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Magic Time with Jack Lemmon
by Betty Jo Tucker

Appearing in dozens of Hollywood movie classics, Jack Lemmon excelled at both comedy and drama. His memorable work in films like Days of Wine and Roses, Mr. Roberts, Some Like It Hot, The Odd Couple, Save the Tiger, The Apartment, Missing and The China Syndrome received worldwide acclaim and brought him a legion of devoted fans.  In A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father, Chris Lemmon presents a heartwarming remembrance of his famous father.

Chris has created a touching memoir, one that reveals the beloved family man behind Jack Lemmon’s star persona. But, happily, for movie fans like me, he includes many fascinating behind-the-scenes stories relating to his father’s remarkable movie career as well as personal tributes from such well-known show biz greats as Neil Simon, Blake Edwards, Cliff Robertson, Andy Garcia, Julie Andrews, Tony Curtis and Shirley MacLaine.

In his foreword to A Twist of Lemmon, Kevin Spacey writes, “Jack Lemmon was a credit to his profession because he was a man whose humanity was bigger than his talent. And when you think for a moment about the size and depth of that talent, then you begin to understand how seriously he took his role as a human being.”

Everyone probably has a favorite Jack Lemmon performance or film. For me, Days of Wine and Roses stands out. In addition to displaying magical chemistry with Lee Remick in this terrific movie, Lemmon delivered the most riveting portrayal of a man with addiction issues ever seen on film. In A Twist of Lemmon, we learn what was going on in Jack’s life at the time -- and we understand more about the “depth of talent” Spacey mentioned. But I’ll never forget Jack Lemmon’s wonderful comic turns as a bewildered and sometimes bumbling loser we can’t help cheering on and caring about.    

A Twist of Lemon also introduces readers to Jack Lemmon’s mantra -- “It’s magic time”-- a phrase he uttered before filming every scene. According to Chris, this phrase also applies to his adventures with his father. Despite some problems in their relationship, including Chris’s mixed feelings about what it meant to be “Jack Lemmon’s son” and his father’s sometimes less-than-perfect behavior, it’s obvious these two loved each other dearly. You can feel the strength of their bond as you read about their passion for golf, their trip to Alaska, and the way they enjoyed playing their favorite songs on the piano. Chris cherished their private moments together -- and he thought about them continuously as he visited his dying father during his battle with cancer.       

Although Chris has written a hauntingly poignant book, he peppers it with plenty of amusing anecdotes about his famous dad. It’s a treat to read the sections describing the friendship between Jack Lemmon and his frequent co-star, Walter Matthau. And Chris’s tales of incidents starring such funnymen as George Burns and Milton Berle still have me chuckling.

But make no mistake about it, the main theme of A Twist of Lemmon deals with Chris’s feelings about his father. “I adored and idolized Pop,” he writes. “At the same time, however, I knew the real man, the one who lived away from the cameras, and let me tell you, that man was a piece of work. Yes, he was a gifted actor, and yes, he was a fine person, but most important to me, he was a great father and a man who was a hell of a lot of fun to be with -- a man who was truly my best friend…When you were with Jack Lemmon, it was always ‘Magic Time.’”

(A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father is published by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. For more information, please go to

Listen to Chris Lemmon’s “Movie Addict Headquarters” interview by clicking on this BlogTalkRadio link on Tuesday, June 24, at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. An archived segment will be available after the live broadcast.

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