Irma La Douce


2h 22m 1963
Irma La Douce

Brief Synopsis

A Parisian policeman gives up everything for the love of a free-living prostitute.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Jun 1963
Production Company
Edward L. Alperson; Phalanx Productions; The Mirisch Company, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Paris, France; Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Irma La Douce by Alexandre Breffort (Paris, 10 Nov 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 22m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

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 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.

Photo Collections

Irma La Douce - Movie Posters
Here are a variety of American movie posters for Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce (1963), starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Romantic Comedy
Release Date
Jan 1963
Premiere Information
New York opening: 5 Jun 1963
Production Company
Edward L. Alperson; Phalanx Productions; The Mirisch Company, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
Paris, France; Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood, California, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Irma La Douce by Alexandre Breffort (Paris, 10 Nov 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 22m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Wins

Best Score

1963

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1963
Shirley Maclaine

Best Cinematography

1963

Articles

Irma La Douce


Marilyn Monroe as a Parisian hooker? It's hard to believe but the blonde superstar was originally in the running for the title role in Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce (1963). Despite the fact that Monroe and Wilder had clashed repeatedly during the making of Some Like It Hot (1959), both realized the advantages of working together again since the latter film had become a box office smash. Contract negotiations were proceeding smoothly until Monroe read some unflattering comments from Wilder in the newspaper about her inability to remember lines. She called his home, leaving a scathing message with his wife, and that was the end of their new collaboration. It was just as well because Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond had yet to come up with a suitable screenplay for Irma La Douce which was based on a popular 1956 French stage musical. (There was also a Broadway adaptation with a British cast.)

Three years and two films later (The Apartment (1960), One, Two, Three, 1961), Wilder and Diamond finally came up with a solution. They relegated the musical numbers to the background, cast Shirley MacLaine as the carefree, unrepentant streetwalker of the title, and proceeded to make a tart comedy about prostitution and society's hypocritical attitudes toward it. I.A.L. Diamond was quoted as saying, "The prostitute is one of the most pervasive figures in literature and has always held a peculiar fascination for writers and audiences. On screen, she is usually portrayed as a hard-boiled 'hostess' or a tragic figure leaning against a lamppost. But the poules around Les Halles, whatever their personal problems, are a raucous bunch. And this is the spirit we have tried to capture on film."

To prepare for the title role, Shirley MacLaine, accompanied by co-star Jack Lemmon, had an extensive interview with a professional prostitute in Paris by the name of Marguerite. In fact, their research session was interrupted at least once when Marguerite hurried away briefly to service one of her clients. As for Lemmon, many of his closest friends warned him about accepting the part of Nestor, the naive cop who eventually becomes Irma's pimp. They said it would ruin his image but these same people had also urged him not to appear in Some Like It Hot, arguing that the drag gimmick would grow tiresome quickly. Once again, Lemmon followed his instincts and practically stole the film. The New York Times review said, "Mr. Lemmon is little short of brilliant - vigorous, incisive and deft. His magnificently keen and agile clowning is what really carries this film."

Irma La Douce was mostly filmed on the Sam Goldwyn lot in Hollywood where Alexander Trauner had designed an authentic-looking Parisian set featuring a winding street in a red-light district. Exterior shots were filmed on location in Paris and Andre Previn was recruited to compose and conduct the score. In his autobiography, No Minor Chords, Previn wrote, "I remember a long scene in Irma La Douce in which Jack Lemmon, the complete innocent, prepared for his first carnal night with Shirley MacLaine. The sequence was full of jokes, both verbal and visual, and the trap of underlining all the comedic bits with music was certainly seductive. Billy asked me to write romantic music instead; not erotically romantic, but sweetly and simply so, disregarding all the pratfalls. Of course he was right, and the final result was curiously touching."

At the 1963 Academy Award ceremony Previn won the Oscar for Best Music Score. Irma La Douce also received Oscar nominations for Shirley MacLaine (Best Actress) and Joseph LaShelle (Best Cinematography). Film buffs will spot Tura Satana (star of Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, 1965) and Bill Bixby (TV's The Incredible Hulk) in minor roles.

Director/Producer/Screenwriter: Billy Wilder
Cinematographer: Joseph La Shelle
Composer: Andre Previn
Editor: Dan Mandell
Art Director: Alexandre Trauner
Associate Producer/Screenwriter: I.A.L. Diamond
Associate Producer: Doane Harrison
Set Designer: Maurice Barnathan, Edward Boyle
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly
Cast: Jack Lemmon (Nestor Patou/Lord X), Shirley MacLaine (Irma La Douce), Lou Jacobi (Moustache), Bruce Yarnell (Hippolyte), Herschel Bernardi (Inspector Lefevre), Hope Holiday (Lolita), Tura Satana (Suzette Wong), Bill Bixby (Tattooed Sailor), Herb Jones (Casablanca Charlie), Louis Jourdan (Narrator)
C-143m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford
Irma La Douce

