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Ohhh - after my 4th or 5th viewing, I think this may be one of the most
remarkable blends of comedy and drama to have ever been filmed - THE
APARTMENT - in subtle ways - rises well above the conventions of any
genre. It was my introduction to the great Billy Wilder, and my
fondness for Jack Lemmon (a remarkable and sorely missed actor) begins
here as well.
The cold take on the sex-and-money ethos to be found in many corporate environments hasn't dated one bit; it could be argued that THE APARTMENT stands a bit ahead of its' time in the depiction of (what would appear to be) educated employees treated like (and feeling like) tools to be used in generation of someone else's income. Lemmon's character never forgets that he's disposable, even if the optimist in him hopes that something better may be found in his superiors. Deep down he knows this to be a pipe dream - the sexual adventurism of those same superiors betrays their utter lack of ethics. Of course, Lemmon's character isn't entirely above it all; he's been more than willing to hire out his own apartment as a place for his colleagues' peccadilloes, in exchange for career advancement, which of course - as Wilder early on links amoral sexual conduct and professional/corporate/financial misconduct in a greater social critique - gets him into trouble.
The dialogue is - as is always true with Wilder - very finely crafted, yet seems natural - this film is a remarkable display of the kind of reactions any of us would offer in similar situations. Interestingly, our two protagonists are also wonderfully imperfect as human beings - Lemmon and MacLaine bear some responsibility for the very serious situations they've gotten themselves into; they manage to realize this ("Be a mensch!" Lemmon's doctor neighbor exclaims) just in time to set things right. MacLaine in particular delivers a remarkable, complex performance - sweet and smart in her earliest scenes, bleak and emotionally ravaged in her climactic scene with MacMurray, naive elsewhere, sharp but hopeful at the end. The cinematography captures the entire cast beautifully - with minimal movement, abundant long takes, and a sleek lack of visual clutter, all of the principals are free to reveal their own best and worst impulses, within an environment that is stripped of artifice. The end result is a film filled with great moments one can easily identify with.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening--dinner, Christmas and New Year's
with CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and 'friends', accompanied by much champagne
and laughter, and spaghetti and meatballs lovingly prepared by the host
himself. There's even a game of gin rummy to get into that Baxter and Fran
can't ever seem to finish--here's hoping it never does!
THE APARTMENT is one of those truly classic classic movies--for one thing, it has an absolutely top-notch cast, featuring Jack Lemmon (at his wryly humourous best); Shirley MacLaine (a glowing screen presence); Fred MacMurray (smarm personified); and a younger Ray Walston (still wisecracking, still hilarious). They also benefit from a clever, perceptive and timelessly relevant script by Billy Wilder, under his capable direction. Though there are plenty of brilliant one-liners, the best of the dialogue feels true and real, which adds to the feeling that you've known Baxter et al for years. I loved the score to the movie as well, artfully attributed to the Rickshaw Boys and used to great effect.
There are so many good moments scattered throughout the film (I can't even begin to enumerate them all here!). A lot of them are little touches that must have been added by the actors themselves (Jack Lemmon humming as he prepares the meatball sauce is just *so* funny!). I love the madness of the Christmas party scene, and when Baxter's doctor-neighbour takes charge of the situation with Fran, slapping her awake and marching her around the living room. I also love it when Baxter first starts playing gin rummy with Fran, and she reveals how she has a talent for falling for the wrong guy all the time. Best of all, Lemmon makes such a believable, sweet pushover that you often want to shake him and hug him at the same time--the things he would do for Fran! It makes his final scene with MacMurray that much more satisfying for the audience.
If you see this gem of a movie on a video store shelf, or (even better) playing in the cinema, don't let it pass you by. Join Baxter, Fran, Mr. Sheldrake and everyone else, and have a great time!
Written by the great filmmaker Billy Wilder, this is a serious, sardonic comedy for people who've known what's its like to feel the pressure of compromising your principles or your self- respect for the sake of getting ahead in life. And there are very few over the age of consent who haven't had to at one time or another. This isn't the laugh out loud comedy of Jim Carrey or the Farrelly brothers, but a subtle, nuanced comedy about two people who have both been jaded in love and yet continue to hope again and again that it will someday work out for them -- mainly because despite the unlikeable things they do, they are both basically decent, nice people. Flawed and even weak at times, but good people. This is a movie that doesn't just make it you laugh, it makes you think. A rare find indeed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Billy Wilder knew how to make a great movie. Of course it helps to have
one of the greatest all-time actors, Jack Lemon, play in your movies,
but Lemon aside, Wilder was a genius. His gift for the comedic moment
showed brilliantly on screen and reached deep inside the audience.
