Save the Tiger
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn G. Avildsen
Written bySteve Shagan
Produced bySteve Shagan
StarringJack Lemmon
Jack Gilford
Laurie Heineman
CinematographyJames Crabe
Edited byDavid Bretherton
Music byMarvin Hamlisch
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • February 14, 1973 (1973-02-14)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,000,000 (US and Canada rentals)[1]

Save the Tiger is a 1973 American drama film about moral conflict in contemporary America directed by John G. Avildsen, and starring Jack Lemmon, Jack Gilford, Laurie Heineman, Thayer David, Lara Parker, and Liv Lindeland. The screenplay was adapted by Steve Shagan from his novel of the same title.

Lemmon won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Harry Stoner (making him the first of six actors to win Oscars for both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor), an executive in the garment industry who struggles with the complexity of modern life versus the simplicity of his youth.


Harry Stoner (Jack Lemmon) is the owner of a struggling Los Angeles apparel company. He and his partner Phil Greene (Jack Gilford), have kept it from collapsing by fraudulent accounting. He lives in a mansion in Beverly Hills and is obsessed with the past, which included combat during World War II. While driving to work he picks up a young free-spirited hitchhiker on Sunset strip, Myra. She offers to have sex with him but he declines. With no legal way to keep the company from going under, Stoner considers torching his warehouse for the insurance settlement.

The arson is agreed to very reluctantly by Greene, an older family man who watches Harry's decline with alarm. Through it all, Harry drinks, laments the state of the world, and tries his best to keep the business rolling as usual. This last task is complicated when a client has a heart attack while cavorting with a prostitute provided by Stoner, as he has been doing for important clients for years.

With nerves still shaky, Stoner takes the stage at the premiere of his company's new line, only to be overcome by war memories. The line, however, is a success. Stoner ends the day picking up Myra again who is still hitchhiking and spending the night with her. Her ignorance of the history of his generation underscores the disconnect those who fight our wars experience when forced to accede to the demands of so-called "civilization"--everyday business and family life.



The movie was written by Steve Shagan and directed by John G. Avildsen. Lemmon was determined to make the movie, despite its limited commercial prospects, and so he waived his usual salary and worked for scale. The movie was filmed in sequence after three weeks of rehearsal in Los Angeles. There is also a novel version of Save the Tiger, by Shagan: the title comes from a campaign to save tigers from extinction for which Stoner signs a petition.


The movie failed financially at the box office, but critics and viewers who saw it liked the performance of Lemmon as Stoner. Critic John Simon wrote Save the Tiger 'is a film with good, serious intentions, and thus a somewhat touching failure'.[2]

New York Times critic Vincent Canby called it "not a very good movie but it's a rather brave one, a serious-minded examination of some of the least interesting aspects of the failed American dream."[3]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 25 reviews, and an average rating of 7.2/10.[4]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Actor Jack Lemmon Won
Best Supporting Actor Jack Gilford Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Produced or Published Steve Shagan Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Save the Tiger Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Jack Gilford Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Written Directly for the Screenplay Steve Shagan Won

See also


  1. ^ "Tracking the Players". Variety. January 18, 1993. p. 36.
  2. ^ Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Film. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 102.
  3. ^ Canby, Vincent (1973-02-15). "Screen: 'Save the Tiger'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-06-10.
  4. ^ "Save the Tiger (1973)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 11, 2021.