An animated Chris Lemmon sat recently in a television studio at the University of New Haven and outlined his new class, “The Golden Age of Hollywood: Life Beyond the Silver Screen.”
“The course is about the most influential industry in the world, and what it was back in the era of innocence,” he said. “That golden age of Hollywood -- Camelot. And what that means to us now.”
The course will begin with an emphasis on Jack Lemmon, the late Academy Award-winning actor.
The professor has a unique insight into the legendary actor’s life and work. That’s because he’s his son. Jack Lemmon, who died in 2001, starred in over 60 films and more than 20 television productions, earning numerous awards, including two Oscars.
Professor Lemmon said he’ll begin the semester by showing his father’s 1959 slapstick comedy “Some Like it Hot,” considered one of the greatest film comedies of all time.
Lemmon will also show the 1960 romantic comedy-drama “The Apartment,” which was nominated for ten Academy Awards and winning five, including Best Picture.
“‘The Apartment’ is the quintessential film to the message that I need to portray of Jack Lemmon and what acting meant to him,” said Lemmon. “It’s the first film where he was able to seamlessly intertwine comedy and drama. So it’ll be ‘Some Like it Hot’ and ‘The Apartment.’ And I think the two of them will really give a very nice scope of what Jack Lemmon was.”
Chris Lemmon is a Connecticut resident and an accomplished actor himself. He’s also a writer, producer, and pianist.
In addition to bearing a strong resemblance to his father, Lemmon has also inherited much of his father’s wit and sense of timing. He talked about what makes, in his words, funny -- funny.
“Of course the answer is, funny comes out of surprise,” said Lemmon. “I tell my father’s very favorite joke: two Irish guys walk out of a bar… hey, it could happen.”
But the class won’t be all about Jack Lemmon films.
“We talk about technology, starting with ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Lemmon. “I mean, when we talk about some of the great films and the impact on us, some of the social commentary, ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ All that stuff is going to be in there as well.”
There will also be a live public performance at UNH in which Chris Lemmon plays his father recollecting his life. It’s a one-man show based on Chris’s 2006 memoir, A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father.
“But it’s not really about Jack Lemmon, or Jimmy Cagney, or all of the other wonderful characters that my father includes in his story throughout the telling of it,” said Lemmon. “It’s really about a father and a son.”
This fall’s class will be Chris Lemmon’s first teaching experience.