Irma La Douce

Marilyn Monroe as a Parisian hooker? It's hard to believe but the blonde superstar was originally in the running for the title role in Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce (1963). Despite the fact that Monroe and Wilder had clashed repeatedly during the making of Some Like It Hot (1959), both realized the advantages of working together again since the latter film had become a box office smash. Contract negotiations were proceeding smoothly until Monroe read some unflattering comments from Wilder in the newspaper about her inability to remember lines. She called his home, leaving a scathing message with his wife, and that was the end of their new collaboration. It was just as well because Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond had yet to come up with a suitable screenplay for Irma La Douce which was based on a popular 1956 French stage musical. (There was also a Broadway adaptation with a British cast.) Three years and two films later (The Apartment (1960), One, Two, Three, 1961), Wilder and Diamond finally came up with a solution. They relegated the musical numbers to the background, cast Shirley MacLaine as the carefree, unrepentant streetwalker of the title, and proceeded to make a tart comedy about prostitution and society's hypocritical attitudes toward it. I.A.L. Diamond was quoted as saying, "The prostitute is one of the most pervasive figures in literature and has always held a peculiar fascination for writers and audiences. On screen, she is usually portrayed as a hard-boiled 'hostess' or a tragic figure leaning against a lamppost. But the poules around Les Halles, whatever their personal problems, are a raucous bunch. And this is the spirit we have tried to capture on film." To prepare for the title role, Shirley MacLaine, accompanied by co-star Jack Lemmon, had an extensive interview with a professional prostitute in Paris by the name of Marguerite. In fact, their research session was interrupted at least once when Marguerite hurried away briefly to service one of her clients. As for Lemmon, many of his closest friends warned him about accepting the part of Nestor, the naive cop who eventually becomes Irma's pimp. They said it would ruin his image but these same people had also urged him not to appear in Some Like It Hot, arguing that the drag gimmick would grow tiresome quickly. Once again, Lemmon followed his instincts and practically stole the film. The New York Times review said, "Mr. Lemmon is little short of brilliant - vigorous, incisive and deft. His magnificently keen and agile clowning is what really carries this film." Irma La Douce was mostly filmed on the Sam Goldwyn lot in Hollywood where Alexander Trauner had designed an authentic-looking Parisian set featuring a winding street in a red-light district. Exterior shots were filmed on location in Paris and Andre Previn was recruited to compose and conduct the score. In his autobiography, No Minor Chords, Previn wrote, "I remember a long scene in Irma La Douce in which Jack Lemmon, the complete innocent, prepared for his first carnal night with Shirley MacLaine. The sequence was full of jokes, both verbal and visual, and the trap of underlining all the comedic bits with music was certainly seductive. Billy asked me to write romantic music instead; not erotically romantic, but sweetly and simply so, disregarding all the pratfalls. Of course he was right, and the final result was curiously touching." At the 1963 Academy Award ceremony Previn won the Oscar for Best Music Score. Irma La Douce also received Oscar nominations for Shirley MacLaine (Best Actress) and Joseph LaShelle (Best Cinematography). Film buffs will spot Tura Satana (star of Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, 1965) and Bill Bixby (TV's The Incredible Hulk) in minor roles. Director/Producer/Screenwriter: Billy Wilder Cinematographer: Joseph La Shelle Composer: Andre Previn Editor: Dan Mandell Art Director: Alexandre Trauner Associate Producer/Screenwriter: I.A.L. Diamond Associate Producer: Doane Harrison Set Designer: Maurice Barnathan, Edward Boyle Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly Cast: Jack Lemmon (Nestor Patou/Lord X), Shirley MacLaine (Irma La Douce), Lou Jacobi (Moustache), Bruce Yarnell (Hippolyte), Herschel Bernardi (Inspector Lefevre), Hope Holiday (Lolita), Tura Satana (Suzette Wong), Bill Bixby (Tattooed Sailor), Herb Jones (Casablanca Charlie), Louis Jourdan (Narrator) C-143m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder


A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002


Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.

Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).

Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.

Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.

As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.

By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.

In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.

Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.

By Jeremy Geltzer

TCM Remembers - Billy Wilder

A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002 Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers. Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft). Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck. Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory. As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950). Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules. By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy. In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide. Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed. By Jeremy Geltzer

Quotes

Who wants to be a stray dog? You got to belong to someone, even if he kicks you once in a while.
- Irma La Douce
To be overly honest in a dishonest world is like plucking a chicken against the wind... you'll only wind up with a mouth full of feathers.
- Nestor Patou
Life is total war my friend... nobody has a right to be a conscientious objector.
- Nestor Patou
Shows you the kind of world we live in. Love is illegal - but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal. Pfui.
- Moustache

Trivia

The pimps' union is called the "Mec's' (tough guy's) Paris Protective Association" (MPPA), which also stands for "Motion Picture Producers Association", an organization which had given director Billy Wilder some trouble.

Wilder wanted Charles Laughton as Moustache, but he was suffering from cancer and died soon after.

Jack Lemmon married actress Felicia Farr in Paris during this 1962 shoot.

Marilyn Monroe was briefly considered for the title role but since Billy Wilder had worked with her twice before, he figured he had enough punishment.

Shirley MacLaine signed on without having read the script because she "believed in Wilder and Lemmon".

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Paris.

Miscellaneous Notes

Best Actress (MacLaine) and Best Color Cinematography.

Released in United States Summer July 1963

Shot between October 1962 and March 1963.

Released in United States Summer July 1963