Walter Matthau plays a professional killer going by the name of Trabucco, who is on his way to rub out gangster Rudy "Disco" Gambola, set to testify against the mob. As Trabucco heads off ... See full summary »
Director Billy Wilder salutes his idol, Ernst Lubitsch, with this comedy about a middle-aged playboy fascinated by the daughter of a private detective who has been hired to entrap him with the wife of a client.
Naive, by the book French police officer Nester Patou, is transferred to the Red Light district. Upon witnessing what must be a brothel, he calls the station and organizes a raid, transporting all the 'ladies' to the jail. This unfortunately disrupts the well organized system of the police and the Pimps union. Not to mention inadvertently netting his station superior at the brothel. Fired, he goes to a bar to drink, is befriended by Irma, beats up her pimp, and finds he is now Irma's new pimp. Nester's doesn't like the thought of his girl seeing other men, so comes up with a plan. Written by
Brian W Martz <B.Martz@Genie.com>
The production designer Alexander Trauner imported from France all the window glass used in the sets windows, as well as materials (iron for railings) used in the sets construction. The window glass was imperfect, wavy, with air bubbles. All the street shop windows, apartment mullioned windows were cut from this imported glass material. Parisienne street lamps, street fire hydrant plumbing hardware, as well as the sets' hardware for door latches, window latches, locks, were air-lifted to the States, delivered to the Goldwyn Studio for the feature. These items were matched, molded and fabricated in the film's staff shop, duplicated in fiberglass. The "L" plan of the three streets converging at the central street core conversion (at the) "Cafe Moustache" was designed in a theatrically forced perspective plan layout. The left side of the street extended through an adjoining (shared wall) stage door. The "T" plan of the central street extended to the rear stage wall, extremely forced in perspective. Minature French "toy" cars, approximately three feet long by fifteen, to eighteen inches high, were maneuvered on wires. The false perspective street raised in height above the stage floor approximately three feet. Scenically, the street's facade of shops were scaled and painted to recede as calculated for the reduced perspective horizon plane. Harold Michaelson, the film's illustrator, a genius at laying out perspective, calculated all the perspective plans and elevations for the three street ends. Atmosphere "extra casting" were hired, utilizing small (midgets) actors for all background action shots. Rain pipes were hung over the entire street set for the rain sequences, with the street's gutter system planned to flush the water out of the stage through stage wall drainage systems into the exterior adjacent studio street. The second story atelier set was located on the same stage, situated behind the street facade. This set was twenty feet off the ground, accessed by ladders. Fork lifts were used to deliver camera equipment and lighting equipment. The cast and crew had to use the ladders to climb up or down to and from the set. A minimum crew were allowed on the scaffold set with Jack Lemon, Shirley MacLaine and Billy Wilder. While filming their scenes in this small environment, the wonderful rapport between the two actors and Wilder was a "very private funny scenario". Behind this set, the scenic shop-department was located on the stage rear wall, with a paint frame and 20' high deck for the scenic artists to work from while painting the film's scenic drops. Additional stages were used for the "les Halls" and the Cathedral interiors. The beef carcass used for set dressing in the meat market were white plastic formed vacuums completely assembled. Twenty scenic artists painted these carcasses with oil paints, using sponges, fine hair paint brushes, using scenic techniques reproducing fresh marbled fat grained meat. All the cathedral stained glass leaded windows were also scenically oil painted on the imported French glass materials. See more »
The shadow of the "boom" can be seen on the brown wall, at the right of the screen, just after Lemmon shows up in MacLaine's apartment, following his jailbreak. It shows up behind Bernardi, just after MacLaine's sarcasm that Lemmon could be found in jail. See more »
Irma la Douce is a gem, one of Billy Wilders best films. Banned from TV for many years by network censors, it began as a Broadway play and ran from Sep 29, 1960 to Dec 31, 1961 playing at both the Plymouth Theatre and the Alvin Theatre in New York. It quickly won the attention of Hollywood and in 1963 debuted as a film starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It is a love story, the story of a policeman turned reformer who falls madly in love with a beautiful young prostitute. The IBDB captures its essence best: "Irma La Douce" is not only French; it is intensely Parisian French. Set in an area tourists seek, but so seldom find, its musical idiom, its moral atmosphere, its plot and its argot are part of Paris not even all Parisians know; a part of Paris where the underworld is known as the "milieu." A tart is a "poule," a pimp is a "mec" and money is "grisbi." If you remember Sam Seborn's affair with a prostitute in the first season of West Wing, you have the advantage. Mix with this belief in the underlying goodness of a person with the enchanting music and backdrop of Paris and you will find yourself pulling for Nester (Lemmon) in his quest to win Irma's hand. Marilyn Monroe was originally scheduled to play Irma but died before the film work began. As a credit to Wilder's casting, Shirley MacLaine's performance earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. The film's cinematography received its own Oscar nomination and the music took Hollywood by storm. It's stunning Parisian melody, written by Marguerite Monnot and arranged for film by Andre Previn, won the Oscar for best music and remains one of the finest musical scores ever.
And within the cheerful comedy of the plot, the story's philosopher shines bright as the mentor for Lester who struggles to overcome the muk of daily life. Being none other than the bar tender and owner of the Chez Moustache, the bar and stage center for much of the film, Moustache lends his shoulder to Lester and instructs him in the realities of life: life accepts no conscientious objector and must be approached as if it were a war where only the strong survive. In other words, face the world as it is, not as you were told it was.
Watch this film on DVD and get the wide screen version if you can. If you find yourself critical of the film, remember that this is late 50's, early 60's America. It came out during the cold war, in a period where TV was still in its 'Andy of Mayberry' days. Movies were heavily censored and even the media was under intense scrutiny for what topics matters it discussed. Irma La Douce was buried from play and only lately rediscovered by VHS & DVD fans. Transport yourself back to the "Milieu" and enjoy, you may just learn something about life!
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