The Apartment (1960)

Sixty years ago today, the film The Apartment premiered. It’s one of those great mid-century film that is a time capsule of what was. Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, and Fred MacMurray at the top of their game. You have to see this film.

The Apartment 002

Title: The Apartment
Directed by: Billy Wilder
Produced by: Billy Wilder
Written by: Billy Wilder, I. A. L. Diamond
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen
Music by: Adolph Deutsch
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Edited by: Daniel Mandell
Production company: The Mirisch Company
Distributed by: United Artists
Release date: June 30, 1960
Running time: 125 minutes
Budget: $3 million
Box office: $24.6 million
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Billy Wilder
Academy Awards Best Director Billy Wilder
Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond
Academy Awards Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Alexandre Trauner and Edward G. Boyle
Academy Awards Best Film Editing Daniel Mandell
BAFTA Best Film
BAFTA Best Foreign Actor Jack Lemmon
BAFTA Best Foreign Actress Shirley MacLaine
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Golden Globe Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jack Lemmon
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Shirley MacLaine

C.C. “Bud” Baxter is a lonely office drudge at a national insurance corporation in a high-rise building in New York City. In order to climb the corporate ladder, Bud allows four company managers to take turns borrowing his Upper West Side apartment for their various extramarital liaisons, which are so noisy that his neighbors assume that Bud is a playboy bringing home a different woman every night.

The four managers write glowing reports about Bud, who hopes for a promotion from the personnel director, Jeff D. Sheldrake. Sheldrake does promote Bud, but he knows why they were so enthusiastic and demands exclusive privileges to borrow the apartment himself, starting that same night. As compensation for such short notice, he gives Baxter two tickets to The Music Man.

After work, Bud catches Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator he has had his eye on, and asks her to go to the musical with him. She accepts, but first has to meet a former fling. He is Sheldrake, who convinces her that he is about to divorce his wife for her. They go to Bud’s apartment as Bud waits forlornly outside the theater.

Later, at the company’s raucous Christmas party, Sheldrake’s secretary Miss Olsen drunkenly tells Fran that Fran is one of many female employees Sheldrake has seduced into affairs with the false promise of divorcing his wife, including Miss Olsen herself. At Bud’s apartment, Fran confronts Sheldrake, upset with herself for believing his lies. Sheldrake maintains that he genuinely loves her, but then leaves to return to his suburban family as usual.

Meanwhile, Bud accidentally learns about Sheldrake and Fran when he notices Fran’s broken hand mirror, the same one which he returned to Sheldrake. Heartbroken, he lets himself be picked up by a married woman at a local bar. When they arrive at his apartment, he is shocked to find Fran in his bed, fully clothed and unconscious from an intentional overdose of his sleeping pills. He sends his pick-up away and enlists the help of his neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss, to revive Fran without notifying the authorities. To protect both his and her jobs, Bud takes advantage of his playboy reputation, letting Dreyfuss believe Fran had accidentally swallowed too many pills after a lovers’ quarrel with him. Scolding Bud for his apparent philandering, Dreyfuss advises him to “be a mensch, a human being.”

Fran spends two days recuperating in the apartment, while Bud does his best to entertain and distract her from any suicidal thoughts, and a bond develops between them. He tells her he once attempted suicide himself over unrequited feelings for a girl who now sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. They begin playing a game of gin rummy as Fran reveals that she has always suffered bad luck in her love life. Bud dissuades her from phoning her family until her head is clear, before preparing a romantic dinner for her. During this period one of the executives arrives with a woman; Bud sends them away, but the man sees Fran. Then Fran’s brother-in-law Karl Matuschka comes to the office looking for her. Resenting Bud for denying them access to his apartment, the executives direct Karl there. When Bud again takes responsibility for Fran’s actions, Karl punches him. Fran kisses Bud on the forehead for not revealing her affair with Sheldrake and, sensing that she now cares for him, Bud smiles and says it “didn’t hurt a bit.”

Sheldrake rewards Bud with a further promotion, and fires Miss Olsen for what she told Fran. Miss Olsen retaliates by revealing the years of affairs to Sheldrake’s wife, who promptly throws her husband out. Sheldrake moves into a room at his athletic club, but now figures he can string Fran along while he enjoys his newfound bachelorhood. However, when Sheldrake asks Bud for the apartment key, Bud instead gives back the key to the executive washroom, announces he has decided to become a mensch, and quits the firm, no longer willing to participate in the corrupt executives’ exploitation of women, especially Fran.

That night at a New Year’s Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran what happened. Realizing she is in love with Bud, Fran abandons Sheldrake and runs to Bud’s apartment. At the door, she hears a loud noise like a gunshot. Fearing that Bud has attempted suicide again, Fran pounds on the door and screams his name until Bud opens it, holding an overflowing bottle of champagne which was the source of the noise. Bud has been packing, planning to find a new job and a new home, and is surprised and delighted to see her. Fran insists on resuming their gin rummy game, telling Bud she is now free as well. Bud asks, “What about Mr. Sheldrake?” and Fran responds, “We’ll send him a fruitcake every Christmas.” Bud declares his love for Fran, and she replies lovingly, “Shut up and deal.” He does, and they begin playing, sharing adoring gazes and smiles.

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