Because today would have been Jack Lemmon’s 96th birthday, and because I have a soft spot for the many amusing letters written by, and to, Jack Lemmon, today’s newsletter is a Jack Lemmon special—featuring a letter of consolation to Lemmon from his frequent co-star Walter Matthau, a couple of letters from Lemmon to his good friend Burt Reynolds, a congratulatory letter from Lemmon to Michael Douglas shortly after the release of Wall Street, and, finally, a letter from Lemmon to Matthau about cats which, although clearly a joke, could, I suppose, upset the squeamish, and which, FYI, features in Letters of Note: Cats, a (very good) book filled with letters about…….cats.
WALTER MATTHAU TO JACK LEMMON
June 3, 1979
Your inability to win the Tony Award has put a deep strain on our relationship. Please don’t try to get too familiar with us anymore. Your incompetence is shameful. Go suck on a popsicle.
JACK LEMMON TO BURT REYNOLDS
November 7, 1978
I have been meaning to get a hold of you for days, but I’m very big on Broadway and I have very little time to give cogent advice to younger hopefuls.
However, the entire city of New York has informed me that by an incredible stroke of luck you will be attending this Thursday’s performance of “Tribute” (which will be brilliant), and I merely wanted to know if you would like to enjoy the added thrill of having dinner with the star afterwards?
I don’t want to rattle you, but if you say no it may fuck-up the entire performance.
I would also like you to know that this invitation is extended only because of the lady you are bringing, who is a hell of a lot more attractive than you are!
John Uhler Lemmon III
JACK LEMMON TO BURT REYNOLDS
June 7, 1982
It has come to my attention that you sent a contribution of $10,000 to the Jack Lemmon Burn Center in the Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.
I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that you couldn’t come up with a sizable contribution, but God knows after all these years I, as much as anyone, understand the ups and downs of this crazy business. Some years are good, some years are bad, and even though you’re obviously on the shit list, I certainly appreciate the fact that you made some kind of effort no matter how meager.
I do think it is important for me to clarify an area of possible confusion on your part. Burn Centre has nothing to do with critical reaction to your work. However, it’s too fucking late so we’re going to keep the money and help a hell of a lot of kids.
One of these days I’m going to work with you even if it kills me (and it probably will).
Many thanks, and love,
JACK LEMMON TO MICHAEL DOUGLAS
December 14, 1987
Let’s face it—I have been in the acting dodge for centuries and I think I know a little bit about talent and human behavior and I know that you’re one dandy fella’ personally and a joy to work with professionally, but I also now know that that’s a crock of shit because I don’t care how good an actor is, nobody could play that part [Gordon Gekko in Wall Street] the way you did without basically being a rotten stinking insensitive vicious prick and I am personally going to spread the word and I don’t ever want to speak to you again.
Congratulations, you were absolutely brilliant.
JACK LEMMON TO WALTER MATTHAU
December 23rd, 1988
I know you’re always interested in looking for opportunities for investment.
I don’t know if you would be interested in this, but I thought I would mention it to you because it could be a real “sleeper” in making a lot of money with very little investment.
A group of us are considering investing in a large cat ranch near Hermosillo, Mexico. It is our purpose to start rather small, with about one million cats. Each cat averages about twelve kittens a year: skins can be sold for about 20¢ for the white ones and up to 40¢ for the black. This will give us 12 million cat skins per year to sell at an average price of around 32¢, making our revenues about $3 million a year. This really averages out to £10 thousand a day - excluding Sundays and holidays.
A good Mexican cat man can skin about 50 cats per day at a wage of $3.15 a day. It will only take 663 men to operate the ranch so the net profit would be over $8,200 per day.
Now, the cats would be fed on rats exclusively. Rats multiply four times as fast as cats. We would start a ranch adjacent to our cat farm. If we start with a million rats, we will have four rats per cat each day. The rats will be fed on the carcasses of the cats that we skin. This will give each rat a quarter of a cat. You can see by this that this business is a clean operation - self-supporting and really automatic throughout. The cats will eat the rats and the rats will eat the cats and we will get the skins.
Let me know if you are interested. As you can imagine, I am rather particular who I want to get into this, and want the fewest investors possible.
Eventually, it is my hope to cross the cats with snakes, for they will skin themselves twice a year. This would save labor costs of skinning as well as give me two skins for one cat.
I really felt that giving you an opportunity like this would be the greatest Christmas present possible.
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