The Apartment

Released:  1960

Cast:  Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurrary, Jack Kruschen

Oscar Wins:  Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Writing (Original Screenplay) (I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder), Best Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), Best Art Direction – Set Direction, Black-and-White (Alexander Trauner, Edward G. Boyle)

Oscar Nominations:  Best Actor (Jack Lemmon), Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (Jack Kruschen), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) (Joseph LaShelle), Best Sound (Gordon E. Sawyer)

SUMMARY:  Bud Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is an anonymous worker in a huge insurance company, but he gains favor with three superiors by letting them use his apartment for their extramarital activities.  This leads to an epic misunderstanding with the neighbors, who assume that it is Bud who is bringing home a new woman every night.  In reality, Bud is attracted to the elevator operator at the office, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine).  One day, Bud is promised a promotion in return for letting his boss, Mr. Sheldrake, use his apartment that same night.  In return, Sheldrake gives Bud theater tickets for that same evening; Bud invites Fran to go with him, and she agrees to meet him after having a drink with an old flame.  Unfortunately, this flame turns out to be Mr. Sheldrake, and the two resume their relationship.

Eventually, Fran finds out that Sheldrake has had multiple office affairs, and that he has no intention of leaving his wife for her.  Remaining in the apartment, Fran takes an entire bottle of Bud’s sleeping pills in a suicide attempt; Bud finds her when he returns home.  Bud gets his neighbor, who is a doctor, to come over and revive Fran.  To protect those involved, Bud allows the doctor to believe that he was the reason Fran attempted suicide.  He then spends two days keeping Fran company (playing endless hands of gin rummy) as she recovers.

For his handling of this episode, Sheldrake rewards Bud with a promotion.  However, Sheldrake’s wife has learned of his affairs and kicked him out of the house.  He attempts to reunite with Fran, and asks for the use of the apartment; this time, Bud refuses and quits the firm.  After hearing about this at a party, Fran leaves Sheldrake and goes to Bud’s apartment, where they resume their game of gin rummy.

MY TAKE:  This movie is supposed to be a comedy, but suicide plays a huge role in the plot (I was also surprised at the blatant references to extramarital affairs, given that this movie was released in 1960).  Bud’s attempts to manage the different superiors and their use of his apartment are funny, as are his explanations to his neighbors as to what exactly is going on in the apartment.  However, I spent a lot of the movie wishing that both Bud and Fran would grow a spine and stand up for themselves, instead of getting bulldozed by Sheldrake.

RATING:  Not my favorite movie, but it was fun to see really young versions of Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

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