Cinema Spotlight: The Apartment

by - January 18, 2014

A Vintage Nerd
If you love Mad Men there is a good chance you will love The Apartment (1960). It gives a glimpse of the rat race that is all too common in city life.

The film combines the pressures of career climbing and adds in a quirky girl who changes the game for the lead in the film played by the under rated, Jack Lemmon.

Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter who is sick and tired of not moving up in the national insurance company corporate ladder. Because he is a bachelor and has an apartment in Manhattan, he decides that his way up is to lend the key to his apartment to those who need a place to take their girlfriends. Yes, girlfriends, not their wives.

This was 1960 and there were people who were hired called "hotel detectives" who weeded out those who were there for legitimate reasons or for practicing infidelities. The easiest way for these men to step outside their marriages without getting caught was to find an apartment where they can do as they please.
Jack Lemmon
Interesting tidbit-the area where the director Billy Wilder filmed the office scenes was actually a large set with the front being average size and the back being smaller. He then filled the back with child actors to give the impression of office workers in a distance. You gotta love movie magic!
Billy Wilder
Baxter is friendly with Fran Kubelik, played by Shirley MacLaine, who is an elevator operator. They appear sweet on each other but there is more than meets the eye.
Shirley MacLaine
Finally, Baxter is upgraded to a higher position but not without a price. He is sleep deprived and his neighbors think he is a gigolo who entertains women every night. But he is always thinking that the price he is paying is worth it.
The Apartment
As the story unfolds we learn that Kubelik is actually having an on-again-off-again affair with Baxter's married boss, Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). Kubelik is given a 100 dollar bill from Sheldrake as a Christmas present, making her feel like a prostitute.  She unknowingly is spending time in Baxter's apartment and after Sheldrake leaves she attempts suicide by taking a dose of Baxter's sleeping pills.

Baxter comes home and finds her and with the help of his neighbor who is a doctor, nurses her back to health.
The Apartment (1960)
After Kubelik's attempted suicide, Baxter realizes his true feelings for her and also begins to realize what he has been doing all this time by allowing others to use his apartment for their infidelities hurts more people than does good. It ends on an interesting note that I will not share because I would really love for you to see it for yourself. The photo below is a taste of it.
Ending of The Apartment
The genius of this film was that it took a negative topic like infidelity and cooperate climbing and dabbled it with some humor. Lemmon's take on the character of Baxter was done so well that instead of being mad of him for allowing these men into his home to do what they were doing, you actually feel bad for the guy and wish better things would happen for him.

My husband and I are now huge fans of this film and the stars of this film (our next film we are going to watch is My Geisha with MacLaine). With the backdrop of New York City (although much of it was filmed on a studio) and the era of the early 60's where morals were still on a high note, Wilder brings to us a masterpiece. Although the topics of this film (infidelity and suicide) were things people did not speak of in public, he really does them justice and I believe, creates an opportunity for a larger discussion to happen.

Have you seen The Apartment? What did you think? Will you ever give it a look?

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6 comments

  1. I haven't seen the Apartment yet, but I'd certainly like to. The early days of Mad Men were my favourite from a style standpoint (including how their offices looked) and this film embodies that 50s into early 60s world perfectly because it was shot then. Definitely a new one to add to my must-see vintage movie list. Thank you, sweet gal!

    ♥ Jessica

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  2. This has been on my to watch list for awhile, although when it came on last week I somehow managed to miss it...eventually I'll see it, though!
    (By the way, I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award :) )

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  3. I've never seen this! I'm going to have to put it on my list!
    ~xoxo, CoriLynn

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