Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond
Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee, Naomi Stevens, Johnny Seven, Joyce Jameson, Willard Waterman, David White, Edie Adams
Approved (PCA #19647)
There’s nothing worse than an unwanted guest who overstays his welcome. The Apartment tells the story of one such series of visitors that makes one lonely bachelor’s life miserable.
C.C. ‘Bud’ Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has gotten into the habit of loaning out the key to his apartment. Those who take him up on his generous offer have one thing in common. They are going there to hide from their wives. Infidelity, an apparently common practice at Bud’s insurance firm, creates an even more uncomfortable position when the human resources manager Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) finds out and begins wanting to use it himself.
All of these moves ensure his promotion but his arrangements are about get quite a bit more complicated when he finally gets up the courage to ask the beautiful elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) out on a date with tickets Sheldrake gave him. However, there’s a catch. Fran just happens to be Sheldrake’s mistress, a position which he assures her is only temporary until he can divorce his wife.
Comedy isn’t the best word to describe The Apartment. The film certainly has some funny moments, many of them deriving from Bud’s encounters with his associates; however, the film has a lot more dark and depressing undertones exemplified in Fran’s suicide attempt in Bud’s own apartment. It’s from this attempt on her life that she finally comes to know and love Bud but things get in the way as they often do and their life together is threatened by a guilty and suddenly-divorced Sheldrake.
Lemmon’s superb comic and dramatic timing keep The Apartment energetic and involving. Success or failure, the audience is right there to empathize with his situation. MacLaine, in one of her earliest lead performances, does a sufficient job playing cat-and-mouse with Bud. On one hand, she wants desperately to be with the man she had loved for so long but she has found anew and different kind of love with Bud.
MacMurray, whose television work on My Three Sons might convince later generations that this role is a departure for him, but anyone familiar with Double Indemnity will realize this character isn’t new for him. He’s not at his absolute best here but he gives the role the weight it needs.
The Apartment is one of several films in writer-director Billy Wilder’s career. It’s the kind of career many directors would dream of. Sunset Blvd., Witness for the Prosecution and The Lost Weekend just to name a few. Wilder’s ability to create believable characters and put them in unusual situations that, in other hands, would seem out of place. The Apartment is characteristic of this style and though the performances aren’t as spectacular as those other three listed films, it is nevertheless a noteworthy achievement.
November 13, 2006