After catching a random mention somewhere about this classic film titled The Apartment (1960), I thought I’d take a chance to further expand my viewing experiences. It’s a 1960 film starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and a surprising number of other famous actors. The film starts out with a narration by Jack Lemmon’s character, a young man named C.C. Baxter, working at the bottom of the ladder at the fictional insurance company Consolidated Life in Manhattan. He’s small potatoes, another suit working in a vast room of other suits. What’s different about him is that he’s popular with some of the executives. He’s got a nearby apartment, and these married execs like to use his apartment for illicit trysts. He gets kicked out of his apartment for few evenings a week, rain or shine, with a promise that this will help his career.
Why didn’t they use a hotel? I thought it was simply a cheaper alternative to a hotel room, but I learned from the extra features that in the 60’s, the morality police (“hotel detectives”) were always out and about at hotels, knocking on doors, verifying whether men were there with their wives. Back then, apartments were safer for affairs. I had no idea. Not that I thought people were innocent back then, but I was surprised to see watch a film about infidelity in a film from the ’60s. Also mentioned in the same extra feature, the Hollywood censors began to be more relaxed at this time.
He later catches the attention of the division director, played by Fred MacMurray. While Baxter lives the lonely bachelor life, due to the loud noises in his apt, his neighbors think he’s leading a wild lifestyle. Far from it, as he eats frozen tv dinners by himself when he finally gets back into his home. The only potential love interest in his life is Fran, a sweet, cute, elevator girl in his building, played by Shirley MacLaine.
I won’t say much more about the film’s plot, because I don’t want to give anything away, and I would highly recommend this film. Directed by Billy Wilder, it was nominated for 10 Academy awards, including best actor and actress for Lemon and MacLaine. It won five awards for:
- Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White
- Best Director
- Best Film Editing
- Best Picture
- Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen
How would I describe this film? It’s a drama, but Jack Lemmon added both physical comedy and heart to the film. Both Lemmon and MacLaine gave such strong performances, and came across as such human characters. This was my first film watching Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, and I liked them a lot. No wonder they were famous. Apart from the strong performances, it was interesting to watch a film from this time period to talk about three different themes: a simple romance at one level, infidelity at another level, and also this theme about what we give up morally to try to succeed in our careers, as C.C. Baxter constantly is putting himself out so that he can get ahead.