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Past Films

The Apartment (1960)

  • Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, David Lewis
  • Director: Billy Wilder
  • Genre(s): Classics , Comedy , Drama , Romance
  • Rating: NR
  • Running Time: 125 min.

This new quarterly series showcases the “essential” films everyone should see on the big screen. For each month-long program, we’ll screen five films organized by one of the following themes: directors, actors, genres, and eras/movements.

Essential tickets are $9 for Adults, $8 for Students/Seniors and Members get in Free!

Widely regarded as a comedy in 1960, The Apartment seems more melancholy with each passing year. Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a go-getting office worker who loans his tiny apartment to his philandering superiors for their romantic trysts. He runs into trouble when he finds himself sharing a girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine) with his callous boss (Fred MacMurray). Director/co-writer Billy Wilder claimed that the idea for The Apartment stemmed from a short scene in the 1945 romantic drama Brief Encounter in which the illicit lovers (Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson) arrange a rendezvous in a third person’s apartment. Wilder was intrigued about what sort of person would willingly vacate his residence to allow virtual strangers a playing field for hanky panky. His answer to that question wound up winning 6 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The Apartment was adapted by Neil Simon and Burt Bacharach into the 1969 Broadway musical Promises, Promises. [Hal Erickson, Rovi]

The Apartment (1960) is producer/director Billy Wilder’s bittersweet, heart-rending tragi-comedy/drama of a compliant insurance clerk (Lemmon) who secretly lends out his apartment to other company executives for adulterous sexual affairs and liaisons. The plot thickens when the clerk realizes that his building’s elevator operator (MacLaine) is being taken for trysts by his married boss (MacMurray) to his apartment. The sophisticated yet cynical film of the early 60s is a bleak assessment of corporate America, big business and capitalism, success, and the work ethic, when a lowly but ambitious accountant enables his climb up the corporate ladder by ingratiating himself to his superiors - he literally prostitutes his own standards and moral integrity and allows himself to be exploited.

It won five major Academy Awards out of ten nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay (co-written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond), Best B/W Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Film Editing. [It was not until thirty-three years later that another black and white Film would win Best Picture - Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993)].Three acting awards were passed over: Jack Lemmon for Best Actor, Shirley MacLaine for Best Actress and Jack Kruschen for Best Supporting Actor. It was a triple win for Wilder as Director (Wilder’s second directing Oscar), Producer, and Screenplay author. Wilder’s previous The Lost Weekend (1945) had also won Best Picture and Best Director. Wilder would cast Jack Lemmon in five more films as a leading man, including Irma La Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974), and Buddy Buddy (1981). [Tim Dirks]

" A gleeful, tender and even sentimental film."
- Bosley Crowther, New York Times
"Wilder, a bilious and mercurial wit, here becomes a wide-screen master of time ..."
- Richard Brody, New Yorker
"With tremendous performances by the two leads (Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine), this is yet another "must see" title to be found on Wilder's resume."
- James Berardinelli, ReelViews
"A comedy of men's-room humours and water-cooler politics that now and then among the belly laughs says something serious and sad about the struggle for success, about what it often does to a man, and about the horribly small world of big business."
- TIME Magazine