Save the Tiger (1973)

“Save the Tiger,” John G. Avildsen's moralistic and sentimental melodrama, is a follow-up to his feature debut, “Joe” in 1970, and preceded “Rocky,” his best-known, Oscar-winning film in 1976. A serious-minded, Arthur Miller-like chronicle of the failed American Dream, “Save the Tiger,” penned by Steve Shagan, centers on one day in the life a Los Angeles garment manufacturer named Harry Stoner.

Jack Lemmon gives a sympathetic performance as an Everyday Man, who is cheated by the American Dream and feels absolutely rotten about every aspect of his life. Indeed, Harry recalling with nostalgia his childhood the Golden Age of the 1940s, when there was a clear value system and people subscribed to it.

A middle-class bourgeois, Harry lives in a nice Beverly Hills home, sends his daughter to a Swiss finishing school, drives a Lincoln limo equipped with a telephone. But alongside his daydreams of a better youth, he suffers from recurrent anxieties and nightmares, prompting his wife Janet (Patricia Smith) to propose therapy sessions with Dr. Frankfurter.

To finance his disintegration into middle age, he juggles the books of Capri Casuals and isn't against pimping for an important client. On the way to work Downtown, he picks up a liberated hitchhiker (Laurie Heineman), who suggests they go to bed.

When the banks refuse to give the business another loan, Harry is forced by his partner to consider arson as a way out of financial trouble. In desperation, he puts out a contract to burn down one of his factories in Long Beach, though not before the arsonist David assures him of his experience and professionalism, namely, that he has set numerous industrial fires over the past three years.

The meeting with David takes place in a porno movie house. The title derives from fund-raising conducted by Biff Elliott, outside the theater, to save wildlife, particularly lions and tigers.

Pressures build up, and Harry's decline intensifies, culminating in a nervous breakdown he experiences at a fashion show, convinced that his clients are his dead peers from their days of fighting in WWII.

As Phil Green, Harry Stoner's partner, Jack Gilford gives a standout, Oscar-nominated performance (See Below).

Oscar Nominations: 3

Story and Screenplay: Steve Shagan
Actor: Jack Lemmon
Supporting Actor: Jack Gilford

Oscar Awards: 1

Actor

Oscar Context:

In 1973, the winner of the Story and Screenplay Oscar was David S. Ward for “The Sting,” which also won Best Picture. The recipient of the Supporting Actor was vet John Houseman, better known as a producer, for “The Paper Chase.”

Ironically, Lemmon received his acting accolades for straight “dramatic” performances, first for playing an alcoholic in “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), a career breakthrough for which he earned his third nomination. Lemmon won the Best Actor (and second) Oscar for “Save the Tiger,” a film about the moral disintegration of a garment manufacturer who resorts to arson out of financial desperation.

Cast:

Harry Stoner (Jack Lemmon)
Phil Greene (Jack Gilford) Myra the Hitchhiker (Laurie Heineman)
Fred Mirrell (Norman Burton)
Janet Stoner (Patricia Smith)
Charlie Robbins (Thayer David)
Meyer (William Hansen)
Rico (Harvey Jason)
Ula (Liv von Linden)
Margo the Prostitute (Lara Parker)