Irma La Douce (1963)

149 mins | Comedy | 5 June 1963

Full page view
HISTORY

The 19 Jan 1961 DV announced that a film version of the stage musical Irma La Douce would be produced by Joseph Pasternak for United Artists Corporation. The 1 Feb 1961 LAT noted that the project would be a “reunion” of the team that created The Apartment (1960, see entry), including actors Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond, and writer-director Billy Wilder. The Mirisch Company was credited as producers. Nearly seventeen months later, the 25 Jun 1962 DV described the upcoming film as “a straight comedy, with emphasis on a love story,” rather than a musical. However, a review in the 3 Jul 1963 LAT noted that one song, “Dis-Donc,” and some instrumental music from the stage show were also included in the film. In addition, Diamond composed new lyrics for the French song, “Alouette,” as reported in the 23 Oct 1962 DV. Exterior photography would take place in Paris, France, with interior scenes filmed at Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood, CA. Columnist Earl Wilson claimed in the 23 Nov 1962 LAT that only one line of dialogue was retained from the original play.
       On 27 Jan 1962, LAT announced that Charles Laughton had joined the cast. As the start of production approached, the 4 Jul 1962 LAT reported that Laughton was experiencing health problems, but would likely be well enough to begin work in mid-Sep 1962. Within the month, however, Laughton underwent surgery and he was replaced by Lou Jacobi, as stated in the ... More Less

