A Manhattan insurance clerk tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.A Manhattan insurance clerk tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.A Manhattan insurance clerk tries to rise in his company by letting its executives use his apartment for trysts, but complications and a romance of his own ensue.
One of the reasons that I enjoy this is that I end up viewing films that I might not, otherwise, choose to watch. Case in point is the selection for May - the 1960 Oscar winner for Best Picture, THE APARTMENT - a "love story" with some comedy and some dark dramatic moments and themes. A very tricky combination of items that are bundled together, brilliantly, by a master of the craft.
THE APARTMENT tells the story of nebbish office worker C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon in an Oscar nominated performance, more on that later) who is talked into lending his apartment to higher-ups in his company so they can carry out extra-marital affairs. When one of the affairs goes wrong, Baxter is forced to "clean up the mess".
Written and Directed by the GREAT Billy WIlder (SOME LIKE IT HOT, SUNSET BOULEVARD), The Apartment is more than a love story, more than a look into the vacuous lives of those anonymous office workers, it is a look into the lives of those who are victims of abuse of power. Wilder, rightfully so, won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Screenplay for this film. The Apartment is strongly written and directed not flinching at the deep subject matter while also balancing things out with moments of comedy and joy, turning what could have been a dour, dark subject into a more joyous exploration of true humanity and love rising through the corruption and abuse of power heaped upon them.
In the lead role of CC Baxter, Lemmon is perfectly cast. Starting as a pure comedic character who is set upon by a world too strong for him, his character slowly turns sharper, deeper, more serious and more real as the film progresses. Lemmon was nominated for the Oscar for his performance - and rightfully so. I had to look up who beat him out for the statue and found out it was Burt Lancaster's powerhouse performance in ELMER GANTRY, so I can't really argue about this (but I digress).
Matching Lemmon beat for beat is Shirley MacLaine, the wronged girl who's "issues" (I'm not going to spoil what happens, if you haven't seen this) are at the heart of this film - and at the heart of Lemmon's character. MacLaine is charming and tragic in this role and she, too, was nominated for an Oscar (for Best Actress losing to Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8). Rounding out the cast was a pre-MY 3 SONS Fred MacMurray (as the Exec who abuses both Lemmon's and MacLaine's characters). He was terrific as this cad, and thought for sure that he would have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but that honor went to Jack Kruschen as Lemmon's neighbor in the apartment building where they both lived. I am fine with that but preferred MacMurray's performance. Also showing up are such great character actors as Ray Walston (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN), David Lewis (GENERAL HOSPITAL), Willard Waterman (THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE) and David White (Larry Tate in BEWITCHED) as other Execs using The Apartment for their purposes.
This is a terrific motion picture and if you haven't seen it (or if you haven't seen it in quite sometime), I highly recommend you check it out (it is shown on the Turner Classic Movie channel on a fairly regular basis). It certainly shows a slice of life during the MAD MEN days that just doesn't exist anymore - and also presents a type of film, and a type of filmmaker, that just doesn't exist today.
Letter Grade: A+
10 (out of 10) stars and you can take that to the Bank (ofMarquis)
- May 11, 2018