Loosely based on Marguerite Monnot and Alexandre Breffort’s French stage musical of the same name that debuted in 1956, Wilder and longtime collaborator I.A.L. Diamond transformed the piece into a satirical comedy of errors. A medal recipient for having rescued a child in a playground, naïve policeman Nestor Patou (Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot) is transferred to an urban neighborhood in Paris. Eager to impress, Nestor busts the local brothel where Irma La Douce (‘Irma The Sweet’, played by Shirley MacLaine (Terms of Endearment), ply’s her trade. However, since the police chief is one of the brothel’s clients, Nestor quickly finds himself out of a job.
Despite his humiliation, Nestor is drawn to Chez Moustache, a popular hangout tavern for prostitutes and their pimps. It’s there that he befriends Irma, and quickly begins to fall in love with her. While Nestor moves in with Irma and becomes her new pimp, he develops a plan to end her involvement in prostitution. Affecting an upper class British accent and using a disguise, he invents the alter-ego “Lord X” and becomes Irma’s only client. But will Irma fall for Nestor or Lord X?
This scenario is perfect for the over-the-top, bumbling, enthusiastic, goofball personality he performed so well. Playing dual characters really gives him a chance to let loose and use his comedic gifts in a way no other role would allow. The script is great for MacLaine too. She really gets to ham it up, though I can’t help but think she might have liked Billy Wilder to leave in a musical number or two for her. So, Irma la Douce isn’t perfect, but it’s fun. MacLaine’s Irma is very good, but it’s Jack Lemmon’s harried Nestor Patou that makes Irma la Douce truly special.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this new 4K remaster via Kino Lorber is in very good shape. Aside from a few minutes scratches, and minor specks of dirt, the image is clean. The colors are vibrant, and the contrast appears looks appropriate. There’s a nice layer of film grain as well.
The film is presented with a DTS-HD Master 2.0 track which is sufficient. While the dialogue can sound slightly muffled in spots, it doesn’t interfere with the overall viewing experience.
André Previn’s Oscar winning score gives a levity to some scenes.
English SDH subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Joseph McBride
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian Kat Elinger
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Movie title: Irma la Douce (1963)
Director(s): Billy Wilder
Actor(s): Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine , Lou Jacobi , Grace Lee Whitney, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee
Genre: Comedy, Romance