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55 Apartment, The 1960 
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Post 55 Apartment, The 1960
From Bob Harris On the Cinematic Journey

The Apartment--#55
I said that I would jump around a little through this list, and today that led me to this Billy Wilder classic. After seeing Shirley Maclaine earlier today in Being There(which clocks in the 700s on the list of 1000) I decided it was finally time to watch her even younger opposite Jack Lemmon. Jack plays C.C. Baxter who falls for Fran Kubelik(Maclaine), an elevator operator as his job who is having an affair with his boss. His boss just so happens to be using Baxter's apartment for his encounters. Baxter eventually must make a decision on whether his pride or his job is more important. The first thing that struck me about this film was how young the two leads seemed. It's always interesting to go back and see actors at such a younger age than you grew up watching them at. I didn't realize how cute Maclaine was. Ok, now back to the film itself. Lemmon is at home in this comic look at office politics and infidelity and Maclaine nails the role of the naive waif who falls for the wrong guy. Lemmon adeptly finds an everyman in his portrayal of Baxter who isn't all that innocent as he dances his way up the corporate ladder by arranging for a private place for execs to have their trysts. Once he realizes that Kubelik is one of the girls though, he is stung and Lemmon makes us feel that pain for his character. Maclaine's Kubelik is hopeful that Sheldrake(the always enjoyable Fred MacMurray) will come around and even tries to convince herself otherwise after she realizes he won't. She is vulnerable and Baxter is anxious to catch her when she falls. Along the way Wilder gives us some solid banter amongst all involved(Ray Walston's lines throughout in particular) and keeps the audience laughing despite the heavy subject manner. Like many of the great older directors/writers in the top 1000, I do not have much familiarity with Wilder, having only seen Sabrina previously(which is one of my all time favorite films). Double Indemnity is up next for me(ironically, I selected it before realizing he was it's writer) with Some Like it Hot not too far behind I would imagine. Overall, I was very happy with this choice, 8.5/10


Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:44 am
Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
I recently watched The Apartment for the second time, and feel comfortable enough with the film to comment on it here. I usually don't like commenting on a film I haven't recently seen, unless it's something I've seen quite a bit. Luckily, The Apartment is fresh enough in my mind, and I've seen it enough times, for me to come up with a few thoughts.

The film is a fantastic story about compromising moral values to get ahead. It also functions as an indictment of corporate America (and as an ancillary, of capitalism). Furthermore, it begins to debunk the myth of achieving the American Dream through hard work and wholesome values. In that regard it functions similarly to something like The Big Lebowski, with a completely different tone and plot. Part of the reason why I love movies is to see how such similar thematic concerns can be conveyed so differently.

For me, The Apartment rises above almost all other movies because of 3 things: the writing, the direction, and Jack Lemmon. I'll start with the easiest - Jack Lemmon. His performance here is wonderful. Baxter is a guy who uses whatever he can to separate himself from the rest of the ordinary pack, without fully realizing everyone he is hurting in the process. When that realization hits him like a punch in the gut through MacLaine's character's attempted suicide, he slowly begins to see how his actions have affected others and eventually becomes a new man. The key to Lemmon's performance is his ability to portray Baxter as innocent, but not completely naive. It's a fine line to walk. Lemmon's portrayal lets us believe Baxter truly doesn't realize the full consequences of his actions. He isn't ruthless or cutthroat, just a bit self-involved. If Lemmon can't walk that line, the whole film would have a corny, contrived feel. The realization of his actions (which is shown when MacClaine attempts suicide) would come off very staged and forced if Lemmon wasn't so naturally comfortable in Baxter's skin.

Billy Wilder's direction and writing are both superb. Again, like Lemmon's performance he walks quite a fine line. The film deals with a fairly dark, serious subject matter and, at times, feels very cynical. Wilder is able to infuse a light, comedic tone throughout a good deal of the film by allowing Lemmon to throw out one-liners and jokes in some particularly nasty and awkward situations. The film has a lot of substance, and is making a statement about our culture, but it never feels preachy, pretentious, or condescending for a second. That's a huge credit to the writing. You can watch the film for pure entertainment, or dig a bit deeper and be rewarded as well. Wilder's directorial choice to use very few set pieces gives the film a much more intimate feel - which is essential because it is a character driven film. I also thought the way he set up the mundaneness of Baxter's day-to-day life in the beginning was very clever - especially the beginning voiceover and how Baxter's office was set up.

