If you only looked through the prism of #Me Too and #Times Up movements, you might have only little sympathy for our screening The Apartment. But this story of workplace sexual misconduct is sublime comedy. After seeing Brief Encounter Wilder asked “what about the poor schnook who has to crawl into the still warm bed of the lovers”, which describes the role of Jack Lemmon as the hapless junior clerk, CC Baxter. Currying favour with his seniors, he allows his tiny apartment to be used for sexual trysts, but is dismayed as lift operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) enters a liaison with CEO JD Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray).
Dir: Billy Wilder 125mins USA 1960
Although The Apartment may seem an unlikely entertainment at Christmas time, as it is a tale with the underlying theme of workplace sexual misconduct, the directorial finesse of Billy Wilder transcends the narrative to achieve the highest planes of pathos, while his depiction of the office party plumbs the depths.
The Apartment won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Wilder himself gaining Best Director and Best Writer, having the previous year been completely overlooked for the equally sublime Some Like It Hot!
Viewed in 2018, in the era of #Me Too and #Times Up social media movements, Wilder shows himself, with The Apartment, to have been well ahead of the social mores of his day in what is a sly dig at the unacceptable behaviour we now know was rife in all work-places. The nuanced performances of Jack Lemmon (C C Baxter) and Shirley MacLaine (Fran Kubelik), who play the small fish at the receiving end of their seniors’ shenanigans, show us characters who nonetheless retain their integrity as human beings, with the optimistic outlook that things will get better.
There is much to smile about in this truly endearing black comedy.
“Billy Wilder was the rarest of creatures – a mainstream American director openly praised by his European compatriots, gaining auteur status thanks to the support of Cahiers du Cinema and a number of the French nouvelle vague’s most prominent figureheads” Daniel Green, Cine Vue
Jack Lemmon – C C Baxter
Shirley MacLaine – Fran Kubelik
Fred MacMurray – Jeff D Sheldrake
Ray Walston – Joe Dobisch
Jack Kruschen -Dr Dreyfuss
Director – Billy Wilder
Producers – Billy Wilder, I A L Diamond et al
Screenplay – Billy Wilder, I A L Diamond
Cinematography – Joseph LaShelle
Original Music – Adolph Deutsch
- Absolutely wonderful!
- Flawless – I loved it!
- Terrific – a great end to the year!
- Loved this tragi-comedy – perfect for Christmas
- What a brilliantly written, acted and directed film!
- An extra-ordinary achievement, balancing drama with comedic moments and tackling darker themes of the story’s corrupt office politics
- What a wonderful choice for tonight. Jack Lemmon’s face is almost athletic – it never stood still!
- Wonderful entertainment for the time of year – goodwill to [illegible]!
- A good Christmas film – well done Abfilms [?]
- Great humour centred on the apartment. Insights into big business. A bit too long
- Oh – to get to the 27th floor!
- Men !!! …. well perhaps not all men