The One about Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment”

The 1960 comedy/drama written and directed by Billy Wilder (“Sunset Blvd.”, “Sabrina”, “Some Like It Hot”, “Kiss Me Stupid”) and co-written with I.A.L. Diamond (“Some Like It Hot”, “Kiss Me, Stupid”, “The Fortune Cookie”) was an incredible success in the box office grossing $25 million and nominated for ten Academy Awards and winning five including “Best Picture”.  In fact, “The Apartment” was the last black and white to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film received many awards from BAFTA and the Golden Globes and is often featured in various cinema magazines in polls for “Greatest Films”.  The film has been part of American Film Institute’s top 100 polls and also was deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

But the film had its fair share of criticism.  Because of the film’s nature of infidelity and adultery, where films at the time were typically promoted as wholesome entertainment, the film although regarded as a classic and received positive reviews also received its fair share of detractors because of the film’s content.

“The Apartment” is a fantastic film!

“The Apartment” is well-written, acting is fantastic and for the most part, editing and pacing is well-done.  There is nothing I can fault about the film.  At first, I felt that a romantic comedy film being over 2 hrs. long could be a bit too much but in the sake of this film, each and every minute was well-utilized.  Jack Lemmon gave a commanding performance and Shirley MacLaine was fantastic as well.  But shocking was Fred MacMurray’s adulterous role as the actor who has appeared in many kindhearted, fatherly roles was playing such a character.

Billy Wilder does an incredible job by working with the talent, especially with Jack Lemmon when it came to the script but also the small improvisation details, from him having a cold, gags such as shooting his nose drop across the office, making spaghetti and singing.  It’s also important to note that the scene where Lemmon was hit in the film, he was hit in real life and Wilder chose to use the scene.

Because of its content dealing with adultery, also suicide and the fact the film stars Fred MacMurray, I could imagine how controversial this film was back in 1960.  Especially reading how MacMurray even received an older woman hitting him with her purse when she saw him.

Although a classic film, for me wanting to see “The Apartment” came from watching the UK film “Brief Encounter” directed by David Lean.  I’ve read that in that film which featured one of the main characters wanting to use his friend’s apartment gave Billy Wilder the idea for the film but also a real life Hollywood scandal involving agent Jennings Lang and producer Walter Wanger (husband of actress Joan Bennett) in which the affair took place in an employee’s apartment and a suicide attempt came from an actual incident involving a friend of writer I.A.L. Diamond.

“The Apartment” has instantly become one of my top films that I have seen in my lifetime.  A good balance of comedy but also drama that takes on topics that probably made people uneasy during that time.

Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” is recommended!


 

Dennis A. Amith