The 19 Jan 1961 DV announced that a film version of the stage musical Irma La Douce would be produced by Joseph Pasternak for United Artists Corporation. The 1 Feb 1961 LAT noted that the project would be a “reunion” of the team that created The Apartment (1960, see entry), including actors Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, screenwriter I. A. L. Diamond, and writer-director Billy Wilder. The Mirisch Company was credited as producers. Nearly seventeen months later, the 25 Jun 1962 DV described the upcoming film as “a straight comedy, with emphasis on a love story,” rather than a musical. However, a review in the 3 Jul 1963 LAT noted that one song, “Dis-Donc,” and some instrumental music from the stage show were also included in the film. In addition, Diamond composed new lyrics for the French song, “Alouette,” as reported in the 23 Oct 1962 DV. Exterior photography would take place in Paris, France, with interior scenes filmed at Goldwyn Studios in West Hollywood, CA. Columnist Earl Wilson claimed in the 23 Nov 1962 LAT that only one line of dialogue was retained from the original play.
       On 27 Jan 1962, LAT announced that Charles Laughton had joined the cast. As the start of production approached, the 4 Jul 1962 LAT reported that Laughton was experiencing health problems, but would likely be well enough to begin work in mid-Sep 1962. Within the month, however, Laughton underwent surgery and he was replaced by Lou Jacobi, as stated in the 2 Aug 1962 LAT. Laughton died on 15 Dec 1962.
       The 21 Oct 1962 NYT noted that a Paris set was constructed on a Goldwyn sound stage at cost of $250,000. The 9 Aug 1962 DV reported the arrival of Wilder’s production unit in Paris for two weeks of filming. Principal photography began 13 Aug 1962, as stated in 24 Aug 1962 DV production charts. Shirley MacLaine told the 4 Nov 1962 LAT that she researched her role by acquainting herself with a Parisian prostitute and studying her walk and mannerisms, noting that the young woman’s movements always contained “an air of innocence.” She added that Wilder began shooting with only sixty-two completed pages of the screenplay, suggesting it was normal for the director, who began The Apartment with only thirty written pages. The Paris excursion was highlighted by Jack Lemmon’s marriage to actress Felicia Farr. MacLaine returned to the U.S. several days before the wedding. Photography resumed 8 Oct 1962 at Goldwyn Studios, according to that day’s DV.
       A news item in the 31 Oct 1962 DV stated that MacLaine was banned from the set because her laughter ruined several takes of a staged fight between Lemmon and co-star Bruce Yarnell. Columnist Hedda Hopper revealed in the 20 Nov 1962 LAT that when the Mirisch brothers’ octogenarian father, Max Mirisch, visited the set, MacLaine made considerable effort to divert his attention, fearing the elder Mirisch would be offended by the sight of prostitutes. The 9 Feb 1963 LAT reported that she had been admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital five days earlier for treatment of a pinched nerve in her back. Although only three days of filming remained, MacLaine was unable to continue without treatment. According to the 15 Feb 1963 LAT, she performed her final scenes that week, then traveled to Cambridge, MA, where Harvard University’s Hasting Pudding Club had voted her “Broad of the Year.” Coincidentally, Jack Lemmon was a former president of the club. Editing was underway later that month, as noted in the 25 Feb 1963 DV.
       The 16 Jan 1963 DV reported that Legion of Decency affiliate Father Brian E. Kane was technical advisor on the wedding scene that concluded the film. However, this was not considered to be an endorsement by the Roman Catholic Church. Approximately 100 background actors were hired for the scene. The 19 May 1963 LAT estimated the cost of the church set at $250,000. Costumer Orry-Kelly revealed in the 28 Mar 1963 issue that he created MacLaine’s wedding gown from a lace tablecloth, used as a bedspread in her character’s apartment.
       Irma La Douce marked the screen debut of stage actor Bruce Yarnell. The 6 Apr 1963 LAT identified Louis Jourdan as the film’s narrator. The 19 Oct 1962 DV noted that Mirisch Company attorney Ray Kurtzman appeared on screen as a prostitute’s customer, and the 15 Jul 1963 LAT revealed that Wilder hired his butcher to play a butcher in the film. Casting announcements included the following: Julie Payne (27 Nov 1962 LAT); Barbara Barrett (20 Dec 1962 LAT); Tim Williams, Bill Beck, and Max Cutler as policemen (10 Jan 1963 DV). An obituary for actress Amelia Gentry in the 27 Jun 1963 DV stated that she was also a cast member.
       The 23 Jan 1963 DV revealed that Wilder shot two endings to ensure approval by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The first concludes with “Irma” giving birth in the church, immediately following the wedding. The second depicts the birth occurring in the bistro across the street. The former ending appeared in the release print. Several months earlier, Wilder told the 10 Oct 1962 DV that he was willing to release the picture without MPAA approval. MacLaine described “Irma” as the greatest role of her career, saying it was the first time she “really wanted to go to work.” She also declared, “After the way we treated prostitutes in this film, there can never be another film made about prostitutes!”
       I. A. L. Diamond admitted in the 27 Jun 1963 DV that production went six weeks over schedule, but the stars generously waived the fifty-percent pay increase due them under contemporary labor laws. Lemmon, who “was detained for most of this period,” was rewarded with a higher share of profits.
       A news brief in the 7 Jan 1963 DV stated that photographer Stephen Fuchs offered still shots of MacLaine’s nude bathing scene to Life magazine, pending the actress’s approval. MacLaine refused to grant permission, as reported in the 22 Jan 1963 DV. Fuchs estimated his fee for the images at $10,000.
       The company received several visitors during production, including Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown of California (16 Oct 1962 DV), actor Tony Curtis (25 Oct 1962 DV), author Henry Miller (12 Dec 1962 DV), entertainer Maurice Chevalier (17 Jan 1963 DV), and a group of French “officers and midshipmen” from the training ship Jeanne D’Arc, which was docked in Long Beach, CA.
       According to the 5 Feb 1963 DV, Wilder attempted to sell his Paris sets to Universal Pictures for the upcoming production, Wild and Wonderful (1964, see entry), known at the time as Monsieur Cognac. Later that year, the 13 Dec 1963 DV announced that portions of the set would be included in the “Hollywood Pavilion” at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair.
       The 12 Feb 1963 DV reported the Mirisch Company’s plans to open the film in Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, and New York City in May 1963. On 21 Mar 1963, DV announced plans for a world premiere in Jun 1963 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. The 14 May 1963 edition noted an upcoming preview that week for “adults only.” The film was also screened at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) theater on 31 May 1963, as stated in that day’s DV.
       Irma La Douce opened 5 Jun 1963 in New York City, and 3 Jul 1963 in Los Angeles. The 24 Jun 1963 DV reported that Lemmon and MacLaine would place their hand and foot impressions in concrete outside the Chinese Theatre on 29 Jun 1963. Although reviews were generally positive, the 5 Jun 1963 DV and 6 Jun 1963 NYT complained that the film, at 149 minutes, was much longer than necessary. It was also declared “morally objectionable in part for all” by the Legion of Decency. Regardless, the public responded enthusiastically, evidenced by reports of “new attendance records” in the 15 Jul 1963 LAT. Robert F. Blumofe of United Artists told the 12 Jan 1964 NYT that the $5 million production was expected to earn gross receipts of $18 million. The 8 Jan 1964 DV noted that it was the longest-running film in the history of St. Paul, MN, despite the city’s large Roman Catholic population.
       Irma La Douce was nominated for three Academy Awards: Actress (Shirley MacLaine); Cinematography—Color (Joseph LaShelle); Music—Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment (Andre Previn). The film won in the latter category. Previn and his wife, Dory Langdon, also wrote the theme song, “Look Again,” which was recorded by several prominent artists, including Jack Lemmon, according to an advertisement in the 11 Sep 1963 DV.
       MacLaine, who won a Golden Globe award for her performance, was criticized in the 13 May 1964 LAT for her acceptance speech, in which she reportedly implied that she almost abandoned her career to become a French prostitute. MacLaine was also voted most popular actress by the readers of Film Daily, and received a Golden Laurel award, as did Jack Lemmon.
       The 5 Jul 1963 DV stated that Lemmon intended to reprise his character’s alter-ego, Lord X, for Wilder’s next project, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970, see entry). Although casting was underway, the production was delayed for several years.
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1961
p. 11.
Daily Variety
19 Jun 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Jun 1962
p. 6.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1962
p. 10.
Daily Variety
8 Oct 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Oct 1962
p. 11.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1963
p. 3, 13.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1963
p. 2, 4.
Daily Variety
17 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 Jan 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Feb 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 May 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
14 May 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
31 May 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
5 Jun 1963
p. 3, 8.
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1963
p. 11.
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1963
p. 9.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Jan 1964
p. 5.
Daily Variety
22 Jan 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1964
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jan 1961
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
1 Feb 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jan 1962
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
4 Jul 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1962
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
18 Aug 1962
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
6 Sep 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
4 Nov 1962
Section A, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
16 Nov 1962
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1962
Section A, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
20 Nov 1962
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
23 Nov 1962
Section D, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1962
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
9 Feb 1963
Section B, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1963
Section D, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
28 Mar 1963
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
6 Apr 1963
Section B, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
19 May 1963
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jul 1963
Section D, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
15 Jul 1963
Section A, p. 6; Section E, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 17.
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1964
Section C, p. 18.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jun 1964
p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
5 Nov 1964
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
21 Oct 1962
p. 135.
New York Times
15 Nov 1962
p. 45.
New York Times
5 Jun 1963
p. 31.
New York Times
6 Jun 1963
p. 37.
New York Times
22 Dec 1963
Section X, p. 3.
New York Times
11 Jan 1964
p. 14.
New York Times
12 Jan 1964
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
27 Feb 1964
p. 31.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Billy Wilder Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
Based on the orig stage mus by
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreography, "Alouette" seq
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Tech adv
Dog trainer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Irma La Douce by Alexandre Breffort (Paris, 10 Nov 1956).
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 June 1963
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 June 1963
Los Angeles premiere: 3 July 1963
Production Date:
13 August 1962--mid February 1963
Copyright Claimant:
Mirisch Co.
Copyright Date:
5 June 1963
Copyright Number:
LP25089
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
149
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Irma La Douce, a successful Parisian poule who plies her trade on a narrow street off Les Halles, gives all of her earnings to Hippolyte, her mec . Onto the scene comes a young, naive, and honest policeman, Nestor Patou, who, shocked by the open vice, conducts an unauthorized raid and arrests all the streetwalkers who frequent the bistro Chez Moustache. Unfortunately, Nestor's superior, Inspector Lefevre, is among the men arrested, and Nestor is fired from the force. He takes up with Irma, and, after a fight with Hippolyte, becomes her new mec . He soon falls in love with Irma and becomes jealous of her customers. With the help of Moustache, Nestor poses as a wealthy Englishman, Lord X, who claims he wants only a companion since the war has rendered him "useless." He agrees to pay Irma a huge sum for one visit a week, but in order to pay he is forced to work in the marketplace. Every morning, Nestor returns to Irma too tired to make love, and she begins to suspect that he has another lover. Irma then asks Lord X to take her to England and manages to seduce the supposedly impotent Britisher. As Irma packs to leave, Nestor decides to "murder" Lord X and dump all traces of him into the Seine. He is followed by Hippolyte, who, hearing a splash and seeing Lord X's clothes floating on the water, turns Nestor in as a murderer. Nestor is sent to prison, but when he hears that Irma is pregnant he escapes and reemerges from the Seine ... +


