insurance company. Remick played his wife. “Wheeler Dealers” is about a Texas oilman who goes to the big city to play his cards. Remick is a New York stockbroker who he hires to make his trades.

Back to Broadway

Remick said farewell to Hollywood and returned to the stage to live near her children and to be home each night after curtain call. Also, she was fed up with Hollywood. Turning her back on a two-movie contract, she said that she’d get back to acting when Hollywood would start making movies for grown-ups.

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So, she turned to theater and filled the bill in the 1964 Broadway musical “Anyone Can Whistle” with Angela Lansbury. Remick sang the title song, one of the prettiest songs on the album.

Failure

The production was staged at The Majestic Theater in Manhattan but closed after only nine days. The highly anticipated musical was unapologetically panned by critics. One griped that the  “Anyone Can Whistle” actors couldn’t really sing.

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A film version and a musical recording featuring Stephen Sondheim’s score remain.  Fortunately, the production was preserved because the zany, absurdist story would be appreciated later. It attracted a cult following, and new productions found the stage. Remick said making it was the best six days in her life, in part, because of her lifelong friendship with Sondheim.

Personal Drama

While working on the 1969 movie Hard Contract, Remick met and fell in love with a director on the set named Kip Gowans. Smitten, they married in 1970. He was an assistant director for movies like “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Human Factor,” and “Sleuth.”

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Both had been married. Remick divorced Colleran in 1969. Remick moved to England and set up home with Gowans. She appeared in four of his televised films. They also resided on their Massachusetts property, where Remick called her “true home.”

Another Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim and Remick shared a special friendship. Two decades after “Anyone Can Whistle,” the two worked together again on Sondheim’s 1985 “Follies” concert recording.

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It was based on his musical about an iconic theater being demolished. Remick sang the track “Could I Leave You?” which is on the “Follies in Concert” 1985 DVD.

Leaving Too Early

She was struck ill while shooting a movie in France. Learning the news, she said that when learning the news, she angry at first. But then she told herself she was a fighter, which she truly was.

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After a two-year battle with a disease first diagnosed in 1989, Lee Remick died.

Lemmon

Jack Lemmon was one of Remick’s most famous co-stars. Their film “Days of Wine and Roses” was nominated for five Oscars, including a Best Actress and a Best Actor for each performance.

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Lemmon came into the world on February 8, 1925. His mother delivered him inside an elevator at a Massachusetts hospital. The actor-comedian said his mother waited too long because she didn’t want to leave her card game.

Growing Up

Lemmon was born and raised in Newton, Massachusetts. He had a privileged upbringing; as a boy, he would spend his time on the piano or else trying to be funny to impress his parents.

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When he sensed the hostility in his parents’ marriage, going to the piano was a great release for the budding movie star.

The Snoring Story

The piano was the first clue of his showbiz future. He called it a “terrific outlet,” where an hour and a half would seem like fifteen minutes.

 

His first delve into acting was a snoring routine. Lemmon came up with dozens of snore sounds, one he called the “freight-train” snore.

Academic Probation

His grades were not high enough to keep him off academic probation. That meant he wasn’t allowed to attend drama club events and stage performances.

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Music fell to the background as his acting abilities shone. A commission to World War II briefly interrupted his studies. He graduated with passing marks in 1947

Timothy Orange

Undeterred, Lemmon used the stage name “Timothy Orange” and continued to act and participate in these extracurricular events.

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As Orange instead of Lemmon, the actor-comedian made big splashes in the drama clubs. He would write songs and dress up in drag. Audiences loved him, and nobody knew that it was Lemmon all along.

War World II

When Lemmon was commissioned, he served the V-12 Navy College Training Program. Previously he enrolled in the Naval Reserve ROTC. The V-12 training program was a reserve force of college and university men used to supplement Navy officers in active combat during World War II.

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He was stationed on the USS Lake Champlain aircraft carrier. When the war ended, Lemmon returned to Harvard. Finally, he and graduated with a degree in War Service Sciences.

The Big Apple

Graduating from Harvard, Lemmon told his father he was not going to pursue a conventional occupation because he wanted to take a shot at acting in The Big City. His dad gave him his blessing and $300.

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Moving to N.Y.C., he spent a year without landing one acting gig. So, he took a job waiting tables for free food and tips as a piano man at the “Old Knick” show bar.

First Acting Gigs

But Lemmon’s hard work and perseverance both paid off. Acting gigs came pouring in. He got jobs on radio, television, and Broadway. In five years, beginning in 1948, he had done hundreds of TV spots.

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The head of Columbia Pictures talent division noticed Lemmon’s comedic genius and signed him for the lead in the film, “It Should Happen to You.”

What’s in a Name?

The movie studio had just one request. But it was too much to ask, as far as Lemmon was concerned. The head of the studio wanted him to change his name to Lennon. Apparently, the studio thought his last name might sour the billing.

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Lemmon, however, was proud of his family name and refused to change it. The clever young actor talked them out of it. After all, he reasoned, “Lennon” might be confused with “Lenin,” and absolutely no one wanted a name that would be mixed up with communist Russia.

A Big Year

1953 was a big year for Lemmon. He debuted on stage at the Broadway comedy “Room Service,” and he made his film debut in George Cukor’s rom-com “It Should Happen to You.” He starred opposite Judy Holiday, showcasing his comedic charm.

