Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

“I’m a man, you idiot!”

Jack-LemmonI read, a few minutes ago, that Jack Lemmon has died. I am, in a word, crushed. Lemmon is an actor who I never had the opportunity to grow up with, but who I nonetheless discovered an astonishing amount of respect for in his later life. While I’d initially avoided his recent work, because I didn’t care to see him and Walter Matthau as increasingly Grumpy Old Men, my view of him was forever altered by “Glengarry Glen Ross”. Beyond that, I found myself delving into his earlier work, and found that it was gold, all of it, especially his Billy Wilder comedies.

I feel ashamed, somehow, that it took me so long to find the man. That I’ve never seen ‘Save the Tiger,” and as such still wonder what the hell the title means.

The response to “I’m a man, you idiot!” was the classic “Nobody’s perfect.” True, but who needs to be perfect when being as amazing as Jack Lemmon would do?

This hurts. It’s not the far-reaching, soul-crushing hurt that I still feel at the deaths of Jim Henson and Phil Hartman, but it hurts.

When painters die, their paintings are worth more money. When authors die, their manuscripts don’t increase in value, and when actors die, their films can still be bought at Borders for the low low price of $12.99 VHS.

With the painters, the worth goes up because the painter will produce no new work. But that seems to create an atmosphere of competition in between the painter’s own works–that every new painting they make somehow makes people abandon the old work, like lavishing attention on the newborn and neglecting the six year-old.

But actors don’t compete with themselves, necessarily. Lemmon’s substandard cameo in Branagh’s “Hamlet” cannot diminish his work in “The Apartment”. The fact that he can no longer grace us with his talent doesn’t diminish any of his past work, but nor does it increase their value in a monetary sense.

Is it the tangibility and relative “permanence” of paintings and sculptures that gives them value? How is Lemmon’s interpretation of Sheldon Levene in “Glengarry” any less permanent? Even performances by other actors of the same character don’t cause the others to diminish.

I don’t understand, is all. It makes me wordy, when I don’t understand.

RIP, Jack Lemmon.

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2001 by in Essay, Eulogy, Movies.
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