Save the Tiger
Save The Tiger was years ahead of it’s time. This film touches on so many subjects that spark hour long debates in today’s society, whether it be the environment, financial situations, sports, etc. We are brought into the daily life of Harry Stoner played by Jack Lemmon. Right from the start his views are heard and they’re heard loud and clear. He doesn’t like the world he’s living in. His youth is what he heralds as his golden days and things seemed to be a lot easier back then for him. The opening scene is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The dialogue is so rich and powerful and it doesn’t hurt that one of the industry’s best talents of all time was delivering them with precision.
Harry is trying to salvage his whole personal and business world. Everything seems to be a mess. He misses his daughter, he and his wife don’t seem to see eye to eye and his business needs money. All of this seems to be too much for Harry at one point when he breaks down on stage in front of a large group of investors at a sales show. That scene was very powerful when Harry started to vision his fallen comrades inside the banquet hall. Both the director and writer (John G. Avildsen and Steve Shagan) were years ahead of their time showcasing Harry’s problems with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A disorder that had little to no light shined on it during the 1970’s.
A man stops Harry on the side of the street and poses the proposition “Save the Tigers”. Why save the tigers? Why not save Harry Stoner? Rhetorical question… because they are one in the same. The tigers are a metaphor for Harry. They’re both a dying breed in today’s world and there’s just no practical use for them. They both have their problems that can be fixed but at a great cost. To save the tigers it would cost thousands of dollars to care for them and to fix Harry’s problem it would cost thousands of dollars as well. Money that people don’t want to hand out.
Harry is quite a complicated character. He has a different set of morals than you and I. He holds respect and integrity above everything else but he’s not afraid to low-ball anyone to get those. He’s very cynical of the world around him. He’s not open to making new acquaintances or establishing new reasoning and ways of looking at things. The only glimpse we see of him changing is when he meets the 21 year old girl and his life is contrasted to hers. She’s a free spirit wandering around while Harry in a way is chained to his monotonous life. He vicariously lives through her in those two scenes they’re together.
The whole film was a remarkable ride watching Jack Lemmon conquer this script. He has such passion and charisma on screen. Watching him act is truly like watching an artist paint a picture. The aforementioned scene and one where he is overlooking the ocean are the two main reasons he won the Oscar that year. Little by little it builds up to a masterpiece at the end. Not enough praise can be said for the writer too, Steve Shagan. Remarkable script. The ending is quite lovely and thought provoking as well. Well worth the watch.