The Apartment, the last of the great Black and White films, showed a bit darker side to comedy than some of his other romps such as the hilarious Some Like It Hot. Some Like It Hot is just as funny today as it was in 1959. It is pure fun. At no point in the film are we approached with anything that we would take seriously. Let's face it, most of us are not running from the mob disguised as a member from the opposite sex.
The Apartment, however, brings up much more human themes and issues. Wilder is an expert and at no time does he leave you worried that it will turn out badly. This is, after all, a comedy. One mistake in the script and the movie could quickly become a deep film about suicide, loneliness, and peer pressure, but Wilder balances the subjects on the edge of a knife and allows us to smile at what could otherwise be a very depressing movie.
Wilder and his films like The Apartment are very similar to Shakespeare's comedies. It can be said that the difference between a Shakespeare comedy and tragedy is often not the story, but the ending. In a comedy, everyone is married; in a tragedy, everyone dies. the same is true with The Apartment, it all hinges on the outcomes. If Kubelik dies or Baxter is left alone, the movie would be a tragedy. But since they prevail in the end, the movie comes off as a great comedic success, albeit a bit dark.
After the first time I saw The Apartment, I admired it so much and placed it
in my favorite movies list. After watching it a second time on widescreen
and digitally remastered DVD, my love for it just deepened. I was once again
touched by Shirley MacLaine's portrayal of Miss Kubelik, a lovely but
unlucky in love woman. I also laughed again at Jack Lemmon's perfect
delivery of one-liners and other mannerisms.
Billy Wilder made The Apartment right after the huge success of his last film, Some Like It Hot, also with Jack Lemmon. The Apartment is not as funny, but it is more accomplished and deeper in meaning. Watching it in widescreen made me appreciate more the complexity of the story. Widescreen shots of C.C. Baxter's (Lemmon) apartment shows emptiness and loneliness. The shot of Baxter's office, which has employees in desks that seem to extend into eternity, shows that Baxter is just a faceless man in a populated world.
C.C. Baxter is an ambitious employee in an insurance company. He tries to work himself to a promotion by allowing his philandering bosses to use his apartment as a perfect hideaway. As an exchange for the use of his apartment, his bosses put him in the top ten of the efficiency reports. After getting a promotion and successfully asking the elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) on a date, everything was going well for Baxter. Until he finds out that Miss Kubelik is the mistress of his big boss J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray).
Miss Kubelik and Sheldrake had a summer affair and Sheldrake wants Kubelik back admitting that he still loves her. Showing vulnerability, she agrees to get back together and ends up using Baxter's apartment twice a week. Naturally there will be problems. Sheldrake could not break up his marriage, and Kubelik does not like how the relationship is going but couldn't help being in love with him. Kubelik summed it up when she said `when you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara.'
For Baxter, things couldn't be more complex. He wants to keep getting promotions but he might lose Kubelik in the process. He adores Kubelik but he doesn't want to be unemployed. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's script couldn't have been better written. It ranks up there with the likes of great scripts of Casablanca and Citizen Kane. They filled it with small intricate details and such funny lines. The Apartment is very ingenious and inspirational. When I wasn't laughing, I was smiling.
Billy Wilder perfected the style of satirical filmmaking. In The Apartment, he touches a lot of subjects. The movie deals with adultery, suicide, loneliness, and corporate cutthroats. The movie won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but surprisingly, no acting Oscars. I have seen many romantic comedies, and while many are good, most of them do not have the same heart and warmth as The Apartment. It is in my list of top ten favorite movies because it entertained me, inspired me, and showed me how to live human-wise.
One of the finest examples of smart, satiric comedy-drama ever created for the screen. Jack Lemmon (in amazing comic form) plays a working stiff in Corporate America--via New York City--whose bachelor apartment inadvertently becomes a love-nest for amorous, married executives. The film is extremely modern for 1960 and features a non-stop barrage of funny, clever talk. Lemmon is a mad genius at frenzied (yet sympathetic) characterization, and "The Apartment" catches him at his professional peak in the movies. Working alongside huggable neurotic Shirley MacLaine (also at her peak) and shady Fred MacMurray (parlaying his slimeball role with curt persuasion), Lemmon creates a new kind of acting: screwball realism. **** from ****
Jack Lemmon is the man.