My one problem with the film is the ending. I'm not sure if the studio, production code, or any other outside forces had anything to do with the ending, but it didn't completely work for me. I felt like the film could have ended after the scene where Baxter is watching his name being put on the executive board and Fran walks by. Their exchange shows that nothing has really changed, and Baxter decides he doesn't want to spend time with her so he lies and says he had a date waiting. He walks over to the shop and another man (who the woman was clearly waiting for) comes and walks away with the woman he told Fran was waiting for him. Ending the film there turns it into a bit of a tragedy, and fits the cynical nature of the film. Instead, we get 10-15 minutes of Baxter standing up to Sheldrake and telling him off, and the reconnection between him and Fran at the very end. Sure, it's a famous scene and line, but, to me, it just doesn't fit. It's feels formulaic, and seems like a happy ending thrown in just to appease audiences.


Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:45 am
Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
PeachyPete wrote:
I recently watched The Apartment for the second time, and feel comfortable enough with the film to comment on it here. I usually don't like commenting on a film I haven't recently seen, unless it's something I've seen quite a bit. Luckily, The Apartment is fresh enough in my mind, and I've seen it enough times, for me to come up with a few thoughts.

The film is a fantastic story about compromising moral values to get ahead. It also functions as an indictment of corporate America (and as an ancillary, of capitalism). Furthermore, it begins to debunk the myth of achieving the American Dream through hard work and wholesome values. In that regard it functions similarly to something like The Big Lebowski, with a completely different tone and plot. Part of the reason why I love movies is to see how such similar thematic concerns can be conveyed so differently.

For me, The Apartment rises above almost all other movies because of 3 things: the writing, the direction, and Jack Lemmon. I'll start with the easiest - Jack Lemmon. His performance here is wonderful. Baxter is a guy who uses whatever he can to separate himself from the rest of the ordinary pack, without fully realizing everyone he is hurting in the process. When that realization hits him like a punch in the gut through MacLaine's character's attempted suicide, he slowly begins to see how his actions have affected others and eventually becomes a new man. The key to Lemmon's performance is his ability to portray Baxter as innocent, but not completely naive. It's a fine line to walk. Lemmon's portrayal lets us believe Baxter truly doesn't realize the full consequences of his actions. He isn't ruthless or cutthroat, just a bit self-involved. If Lemmon can't walk that line, the whole film would have a corny, contrived feel. The realization of his actions (which is shown when MacClaine attempts suicide) would come off very staged and forced if Lemmon wasn't so naturally comfortable in Baxter's skin.

Billy Wilder's direction and writing are both superb. Again, like Lemmon's performance he walks quite a fine line. The film deals with a fairly dark, serious subject matter and, at times, feels very cynical. Wilder is able to infuse a light, comedic tone throughout a good deal of the film by allowing Lemmon to throw out one-liners and jokes in some particularly nasty and awkward situations. The film has a lot of substance, and is making a statement about our culture, but it never feels preachy, pretentious, or condescending for a second. That's a huge credit to the writing. You can watch the film for pure entertainment, or dig a bit deeper and be rewarded as well. Wilder's directorial choice to use very few set pieces gives the film a much more intimate feel - which is essential because it is a character driven film. I also thought the way he set up the mundaneness of Baxter's day-to-day life in the beginning was very clever - especially the beginning voiceover and how Baxter's office was set up.

My one problem with the film is the ending. I'm not sure if the studio, production code, or any other outside forces had anything to do with the ending, but it didn't completely work for me. I felt like the film could have ended after the scene where Baxter is watching his name being put on the executive board and Fran walks by. Their exchange shows that nothing has really changed, and Baxter decides he doesn't want to spend time with her so he lies and says he had a date waiting. He walks over to the shop and another man (who the woman was clearly waiting for) comes and walks away with the woman he told Fran was waiting for him. Ending the film there turns it into a bit of a tragedy, and fits the cynical nature of the film. Instead, we get 10-15 minutes of Baxter standing up to Sheldrake and telling him off, and the reconnection between him and Fran at the very end. Sure, it's a famous scene and line, but, to me, it just doesn't fit. It's feels formulaic, and seems like a happy ending thrown in just to appease audiences.


