As of November 1, 1959, mild mannered C.C. Baxter has been working at Consolidated Life, an insurance company, for close to four years, and is one of close to thirty-two thousand employees located in their Manhattan head office. To distinguish himself from all the other lowly cogs in the company in the hopes of moving up the corporate ladder, he often works late, but only because he can't get into his apartment, located off of Central Park West, since he has provided it to a handful of company executives - Mssrs. Dobisch, Kirkeby, Vanderhoff and Eichelberger - on a rotating basis for their extramarital liaisons in return for a good word to the personnel director, Jeff D. Sheldrake. When Baxter is called into Sheldrake's office for the first time, he learns that it isn't just to be promoted as he expects, but also to add married Sheldrake to the list to who he will lend his apartment. What Baxter is unaware of is that Sheldrake's mistress is Fran Kubelik, an elevator girl in the ... Written by
Jack Lemmon related later in life how Billy Wilder kept his film editor, Doane Harrison, on the set with him at all times as associate producer and never made a shot until they both discussed it. As a result, he was able to shoot sparingly, cutting the film in the camera and eliminating costly set-ups that might never be used. See more »
Fran buys a record album recorded by the small combo that performs in the Chinese restaurant she patronizes but when the record is played in Baxter's apartment, the tunes are lush orchestral arrangements, nothing like the lounge music heard in the café. See more »
On November 1st, 1959, the population of New York City was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet six and a half inches, they would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan. I know facts like this because I work for an insurance company - Consolidated Life of New York. We're one of the top five companies in the country. Our home office has 31,259 employees, which is more than the entire population ...
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Ohhh - after my 4th or 5th viewing, I think this may be one of the most remarkable blends of comedy and drama to have ever been filmed - THE APARTMENT - in subtle ways - rises well above the conventions of any genre. It was my introduction to the great Billy Wilder, and my fondness for Jack Lemmon (a remarkable and sorely missed actor) begins here as well.
The cold take on the sex-and-money ethos to be found in many corporate environments hasn't dated one bit; it could be argued that THE APARTMENT stands a bit ahead of its' time in the depiction of (what would appear to be) educated employees treated like (and feeling like) tools to be used in generation of someone else's income. Lemmon's character never forgets that he's disposable, even if the optimist in him hopes that something better may be found in his superiors. Deep down he knows this to be a pipe dream - the sexual adventurism of those same superiors betrays their utter lack of ethics. Of course, Lemmon's character isn't entirely above it all; he's been more than willing to hire out his own apartment as a place for his colleagues' peccadilloes, in exchange for career advancement, which of course - as Wilder early on links amoral sexual conduct and professional/corporate/financial misconduct in a greater social critique - gets him into trouble.
The dialogue is - as is always true with Wilder - very finely crafted, yet seems natural - this film is a remarkable display of the kind of reactions any of us would offer in similar situations. Interestingly, our two protagonists are also wonderfully imperfect as human beings - Lemmon and MacLaine bear some responsibility for the very serious situations they've gotten themselves into; they manage to realize this ("Be a mensch!" Lemmon's doctor neighbor exclaims) just in time to set things right. MacLaine in particular delivers a remarkable, complex performance - sweet and smart in her earliest scenes, bleak and emotionally ravaged in her climactic scene with MacMurray, naive elsewhere, sharp but hopeful at the end. The cinematography captures the entire cast beautifully - with minimal movement, abundant long takes, and a sleek lack of visual clutter, all of the principals are free to reveal their own best and worst impulses, within an environment that is stripped of artifice. The end result is a film filled with great moments one can easily identify with.
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