Monday, June 15, 2020

The Apartment Premiered 60 Years Ago Today

It was sixty years ago today that The Apartment (1960) premiered at the Astor and Plaza theatres in New York City. The movie proved to be a hit at the box office. It also won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (for Billy Wilder), Best Original Screenplay (for Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond), Best Art Direction – Black-and-White (for Alexandre Trauner and Edward G. Boyle), and Best Film Editing (for Daniel Mandell). It was also nominated for the Oscars for Best Actor (for Jack Lemmon), Best Actress (for Shirley MacLaine), Best Supporting Actor (for Jack Kruschen), Best Cinematography – Black-and-White (for Jack LaShelle), and Best Sound (for Gordon E. Sawyer).

I am not sure when I first saw The Apartment, but I know I was still young at the time. It has since become not only my favourite Billy Wilder movie, but my second favourite movie of all time (after Seven Samurai). As to why it is my second favourite movie of all time, much of it is because I consider it nearly perfect. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's screenplay is very sophisticated, equally comedy and drama, and is filled with complex characters. Indeed, even characters that only appear briefly on screen are fully realized human beings rather than cardboard cut-outs. Of course, even the best screenplay won't save a movie if the cast's performances are bad, but fortunately everyone in The Apartment turns in bravura performances. I honestly believe Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Kruschen all deserved to win the Oscars for which they were nominated. Everything about the movie, from Billy Wilder's direction to Jack LaShelle's cinematography to Adolph Deutsch's score, is extraordinary.

I also have to admit that the story appeals to me. It is essentially the story of C. C. Baxter in his journey from a bit of a pushover (particularly when it comes to his superiors at Consolidated Life) to a mensch. When I was younger I think I was a bit like C. C. Baxter, but with a few more limits to my behaviour (I don't think I would let anyone borrow my house) so I can identify with the character. I also have to admit that the developing relationship between Baxter and Fran Kubelik has always held great appeal to me. People can describe movies such as An Affair to Remember and Titanic as romantic all they want. To me the most romantic movie of them all is The Apartment.

Of course, as much as I love The Apartment, it hasn't always been the easiest movie for me to watch. After I went through a bad break-up in the early Nineties, I couldn't watch it for six months. Ever since Vanessa's death in August 2018, I find that I cannot watch the movie without breaking down sobbing. We both loved the movie and, I have to confess, I thought of Vanessa as my Miss Kubelik.

Over the years I have written a lot about The Apartment, perhaps more than any other film. I won't post every single blog entry I have made dealing with The Apartment as there have been many, but here are three of them for you to read on its 60th anniversary.

"Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960)"
"Jack Lemmon in The Apartment (1960)"
"Why The Apartment (1960) is a Christmas Movie"


Unknown said...

Thank you for your moving sentiments. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.

Evil Woman Blues said...

I have watched The Apartment 3 times. It is billed as a comedy and it does have its funny moments. But what makes this film a classic is sadness. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are two people who have been used and abused by people in positions of authority. But they persevere against the odds. I always compared this movie to another Wilder classic, The Fortune Cookie, and Neil Simon;s Odd Couple, also staring Lemmon. guess the proper label is tragi-comedy but these films seem to be in a class by themselves.