Actor Jack Lemmon, Filmdom’s Felix Ungar, is Dead at 76

News   Actor Jack Lemmon, Filmdom’s Felix Ungar, is Dead at 76 Jack Lemmon, the affable, sweet-faced actor known for such films as “Some Like It Hot” and “The Apartment,” and a 1985 revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, died June 27 of cancer, according to wire reports.
Jack Lemmon as James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night.
Jack Lemmon as James Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night. (Photo by Photo by Martha Swope and Associates)

Jack Lemmon, the affable, sweet-faced actor known for such films as “Some Like It Hot” and “The Apartment,” and a 1985 revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, died June 27 of cancer, according to wire reports.

Mr. Lemmon was 76 and leaves behind indelible roles, including Felix Ungar, the nervous, fussy neurotic of the Neil Simon film comedy, “The Odd Couple” (based on the Broadway play) opposite Walter Matthau. The pair acted in an original 1998 film sequel, “The Odd Couple II,” which was not based on a play.

Mr. Lemmon studied at Harvard, but excelled only in theatre, it was reported. His first break after returning from serving in the Navy in World War II was the radio drama, “The Brighter Day.” New York TV dramas (500 of them) followed. His work in a short-lived 1953 Broadway revival of Room Service got him noticed and earned him a Columbia Pictures movie, “It Should Happen to You,” opposite Judy Holliday. Following another Holliday vehicle, “Phfft!,” a comedy about divorce, Mr. Lemmon got the film that solidified his future: Ensign Pulver in “Mister Roberts.”

He returned to Broadway in 1960 in Face of a Hero and would play stage roles throughout the 1970s and into the '80s. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Tribute (and did the film version).On Broadway in 1985, Mr. Lemmon turned menacing as the Irish actor patriarch, James Tyrone, in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, with Bethel Leslie, Peter Gallagher and Kevin Spacey, directed by Jonathan Miller. He was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his work. Other stage credits include Idiot's Delight, Juno and the Paycock and A Sense of Humor.

According to his 1986 Playbill biography, "Mr. Lemmon was bitten by the acting bug at the age of four when he appeared with his father in an amateur production of There's Gold in Them Thar Hills." His vast film career includes "Missing," "The China Syndrome," "Save the Tiger," "Buddy Buddy," "The Front Page," "Mass Appeal," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Irma La Douce," "The Fortune Cookie," and dozens more.

Mr. Lemmon is survived by son Chris Lemmon, an actor, wife Felicia, and daughter, Courtney and a stepdaughter.

— By Kenneth Jones