Irma La Douce, a successful Parisian poule who plies her trade on a narrow street off Les Halles, gives all of her earnings to Hippolyte, her mec . Onto the scene comes a young, naive, and honest policeman, Nestor Patou, who, shocked by the open vice, conducts an unauthorized raid and arrests all the streetwalkers who frequent the bistro Chez Moustache. Unfortunately, Nestor's superior, Inspector Lefevre, is among the men arrested, and Nestor is fired from the force. He takes up with Irma, and, after a fight with Hippolyte, becomes her new mec . He soon falls in love with Irma and becomes jealous of her customers. With the help of Moustache, Nestor poses as a wealthy Englishman, Lord X, who claims he wants only a companion since the war has rendered him "useless." He agrees to pay Irma a huge sum for one visit a week, but in order to pay he is forced to work in the marketplace. Every morning, Nestor returns to Irma too tired to make love, and she begins to suspect that he has another lover. Irma then asks Lord X to take her to England and manages to seduce the supposedly impotent Britisher. As Irma packs to leave, Nestor decides to "murder" Lord X and dump all traces of him into the Seine. He is followed by Hippolyte, who, hearing a splash and seeing Lord X's clothes floating on the water, turns Nestor in as a murderer. Nestor is sent to prison, but when he hears that Irma is pregnant he escapes and reemerges from the Seine as Lord X, thus vindicating himself. At the church where Nestor and Irma are married, Irma collapses and has her baby. All ends well, however, when Nestor is reinstated by Inspector Lefevre; and Irma is able to contemplate a happier future. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.