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Lemmon appreciated acting with the Hollywood starlet. He said if it wasn’t for the experience working with Ms. Holiday, he might not have pursued a silver screen career. He was a cocky new actor, telling The Washington Post, at the time, that he was a snob who preferred stage acting to movies.

Some Like It Hot

“Some Like it Hot” (1959) is a raucous comedy taking place in prohibition-era Chicago, directed by Wilder. Lemmon stars with Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis in the hilarious film featuring the male leads in drag.

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Wilder also directed the rising star’s next film, “The Apartment” (1960). The Hollywood classic, starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon, won five Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture. Jack Lemmon received a Best Actor nod for both films.

First Oscar

“Mister Roberts” (1955) was a blockbuster Academy Award-nominated film that won Lemmon his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His role as Ensign Pulver was perhaps his most significant role because it would influence his work to come.

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Lemmon told the “Dick Cavett Show” he got the part unexpectedly. He had been yearning to play Pulver for years. The novel had already been staged by the time director John Ford walked up to him and offered the role. He was surprised since he had just, coincidentally, auditioned for a very different role.

Sealing the Deal

He was even more surprised when the director asked him to seal the deal with a spit handshake. Your read that right. As Lemmon explained to Cavett, the director spit in his hand and held it out for a shake.

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Lemmon demurred, naturally, but Ford said that it’s an old Irish custom and told Jack to spit on his own hand as well. As quick as a salute to a Navy captain, Lemmon spit and shook on it. Contract sealed.

Turning Down a Major Role

What would the “Sundance Kid” be like with Lemmon as the Kid? We will never know. The film went on to win four Oscars, but Lemmon would miss the opportunity.

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He turned down “Sundance Kid” because he was tired of playing that type of role and he didn’t like riding horses. He was the screenwriter’s first choice; Steve McQueen turned it down next.

Pure Happiness

Before filmmaker Billy Wilder ever worked with Jack Lemmon, he proposed the “Some Like it Hot” role while Lemmon was dining. Wilder approached him at dinner and explained that the part entails playing a cross-dressing musician in an all-female band.

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Lemmon agreed then and there. Wilder would make two more films with Lemmon, the next being “The Apartment.”  The director adored working with the comedian so much he famously stated that working with Lemmon is pure happiness.

Wine and Roses

Jack Lemmon was becoming a legendary comic genius on the big screen and on television, but behind the scenes, his life was held together with three-martini lunches and a lot more drinking besides. He had gone through two divorces by the 1970s.

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Filming “Days of Wine and Roses” in 1962, about an alcoholic couple, would open his eyes up to his own drinking problems. But he wouldn’t quit the habit until 1982.

Another Oscar

“Save the Tiger” (1973) was probably Lemmon’s darkest role, but it was his favorite. He took on the low-budget movie with poise, giving it his all, and only getting paid the acting union’s minimum wage. He portrayed the tragic businessman Harry Stoner and claimed it was his most gratifying work.

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His character was a man going through a mid-life crisis and worried about the IRS catching up to him skipping out on paying taxes. It was worth the sacrifice; he won Best Actor at the Academy Awards that year.

A Brilliant Career

Lemmon would earn three more Oscar nominations for his later work. “The China Syndrome” (1979),” Tribute” (1980), and “Missing” (1982) all brought him a Best Actor nod. One more run with Wilder, a comedy called “Buddy Buddy” (1981), flopped, as did several other attempts during that era.

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A Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reunion in “Grumpy Old Men” (1993) was a grand slam home run. Their performance in “The Odd Couple” (1968), a film based on the Neil Simon Broadway play, is considered one of the best comedy duos ever.

Pebble Beach

Golf was one of Lemmon’s passions. He competed at the AT&T Beach Pro-Am tournament each year. The annual event on Monterey Peninsula is the premier celebrity Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.

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Making it to the final four was his long-time goal. He liked to say that he  would have traded his two Oscars to play at Pebble Beach. He never failed to attract a crowd to the green, but he also never managed to make it to the final four tournaments.

In His Name

In his name and because of his great love of the sport, in 2001, the PGA announced the Jack Lemmon Award. The prize is awarded annually to the best team player in the Pro-Am.

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Also known as the Most Valuable Amateur award, it is in deference to the comedian who never made the final four cut to play Pebble Beach on Sunday.

His Last Laugh

Jack Lemmon is buried in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. He’s not alone; old Hollywood celebs Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau, George C. Scott, and Billy Wilder are buried there.

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Lemmon’s lifetime saw many accolades and honors. He won two-lifetime achievement awards in 1986 and 1988. The Harvard Arts Medal was awarded in 1995.

Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe

Jack Lemmon talked about working with the prima donna actress on “Some Like it Hot.” He said she would take hours to emerge from her dressing room.

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The knocking did no good; she would just growl. Lemmon had a soft spot for the iconic blonde. He said that he liked her and got on with her. He recalled that She drove Billy Wilder and Tony Curtis crazy. Lemmon said she drove him a little crazy too, but it didn’t bother him as much.

Monroe According to Lemmon, mystified the comedian

According to Lemmon, Marilyn had a lot of problems, and she was incredibly unhappy for no apparent reason. He said it was clear she had an issue, but he had no idea what it was. He assumed she was sipping wine in her wardrobe room, which didn’t help.

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The cast and crew waited on her for hours for each and every shoot. Lemmon said that when she finally came out of her dressing room, her performance was wonderful. Except for that, when she forgot her line, and it took her 28 takes to get it right.