I agree.



What? You want more? Then you shouldn't have summarised my thoughts on the film.

I agree on the ending too. I'll add that I don't buy that Fran loved Sheldrake. Methinks she finally realised that she had no future with her boss so she'll settle with Lemmon. He's a nice guy and he'll treat her right.

The end bothered me enough that I "only" give the film a 9/10. It's still my second favourite Billy Wilder comedy (after Some Like it Hot).


Wed Dec 09, 2009 9:00 pm
Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
ed_metal_head wrote:
I agree.



What? You want more? Then you shouldn't have summarised my thoughts on the film.

I agree on the ending too. I'll add that I don't buy that Fran loved Sheldrake. Methinks she finally realised that she had no future with her boss so she'll settle with Lemmon. He's a nice guy and he'll treat her right.

The end bothered me enough that I "only" give the film a 9/10. It's still my second favourite Billy Wilder comedy (after Some Like it Hot).



Not shame in agreeing. It's always good to hear someone agree with you.

I'll buy what you added about the ending. I hadn't really thought of it, but it makes sense. I still give the film a 4/4, but I guess if my scale was out of 10, a 9 would be likely. Dropping it to 3.5, when it is decidedly better than the other films I've given a 3.5, seems too harsh. If I wanted to be anal, I guess I could give it a 3.75, but that opens up a can of ratings worms that I'm not ready for.

As for Wilder's filmography, I'd agree that Some Like it Hot is a bit better. It's more of a straight comedy, while The Apartment has a satirical edge to it. My favorite Wilder film, however, would have to be Sunset Boulevard. Wilder is one of my favorite directors, even though he's not concerned at all with stylistic camera movements. To me, he's just an amazing writer with a knack for getting great performances out of actors. He's similar to Woody Allen in that regard, just with totally different writing styles.


Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:17 am
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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 7:44 pm
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Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
have either of you seen One, Two, Three? I think its funnier(& faster) than Some Like It Hot. Cagney is amazing in it.

You should also check out Irma La Douce, the other Lemmon-MacLaine-Wilder collaboration. Its actually Wilder's highest grossing film.

Lemmon plays a Parisian cop who falls in love with prostitute MacLaine.

I have seen virtually all of Wilder's films & they they all are least 3 out of 4 star films. Have trouble deciding which one is my favorite. Will have to rewatch The Apartment, I don't remember having any problems with the ending.

And I strongly recommend Ace In The Hole as well, if you haven't already seen it.


Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:24 pm
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Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
PeachyPete wrote:
Not shame in agreeing. It's always good to hear someone agree with you.

I'll buy what you added about the ending. I hadn't really thought of it, but it makes sense. I still give the film a 4/4, but I guess if my scale was out of 10, a 9 would be likely. Dropping it to 3.5, when it is decidedly better than the other films I've given a 3.5, seems too harsh. If I wanted to be anal, I guess I could give it a 3.75, but that opens up a can of ratings worms that I'm not ready for.

As for Wilder's filmography, I'd agree that Some Like it Hot is a bit better. It's more of a straight comedy, while The Apartment has a satirical edge to it. My favorite Wilder film, however, would have to be Sunset Boulevard. Wilder is one of my favorite directors, even though he's not concerned at all with stylistic camera movements. To me, he's just an amazing writer with a knack for getting great performances out of actors. He's similar to Woody Allen in that regard, just with totally different writing styles.


Warning, warning...more agreement ahead.

If I used stars, this would be a 4/4 too. On such a scale I find a 0.5 star acceptable. Anything else irritates me. Especially when I see something like 8.2/10. Grrr.

I really need to re-watch The Apartment, but you're right that it's darker than Some Like it Hot. I never noticed that The Apartment also comments about hard work not necessarily equaling success, so I appreciated your analysis.

Wilder is one of my favourites too, and I find the Allen comparison apt. Both of them have an ear for dialogue which I think Tarantino shares. You'll notice I said that The Apartment is my second favourite Wilder comedy. Yet again, I agree with you on Sunset Blvd. being better (it's a 10/10 for me), although Some Like it Hot is still my favourite of the three.

calvero wrote:
have either of you seen One, Two, Three? I think its funnier(& faster) than Some Like It Hot. Cagney is amazing in it.

