The Apartment(released June/60)stars,among others,Jack Lemmon as C.C.Baxter,Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik,Fred MacMurray as Jeff D. Sheldrake,Ray Walston as Joe Dobisch and Jack Kruschen as Dr. Dreyfuss.These oldies but goodies don't cross my desk too much anymore(the shame),but when they do I dive in for all it's worth.This"oldie but goodie" was nominated for five OSCARS and caught two for best picture and best director.And director Wilder is in top form here throughout,as is his two main stars MacLaine and Lemmon.
The story finds Lemmon working as an accounting clerk in a high rise New York City office building.Lemmon is your everyman,working nine to five,or in this case 8:50 to 4:20.Lemmon is the go-to guy for four of his bosses who have regular on-going trysts.That is,when the bosses need some alone time with their women,Lemmon,a bachelor himself,loans out his place to whoever asks first.It is a long standing thing with Lemmon going back before he even joined the company.It is not above the pale for his temporary guests to ask for a stocked liquor cabinet and food,when needed.Lemmon has even gone so far as to cover up these trysts at his place to his fellow tenants and landlady.Lemmon makes it seem like HE is the Casanova to end all Casanova's.
Now Lemmon may be a soft touch,but he has hopes his"generosity" with his bosses will someday be rewarded.And that day eventually comes.His four bosses` recommendations get the attention of the big boss,played by Fred MacMurray.Now Fred isn't a slouch either,and he knows what is behind all those glowing recommendations by Lemmon's bosses.Just when Lemmon thinks he is in for that promotion,Fred throws Lemmon a curve.If Lemmon plays ball with him he will get that promotion.All Lemmon has to do is let Fred use his apartment from time to time.Ever faithful and discreet,Lemmon of course goes along with the big boss.
As all these events have progressed we have been privy to Lemmon's crush for MacLaine who operates one of the elevators.Fred asks Lemmon for his apartment key for a particular night so he may bring his girlfriend there,in exchange he has given Lemmon two tickets for the Music Man on Brodway.Lemmon of course asks MacLaine to join him,who says she will meet him there at 8:30.The night goes on and Lemmon is still standing outside the theater as the play begins....stood up.Next day Lemmon returns a compact back to Fred telling him the mirror is cracked inside,and it wasn't his fault.
Xmas eve comes and Lemmon is at work enjoying the office party.He and MacLaine are in his office and when Lemmon asks MacLaine how his new derby looks on him,she hands him her compact.When he opens it up he sees the broken mirror and realizes who Fred's girlfriend is.Lemmon is crushed,but says nothing.
Later that night Fred and MacLaine are at Lemmons apartment and MacLaine is upset at some facts about Fred she heard from his secretary about the number of women he has had.Fred leaves and MacLaine stays behind,and tries to commit suicide with some sleeping pills she finds in Lemmon's bathroom cabinet.Lemmon arrives home with someone he has picked up at the bar but finds MacLaine prostrate on his bed.In short order he realizes what has happened,sends the girl from the bar packing and gets the doctor from next door.It is a close call but MacLaine comes out of it.When MacLaine finally comes to enough to know where she is and whose apartment she is in she is mortified.Lemmon,like always,tries to make it look like this all happened because of him,with his fellow tenants and landlord and contacts his boss to get him to talk with MacLaine.
Two days later Fred is back at work and fires his secretary who tattled on him.And he calls in Lemmon who he promotes with an office right next door to his.Lemmon and Fred have a confrontation when Lemmon at first refuses any more use of his apartment.(He has truly fallen for MacLaine).Lemmon eventually caves when Fred makes it clear his job will be in jeopardy,but he has had enough and quits.On New Years eve Lemmon is at home packing up his things in his apartment as he plans to move,while MacLaine and Fred are out at a party.Fred`s ex secretary also tattled on his wife,and now Fred is staying at the `Y`.It is here,at midnight,that Maclaine finally comes to the realization that she is now in love with Lemmon.She rushes out and over to Lemmons apartment and the film fades as two happy people sit playing gin rummy as the new year rings in.
The movie has everything you could want,great direction,editing,acting,writing and a broad range of emotions covered throughout from comedy to pathos and everything in between.
Wilder starts the proceedings as if this was a comedy.Slowly but surely though we come to realize that Lemmon's loaning out of his apartment is going to have some unforeseen consequences.And eventually it does,but not quite in the way one would expect,and that's what is really fine about this film.The little almost puppy love thing between Lemmon and MacLaine is something to watch. Lemmon is giving out with all the doting,while little of it is returned in kind,as we come to find out MacLaine has someone else on the line;and of all people his own big boss.Then we see Lemmon`s heart literally crushed before our eyes when he realizes the compact belongs to MacLaine and who it is in her life.Does Lemmon become bitter at MacLaine??No,he becomes her white knight when she tries to kill herself and supports her all the way back to health,even covering up for her.MacLaine,who has complained she`s always fallen in love with the wrong men,much to our delight,finally realizes that her true love has been staring her in the face all this time.Wilder brings it all home and it leaves you with a warm feeling.Watch for Mrs.Ernie Kovacs,Edie Adams,playing MacMurray`s secretary.Funny,but when I first saw this film back in the day,I remember thinking,`God,does every executive in an office,and who are married,all have affairs like this??`.While the film certainly has that element in it,I`m a little older now(and maybe a little wiser...just a little)and realize there`s much more going on than just that.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1 and is generally clear and crisp.This edition`s extras include two featurettes and commentary.
All in all a wonderful film directed by veteran Wilder.Everyone involved is on game here.A great movie with a great cast.Highly recommended.