The Apartment

1960 movie

If you haven’t seen it:

apartmentThe Apartment is a classic comedy drama, set over the Christmas period.

It tells the story of a put-upon insurance clerk (Jack Lemmon) who attempts to further his career by loaning out his apartment to his seedy superiors, who need a place to entertain their mistresses. He is unaware that the object of his own affection, the elevator girl (Shirley Maclain), is one of the mistresses.

This film features a huge amount of talent. Writer/director Billy Wilder was one of the greats, responsible for Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, and Some Like it Hot. Jack Lemmon was a Hollywood legend, and is there anyone who does not love Shirley Maclain? No-one I have ever met, that’s for sure.

If you have seen it:

Scroll down past the trailer for more.

SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.

Plot:

apartment-men
There’s never an angry feminist with a baseball bat around when you need one

C. C. “Bud” Baxter is a lowly office worker at a dreary insurance company in New York City. In order to progress his career, he has started doing favours for some of his superiors – he allows them to use his conveniently located apartment to entertain their mistresses.

Bud is also in love with elevator operator Fran Kubelik.

When Bud’s managers write glowing reports about Baxter’s performance at work, personnel director Mr. Sheldrake becomes suspicious, and before long he has discovered what has been going on. Rather than sacking those involved however, he persuades Bud to let him use the apartment too.

apartment-crowns
“Didn’t I promise you I’d treat you like a queen?”

At an office party on Christmas Eve, Bud discovers that Sheldrake’s girlfriend is in fact Fran. At the same party, Fran learns from Sheldrake’s secretary that she is merely the latest in a long line of mistresses. Back at the apartment, she confronts Sheldrake about this, and he insists that he really loves her, but he leaves to return to his family for Christmas. When Bud returns home, he finds Fran in his bed, having overdosed on sleeping pills.

Bud enlists a neighbour, who is a doctor, to save Fran, and she stays in Bud’s apartment two days, recuperating.

Eventually, Fran’s brother-in-law tracks her down to the apartment, assumes the worst of Bud, and beats him up.

Sheldrake, meanwhile, has fired his secretary, who retaliates by telling his wife about the infidelities. When his wife kicks him out, Sheldrake demands the use of Bud’s apartment on New Year’s Eve for another liaison with Fran. Angry, Bud quits. When Fran hears this from Sheldrake, she realizes that Bud loves her and she goes to see him at the apartment. There, Bud does indeed declare his love for her, and her reply is the famous last line of the movie: “Shut up and deal.”

Steve Sunday Says:

apartment-cards
For some reason the game of “old maid” wasn’t cheering her up

It’s quite dark for a comedy isn’t it? Attempted suicide is never the easiest topic to get laughs out of. There are some deeply unpleasant characters too, and a lot of unhappy people. This is not a typical comedy, and certainly not a typical Christmas movie.

What I found most surprising about it though, was not the misogyny, or Shirley Maclean’s incredible beauty, or the fact that the only black people in the office were cleaners and shoe shiners – no, it was that back in the 1950s there were people who’s job it was to stand in an elevator all day pressing buttons! Could regular people back then not be trusted to press the buttons themselves?

apartment-elevator
The easiest game of “What’s my line?” ever

Did they really need to employ a team of professional button pressers? Maybe elevators were more complicated back then – perhaps the buttons were not labelled and/or not in numerical order, and an intensive training course was required to learn the secrets? I can imagine that for many years the union of button pressers (that is probably not what they called themselves, but I do not have time to check on Wikipedia) strongly resisted moves to simplify the interface. Inevitably though, some chief executive somewhere will have noticed that all these people are doing really is taking up space in the elevator, and they were all made redundant. I like to think that they used their redundancy money to set up a business going door to door changing the channels for homeowners on these new-fangled “television” things.

Trivia Trish Says:

apartment-tennis
Dinner is served
  • Billy Wilder originally thought of the idea for the film after seeing Brief Encounter (1945) and wondering about the plight of a character in that film who lends out his flat to a couple embarking on an affair.
  • Shirley MacLaine was only given forty pages of the script because Wilder didn’t want her to know how the story would turn out. She thought it was because the script wasn’t finished.

Main Cast and Crew:

Jack Lemmon … C.C. Baxter
Shirley MacLaine … Fran Kubelik
Fred MacMurray … Jeff D. Sheldrake
Director: Billy Wilder

 

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