You should also check out Irma La Douce, the other Lemmon-MacLaine-Wilder collaboration. Its actually Wilder's highest grossing film.

Lemmon plays a Parisian cop who falls in love with prostitute MacLaine.

I have seen virtually all of Wilder's films & they they all are least 3 out of 4 star films. Have trouble deciding which one is my favorite. Will have to rewatch The Apartment, I don't remember having any problems with the ending.

And I strongly recommend Ace In The Hole as well, if you haven't already seen it.


:oops: I've seen none of your recommendations and Wilder is one of my favourites. Thus far I've seen 9 of his movies and I've given nothing a lower rating than 8/10. We should probably make a topic for him in the General Section since his movies tend to hold up very well. I'll do it if no-one else will, but not today.


Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:51 am
Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
calvero wrote:
have either of you seen One, Two, Three? I think its funnier(& faster) than Some Like It Hot. Cagney is amazing in it.

You should also check out Irma La Douce, the other Lemmon-MacLaine-Wilder collaboration. Its actually Wilder's highest grossing film.

Lemmon plays a Parisian cop who falls in love with prostitute MacLaine.

I have seen virtually all of Wilder's films & they they all are least 3 out of 4 star films. Have trouble deciding which one is my favorite. Will have to rewatch The Apartment, I don't remember having any problems with the ending.

And I strongly recommend Ace In The Hole as well, if you haven't already seen it.


I've seen Ace in the Hole, but that's it. It's excellent. I've read about Cagney being great in One, Two, Three, I'll have to get around to that soon.

ed_metal_head wrote:
Warning, warning...more agreement ahead.

If I used stars, this would be a 4/4 too. On such a scale I find a 0.5 star acceptable. Anything else irritates me. Especially when I see something like 8.2/10. Grrr.

I really need to re-watch The Apartment, but you're right that it's darker than Some Like it Hot. I never noticed that The Apartment also comments about hard work not necessarily equaling success, so I appreciated your analysis.

Wilder is one of my favourites too, and I find the Allen comparison apt. Both of them have an ear for dialogue which I think Tarantino shares. You'll notice I said that The Apartment is my second favourite Wilder comedy. Yet again, I agree with you on Sunset Blvd. being better (it's a 10/10 for me), although Some Like it Hot is still my favourite of the three.


Yes, anything other than 0.5 is completely retarded. I would love to know how someone can make a distinction between a film that rates 8.2/10 and one that rates 8.3/10. Also, if you employ that scale, why not just make it out of 100 and get rid of the decimals? The whole thing is just plain stupid if you ask me (which no one did, but I offered it anyway).

I'd group Tarantino in with them as far as dialouge too. It's crazy when you think about it, because while all 3 are great writers, I don't know that I'd consider any of their movies similar. Of course, I guess part of being a great writer is having your own, distinct style. Eh, just a random thought.


Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:57 pm
Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
PeachyPete wrote:
calvero wrote:
have either of you seen One, Two, Three? I think its funnier(& faster) than Some Like It Hot. Cagney is amazing in it.


ed_metal_head wrote:
Wilder is one of my favourites too, and I find the Allen comparison apt. Both of them have an ear for dialogue which I think Tarantino shares.


I'd group Tarantino in with them as far as dialouge too. It's crazy when you think about it, because while all 3 are great writers, I don't know that I'd consider any of their movies similar. Of course, I guess part of being a great writer is having your own, distinct style. Eh, just a random thought.


One Two Three is probably Wilder's most widely known film in Germany - due to the Berlin setting and the German actors mostly. Personally, I don't like it much.

I think Tarantino stands apart from the other director's mentioned concerning the dialogue writing, because, let's face it, all characters written by Tarantino sound the same, irrespective of gender, period, etc. They all speak hipster "Tarantino talk". That's actually one of the things which I dont like about his films. The same allegation can be made against Woody Allen to some extent, though.


Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:18 pm
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Post Re: 55 Apartment, The 1960
I love the end of the film, and I don't think the film would be as strong without it.

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