Irma la Douce (1963)

Irma la Douce (1963)

“This isn’t just a job — it’s a profession!”

After beating up the john (Bruce Yarnell) of a popular Parisian prostitute (Shirley MacLaine), a strait-laced policeman (Jack Lemmon) falls in love with Irma (MacLaine) but soon finds himself increasingly jealous and intolerant of her work. With the assistance of a local bar owner (Lou Jacobi), Lemmon concocts an elaborate plan to pretend to be a wealthy British nobleman who will pay her simply to play solitaire — but how long can the ruse last?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Billy Wilder Films
  • Feminism and Women’s Issues
  • Jack Lemmon Films
  • Mistaken or Hidden Identities
  • Play Adaptation
  • Police
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos
  • Romantic Comedy
  • Shirley MacLaine Films
  • Strong Females

Three years after co-starring in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1961), Lemmon and MacLaine reunited as a romantic couple in this decidedly lighter fare, based on a 1956 French musical play. Unfortunately, the shift from musical to romantic comedy doesn’t do the awkward storyline any favors: we can tell from the get-go that challenges will arise if Lemmon allows himself to seriously fall for Irma (MacLaine), given her self-selected profession — and her sincere lack of desire to stop “working for her man”. The characters are so broadly drawn — and the scenes so farcically sketched — that we know we should laugh, but the situation simply isn’t funny. Irma is being duped on multiple levels — not just by Lemmon’s refusal to admit that he can’t stomach her career, but by his duplicitous enactment as Lord X (which, of course, implies that Irma is too clueless to recognize her own boyfriend-in-disguise for hours on end).

While the colorful cinematography and sets are pleasant to look at, you can feel free to skip this one; it’s not essential viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Shirley MacLaine as Irma
  • Jack Lemmon as Nestor
  • Joseph LaShelle’s cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one.


2 thoughts on “Irma la Douce (1963)

  1. Agreed; not must-see. A lesser Wilder film from the latter part of his career (when he offered up an unfortunate number of misfires). I wouldn’t want to revisit this, particularly.

Leave a Reply