Even Billy Wilder dubs his greatest commercial success, Irma La Douce, a "misfire." Adapted from the bawdy French musical comedy by Alexandre Breffort, the film had been the perfect naughty romance for the swinging '60s. It was one of the decade's biggest box-office draws and was hailed by trade papers as a comic blockbuster. Yet, as with many popular movies, Irma La Douce's appeal went out with its era. No longer able to hide behind its trendy premise, the film revealed itself as it remains: a mistaken attempt to adapt a musical without music, to transform a sex farce into a screwball comedy, and to evoke a foreign atmosphere using American actors. When Wilder and co-screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond let go of Irma La Douce's songs, they forsook the primary outlet for Breffort's characters to emote, to joke, to celebrate and, most importantly, to interact. The story's colorful players and their relationships are stifled by the script's straight dialogue. When the two screenwriters supplemented Irma La Douce's tawdry charades with screwball-esque repartee, they flattened its bawdy humor. Double entendre is lost in a picture with such an obvious sexual surface. Lastly, when Wilder utilized an American cast for the Gallic tale, he broke his own imperative (as inferred by colleague Cameron Crowe): never present foreigners with perfect American accents. The film does not achieve a convincing Parisian feel, and ultimately, Irma La Douce is simply off the mark. It will always be remembered as a success but never as a classic.
by Aubry Anne D'Arminio review