THE APARTMENT

(1960)
With Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen
Cowritten, Produced and Directed by Billy Wilder
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

A bottle in frontomy        Jack Lemmon plays C. C. Baxter, a poor single schlub working in New York as an insurance analyst, who live a life of old movies on television, instant coffee and TV dinners. Trying to get in good with the boys at work, he lends out his modest Central Park apartment (85 dollars a month!) a few nights a week to co-workers so they can carry out their extramarital activities.  When he does this for his boss, he finds himself climbing up the corporate ladder.  But he runs into a major complication, one that threatens his position at the company.

     Like DOUBLE INDEMNITY (which also took place in the insurance world), THE APARTMENT features three terrific performances that make the film a joy to watch.  As the boss, Fred MacMurray once again excels at playing a weasel with few if any discernible good qualities.  How a man who was so good at being so bad found his greatest fame playing the most perfect and boring dad on television in My Three Sons, I don't know. Shirley MacLaine's elevator operator Miss Kubelik goes on my short list of fictional movie characters I am in love with (move over, Donna Reed and Paulette Goddard).  And, impossible as it may be to rank the many amazing performances by Jack Lemmon, his portrayal of C. C. Baxter, a schnook on his way toward becoming a mensch (see the film) would have to be in the top three, Lemmon-wise (see the film).  Ray Walston as an unctuous and conniving coworker and Jack Kruschen as the kindly doctor next door to Baxter also leave their mark on the film.

     Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's screenplay is a perfect blend of comedy, satire, romance and heartache, with typically sharp and witty dialogue ("You mean you bring other girls up here?/ Certainly not!  I'm a happily married man!") that has a rhythm and a pattern all its own that somehow make even minor utterances (" Kubelik... two ks") memorable.  Small objects - a broken compact mirror, a hundred dollar bill - pick up worlds of meaning simply by who is holding them at any one time.  And there are plenty of potshots at the corporate world, the modern world and the banality of television (one channel keeps running endless commercials before showing a classic movie, while every other channel is showing westerns.)

     THE APARTMENT  was named Best Picture of 1960,  while Billy Wilder won Best Director and he and Diamond won for Best Screenplay.  Along with Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO, THE APARTMENT served notice in 1960 that movies of the new decade were going to become a little more adult, subject matter-wise . 5 - JB

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