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Hollywood Gets A Twist of Lemmon

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Professor Chris Lemmon and father, Jack Lemmon

Professor Chris Lemmon and father, Jack Lemmon

Professor Chris Lemmon and father, Jack Lemmon

Sarah Costello, Staff Writer

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The Golden Era of movies and entertainment has come to the University of New Haven as a special treat to the students. The fall semester will offer students the opportunity to learn more about pre- and post- World War II films in “The Golden Age of Hollywood – Life Beyond the Silver Screen,” a course narrated by the exciting and passionate Professor Chris Lemmon, son of eight-time Academy Award nominee actor Jack Lemmon.

“The Golden Age of Hollywood” is a course that focuses on the movies of the early to mid-20th century, most films that kids to young adults are unfamiliar with. The key to this course is not to just explain lecture after lecture to students, but to have an honest and open discussion about the time where movies were at their peak.

The course will explain the importance of films during this era and how they spread enormous sociopolitical change. These films include the spectacular feats of “Gone with the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz” being the first technicolor films to the tales where people lived on top of the world through action or horror. It was the age where Marilyn Monroe and Paul Newman were at their peak. The class goes into the depths of the who, what and why in the era that is so important.

As described by Professor Lemmon, the class is meant to evoke thought on how movies of the past have shaped and raised the bars for movies of the future. Movies were beyond imagination and opened a gate to fantastic sights and sounds for all kinds of people, but what was the most important part of the films were the narratives.

“You can have lots of pearls that are incredible stories,” said Lemmon. “But, unless you have a string to hold it together, it’s a broken necklace. The narrative is the string that holds the stories together.”

Lemmon stated that by teaching the course, he hopes to bring back some of the happiness and simplicity that became lost in the modern era.

“It was an age of innocence, [a] wonderful sense of life… We’ve lost that simplicity in this time of instant communication.”

He believes that by teaching students more about acting, script writing, reviewing movies, all while focusing on a film age of peace, he can create an ongoing discussion of how powerful films are with their stories and narratives.

“It is my duty as a narrator to uphold the liveliness of the Golden Age,” said Lemmon.

Beyond the classroom, Professor Lemmon is a performer and producer. Initially, he tried to avoid acting because he didn’t know “how to follow in the footsteps of a giant [legend like his father].” He obtained degrees in classical piano and composition, as well as theater.

However, he explained that acting was “in his blood” and that like teaching, it was his job to share the world with music, acting, and most importantly, storytelling.

One special form of storytelling is Lemmon’s one-man show based off of his memoir A Twist of Lemmon. The show tells the story of his life with his father Jack Lemmon until his unfortunate passing in 2001. In both the play and in the book, he shares his stories of their moments of bonding, the professor’s own journey into acting, and their final moments together. The play has had remarkable success not just in the United States, but has also toured in England and has lead a look into the life of Jack Lemmon.

According to Lemmon, the work “is exhausting on the body, but the spirit it worth it.”

Lemmon was introduced to the University through a mutual friend. He and his wife, Gina, are ambassadors for the New England division of the American Cancer Society. A fellow member and the Director of Development in the Office of Advancement, Mary Murphy, introduced the professor to the University, and after some talking, the course was born.

Lemmon described that his class and teaching tenure “has no end in sight” that it is “an ongoing process.” Lemmon is excited to teach his colleagues all about the Golden Age of Movies and the true art behind the brilliance of movies.

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Hollywood Gets A Twist of Lemmon