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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Irma la Douce (1963)


MacLaine and Lemmon in Parisian backstreet fairytale.

Billy Wilder's 1963 adaptation of the successful stage musical IRMA LA DOUCE still makes for an entertaining movie experience. Shirley MacLaine is simply perfect for the title role with Jack Lemmon absolutely hilarious as her comical suitor.

Irma la Douce (Shirley MacLaine) plies her trade on the Rue Casanova of Paris with her fellow lovelies (with such names as Lolita, Amazon Annie, Mimi the MauMau and Suzette Wong). Into Irma's life comes the noble and honest policeman Nestor (Jack Lemmon) who is soon kicked off the job because he refuses to take bribes and compromise his own conscience. Nestor goes to live with Irma as her `business manager' but wants her to give up her profession, so he `invents' the filthy-rich Lord X to become her sole client, and takes a night-job to help the shortfall. All manner of hilarious complications ensue as Nestor's double life soon begins to spin out of control!

Based on the successful stage musical (music by Marguerite Monnot, lyrics by Alexandre Breffort), IRMA LA DOUCE was re-tooled by Wilder as a straight comedy piece. It works quite well either way, though I must confess that as an admirer of the stage play, it would have been smashing for Shirley MacLaine to perform that gorgeous score. The movie does retain the jaunty "Dis-donc, Dis-donc" and Andre Previn's score makes good use out of Monnot's music, particularly "Our Language of Love".

The strong cast also includes Lou Jacobi as the owner of the Bistro Moustache, Bruce Yarnell as Irma's previous manager Hippolyte and Billy Wilder stalwart Joan Shawlee as Amazon Annie.


(screens are from another source)

The evocative costumes were designed by Orry-Kelly and the unbilled narrator at the beginning of the film is none other than Louis Jourdan. Shirley MacLaine was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance here and the movie itself was one of the year's top-grossers. By Byron Kolln "Classic_MovieGuy

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