Australian and New Zealand American Studies Association
When Jack Lemmon died in 2001, obituaries described him as 'just our size.' One writer noted that 'few performers equalled him in communicating and indeed personifying, both comically and tragically, certain moral dilemmas of postwar American life', echoing Billy Wilder's earlier description of Lemmon as a Hollywood 'everyman.' Given that Lemmon grew up in the upper-middl-class in late-Depression Boston, graduated from Harvard, and was the biggest box office draw of 1963 and 1964, to consider him as the embodiment of 'normalcy' seems counterintuitive. Still, Lemmon's everyman star persona positions him as the illustrative figure of post-War suburban normalcy. Analysis of a selection of Lemmon's films - The Apartment (1960), Good Neighbor Sam (1964), Save the Tiger (1973), The China Syndrome (1979), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) and the Grumpy Old Men films (1993, 1995) - shows their collective depiction of the average American relocating to the suburbs, ambivalently confronting success, and ultimately discovering an uncertain future for old age in suburbia. In this trajectory, Lemmon's star persona traces the boundaries of the post-War American suburb — first in terms of behaviours, and later as limitations confronted by the aged.