“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
- 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
No; you can skip this one.
2 thoughts on “Irma la Douce (1963)”
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.
Sadly, it was a chore to get through – and I hadn’t seen it before.