lipstick-stained cigarettes, and stray earrings before eating his lonely TV dinner.
The payoff for all of this is supposed to be professional advancement, and Bud starts moving upstairs fast. Meanwhile, he’s
falling for a charmingly quirky elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). He doesn’t know she’s next on the list for a
tryst with a bigwig in the personnel department. The office fall guy is about to take a series of tumbles that get harder and
harder to bear.
Not one of the stupendous cast members
misses a beat, but Lemmon is a revelation.
He’s a stitch orchestrating a complicated switch
of apartment appointments, just so he and his
101-degree fever can get a decent night’s
sleep. He‘s disarming when he earnestly
models his new “junior executive” bowler hat
for Miss Kubelik. His bits of physical comedy -
leaving a mess of crumpled tissue on a boss’s
desk, draining spaghetti through a tennis
racket - are inspired.
It’s his unrequited love for Fran, his stalwart
support for her, his attempts to get her rat-fink
of a married boyfriend to be kind to her and his
careful tenderness that will really get you. Will
selfless love be the route to his salvation?
Lemmon makes you hope so.
MacLaine is lovely and touching as the girl who’s a “bad insurance risk” when it comes to men, falling for an old line from a
well-practiced liar, getting her backside pinched in her own elevator, and sadly knowing all along she's the one being taken
for a ride.
Hope Holiday does a fun bit as a bar fly who tries to get Bud’s attention by blowing the wrappers off drinking straws at his
bowler hat. Jack Kruschen is wonderful as Bud’s neighbor, a kindly doctor who thinks mild-mannered Bud is some sort of
disreputable party animal, but clearly can’t help liking the younger man.
Billy Wilder was a writer-turned-director, who took the
helm of his pictures to save his sharp writing and dark
plots from censors and meddling studio executives.
He wrote The Apartment with I.A.L. Diamond, his
collaborator on Some Like It Hot and all his later work.
Wilder's hand is plain in the clever plot situations,
crackling one-liners and sharp observations of human
foibles. He won the Best Director Oscar for the picture,
and he and Diamond also took home the Best
The Apartment was the last classic black-and-white
film to win the Best Picture award. (Not until 1993 did
another black-and-white film, Schindler’s List, win the
top prize.) Lemmon, MacLaine and Kruscher were
nominated, but all lost out on the acting awards.
The Apartment also marked the end of Fred
MacMurray’s career as a screen villain. The actor
received so much fan criticism for his role as the
reprehensible Mr. Sheldrake that he accepted only
nice-guy roles from then on, including the absent-minded inventor of flubber in The Nutty Professor.
One of the fun little features of the film is Lemmon's opening narration. It sets the scene in a New York that few would
recognize today, where men always wear hats, elevator operators wear uniforms and white gloves, and a nice little one-
bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side goes for $85 a month.
June 14, 2010
Review - " The Apartment (1960) " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
For comments or to submit a movie review for possible inclusion on Delta Films site
please send an email to Critics@deltafilms.net
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray
Walston, Johnny Seven, Hope Holiday, David Lewis, Edie Adams, David
White, Willard Waterman, Joan Shawlee
Over the next few months I plan to review my favorite films from each
year for 1960 thru the present. I hope to get thru a decade per month.
Since June is already half over that will mean at least 1 review every day
and a half, plus keeping up with the reviews of current releases. Whew!
A daunting task to say the least.
The Apartment is the bittersweet, darkly comic tale of a mild-mannered
office nebbish who sells little bits of his body and soul to climb the
corporate ladder, falls in love on the way up and finds his way back
down to redemption. Jack Lemmon will quite simply break your heart in
this wry, cynical indictment of corporate America.
C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon) toils away at desk number 861 on the 19th
floor of the Consolidated Life of New York insurance building, making a
modest living which pays for a cozy little bachelor apartment on the
Upper West Side. The problem is, Bud spends most of his evenings
outside the apartment, waiting for the coast to clear.
He’s fallen into an arrangement with some of the married higher-ups in
the office who use the apartment for liaisons with secretaries,
switchboard operators, and girls they pick up in bars. They leave his
key under the mat, and he’s left to clean up the empty booze bottles,
Fred MacMurray plays an irredeemable
scoundrel, the highest higher-up, with a
perfect wife and kids in the suburbs and
who-knows-how-many girls on the side. He’s
ably assisted by a raft of office wolves
including Ray Walston as a randy
supervisor and David Lewis as a stinker who
keeps putting “-wise” on the end of words
for corporate double speak and double
entendre. “Profit-wise.” “Kubelik-wise.”
Many cite the screwball comedy Some Like
It Hot or the ultimate film noir Double
Indemnity as their favorite Wilder film. For
me, the prize goes to The Apartment, which
lies somewhere in between. It’s both light and
dark, cynical and humane. It’s a moving story
that condemns human weakness and
celebrates strength of character in the same
man, and makes you care about him all the
way through. It’s brilliant.
The Apartment is the film that made me fall in
love with Shirley MacLaine. She is, without a
doubt, the cutest thing I'd ever seen.