The Apartment really surprised me. The Best Picture winner starts off right in the middle of the action, but yet the first hour seems long and overrun. Too much time seems spent in trying to develop the characters (and oh so many of them) and not enough time is spent on just seeing what will happen. Just when I was about to lose faith, the film picks it up like I have never seen before. The whole sub-plot of the four guys wanting to use Lemmon's apartment for their evening tyrsts is dropped and Wilder smartly concentrates on Lemmon, MacLaine and MacMurray and the film creates true magic.
The Apartment is more of a drama than a comedy and balances the two elements perfectly. Just after one of the more dramatic moments of the film, we see Lemmon straining his pasta with a tennis racquet. The use of the doctor and his wife in supporting roles are completely there for comedy and yet add so much to the film. The ending also rates up there with the best of all time using an old device that doesn't seem at all cliched in this film. Some say that "Some like it hot" was Wilder's best, but now I have to disagree. The Apartment is better and surely would have made my top ten had the first hour not been so predictable.
How Jack Lemmon didn't win Best Actor is beyond me. His is a great performance, getting to act on more than one scale. MacMurray, another Wilder favourite is perfectly cast in the role of a family-wrecker. I wish they would have put a scene in which his wife confronts him with "The News". MacLaine glows on the screen even when she is sick and in bed.
I fully recommend this film to all, it being Wilder's best makes it a must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the recent biography of Billy Wilder by Ed Sikov, it is mentioned
that for the first time Wilder used as his protagonist a lovable loser.
Think about it. In a whole lot of his previous films the main lead in
Ace in the Hole, Double Indemnity, Stalag 17 are the people who are the
takers as Shirley MacLaine describes Fred MacMurray here.
In The Apartment, it's the schnook that's took who the story focuses on. Jack Lemmon creates one of his immortal characters in C.C. Baxter, a minor cog in the machinery of the insurance company he works for.
Lemmon has maybe found a way to move up the corporate ladder, but it's driving him nuts. He lives on West 67 Street in Manhattan, a most convenient location for kanoodling. Only it isn't him that kanoodles. One time he allowed one of the middle level managers to use his apartment for a little nookie. One guy tells another and so on and so on and pretty soon Lemmon can't call his place his own.
In walks big boss Fred MacMurray to seemingly save the situation. But it turns out he only wants exclusive use for himself and he actually does vault Baxter several steps up the corporate ladder. And unfortunately MacMurray is currently kanoodling with elevator operator Shirley MacLaine who Lemmon has a thing for.
The Apartment was years ahead of its time in that it was one of the first major films to deal with sexual harassment. The whole group of middle executives Ray Walston, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, David White and the big cheese Fred MacMurray just look on that insurance company as one gigantic harem. As typical for 1960 note there are no women in any managerial positions at all.
Fred MacMurray almost didn't play Mr. Sheldrake. Paul Douglas was cast originally, but died suddenly just before shooting on The Apartment commenced. MacMurray stepped in and got great critical reviews for another effort with Billy Wilder as a heavy. MacMurray was also starting at this time a long run in the family comedy My Three Sons on television. There would be no more bad guys in his future.
Billy Wilder held out in casting for Jack Kruschen as Doctor Dreyfus the next door neighbor who is available to save Shirley MacLaine's life. The folks at United Artists were ready to sign Groucho Marx for the part. Wilder's faith in Kruschen was justified, he got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Peter Ustinov for Spartacus.
Lemmon and MacLaine were also nominated for the leads, but failed to win. But The Apartment was chosen Best Film of 1960 and Billy Wilder was Best Director.
Also look out for a biting performance by Edie Adams who really makes her role count as MacMurray's secretary and former flame. During a Christmas party she tips off MacLaine to MacMurray's philandering ways and then later on brings the house of cards all around Fred.
The Apartment is so timeless in so many ways although women in the workplace have made great strides in the last 46 years. One thing though that does show how dated it is. It's mentioned that Lemmon pays $94.00 a month, presumably rent controlled, for a one bedroom apartment in the West Sixties in Manhattan.
Now that is dated.
Billy Wilder's "The Apartment" is a film which can produce some of the biggest laughs and at the same time... can bring many viewers to tears, Billy Wilder's quaint little tale about everyday people who get tangled up in love, jealousy and infidelity boasts a top-notch cast led by the trio of Lemmon, MacLaine and MacMurray who are tremendous. The plot revolves around C.C. (Lemmon) who unknowingly makes the unethical attempt of climbing the corporate ladder by 'loaning' his apartment to members from his management chain to entertain their 'women on the side'. Given the change of circumstances, this premise certainly could even hit home in the current office environment. Although the office party and secretarial gossip scenes could be viewed as dated, the power and attitude of the corporate executive, Mr. Sheldrake (MacMurray) is certainly symbolic. The character of Fran (MacLaine) for today's standards of course seems too submissive and vulnerable but the reward of her finding true, admirable, unconditional companionship is quite enriching and fulfilling to any who see this memorable film.
In the beginning of The Apartment we see C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon)
being lost in a sea of desks within a gigantic office room. He works
for a huge New York insurance company employing over thirty thousand
souls spread over twenty-seven floors. Sometimes he is working
overtime; "It's not like I was overly ambitious..." Baxter tells us
defensively. "You see, I have this little problem with my apartment
can't always get in when I want to."
The reason are several superiors, to whom he is lending his apartment for their extra-marital escapades. In exchange they promise to give his career a push by passing recommendations to the personnel manager, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Although Buddy Boy (that's his disrespectful yet firmly established nickname) is daily surrounded by hundreds of people, he is drowning in lonesomeness. Apart from his mocking colleagues, there does not seem to be any family or close friends. In fact, the only decent person among his acquaintances is his neighbour, Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), ironically under the wrong impression that the man next door is a womanizing drunkard.
So Baxter meekly adapts to the mercilessness of corporate life, putting all hopes of happiness into his career. His free evenings consist of watching TV, preparing dinner or cleaning up after the occupants of his apartment. Yes, one could say that Baxter does not exactly lead a joyful life.
Yet, there is something, or rather somebody carrying light into the loner's gloominess when he falls in love with the pretty elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). Although Fran likes him for his decency and kindness, she does not quite share the feelings of her ardent admirer. But Buddy Boy refuses to notice any signs of unrequited love and eventually talks her into going out with him. You can imagine how Baxter feels when she fails to turn up, and how things get significantly worse when he finds out that she is actually having intimate meetings with the personnel manager Mr. Sheldrake in HIS apartment. The image of purity Baxter had of Fran is gone. On Christmas Eve, he decides to drown his broken heart in a bar while his apartment is occupied by the cause of his misery. But Fran doesn't feel any happier than Baxter, and with the depressing effect Christmas can have on the lonesome and desperate, the story threatens to take a turn into tragedy...
It is hard to pin The Apartment on a single genre. The sharp, witty dialogue as well as Jack Lemmon's hilarious mimic would hint at a romantic comedy. Yet, one cannot overlook the tragic elements which let us dive into thoughtfulness, but never too deeply. Then again the film works on a satiric level, operating as cynical social commentary on corporate culture in the sixties (which is not very unlike today's business life). The remarkable thing about this film is that these three qualities merge perfectly into each other without ever losing the balance. The Apartment is a most entertaining picture, sometimes rushing from one hilarity to the next, and then suddenly slowing down to leave room for contemplation. Sometimes uplifting, sometimes depressing, sometimes both at the same time. Billy Wilder mixed these contrary moods, and most amazingly, it worked out just fine.
First and foremost The Apartment deals with loneliness and the everlasting search for unaccomplished love. "I used to live like Robinson Crusoe. I mean shipwrecked among 8 million people. And then one day I saw a footprint in the sand and there you were." Baxter tells Ms Kubelik. Does any relationship ever work out the way one dreamed it would? Additionally the film points out how people let themselves be treated badly out of total lack of self-esteem. Standing up for oneself and saying the simple word "no" can sometimes be an art of its own.
As an able filmmaker and scriptwriter (together with I. A. L. Diamond, "Some like it Hot"), Billy Wilder once again produced a film classic of outstanding quality. I have yet to see another picture, equally consistent at providing such humorous and well-timed dialogues. The amount of memorable quotes is remarkable and the entire cast did a terrific job at delivering them. Moreover, Wilder chose to shoot in black and white widescreen, shining with beautiful cinematography, and thereby gave the film a very special melancholy mood.
Maybe the greatest strength of The Apartment is its honesty. It doesn't lie to us by painting images of perfect love or of perfect people. Neither does it create scenarios of utter hopelessness. However, it shows us that although life can be unfair on default, everyone is responsible for oneself to work up the courage to achieve happiness. With the director's cynical, yet comic approach to life, the film takes itself serious and it doesn't. It lets us taste the bitter and the sweet, thereby lending itself a tone of reality. For that reason alone I don't feel cheated by The Apartment and its story never failed to cheer me up. Then again, I may be too much of a pessimistic optimist.
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