May 2014 Blind Spot Film: The Apartment (1960)

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The Apartment was supposed to be my April Blindspot movie, but I mistakenly thought I had Some Like It Hot on my list instead. Surely it wasn’t at all a waste that I got to watch another Billy Wilder movie, but I have to admit I was not as enamored with that one as most do. The Apartment however, lives up to all the praises and then some. It’s definitely my favorite out of the three Wilder movies I’ve seen so far (Sabrina 1954 was the first one).

I’ve always wondered why the movie was called The Apartment, but within a few minutes I found out why. I like the opening sequence with Jack Lemmon’s narration. He played the protagonist, C.C. Baxter, who works as an insurance agent for Consolidated Life, one of the top five companies in the country with 31,259 employees. He works on the 19th floor in this giant office with rows upon rows of desks. By the end of the day, Baxter is the only one left. No, not because he’s a workaholic or anything, but he can’t come home to his apartment whenever he likes because he lets the executives of the company use his apartment for trysts. I seriously don’t know how he gets ANY work done as every day he’s so busy booking up his executives’ dates at his apartment and make sure they dates don’t get mixed up. At first I feel bad for him, especially when he gets a call in the middle of the night and have to clear out for one of the execs’ booty call. But you know what, Baxter brought this upon himself, he’s doing this favors to the execs to move up quickly to the top.

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Though it’s obviously a major inconvenience for Baxter, he tolerates this whole charade because of his ambition. That is until he met this cute elevator girl Fran Kubelik. Shirley MacClaine is so cute here with her pixie haircut, this is the first time I saw her in her earlier films as the first movie I saw her in was Guarding Tess (1994) with Nic Cage. This is also the first time I saw Fred McMurray. He’s quite memorable here as the top exec who makes life complicated for Baxter. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have not seen the film, though the plot is not entirely unpredictable. What did surprise me was how dark the film got, especially in regards to MacClaine’s character. I think those who’ve seen this know what I’m talking about. Even the whole cheating execs thing is not exactly a wholesome subject matter. But of course, given this is set in the 60s, it’s still a very demure film nary of any risque scene.

At times the storyline reminds me a bit of Roman Holiday in that the protagonist was initially an ambitious go-getter, someone ruthless enough to get ahead in their career. But when they fall in love, their perspective completely changes. I love how Baxter becomes the sweetest, most caring man even after he realizes his chances to be with the girl he loves is slim to none. Jack Lemmon is absolutely endearing in the way he dotes on Fran, taking care of her when she needs it most.

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This film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Both Lemmon and MacClaine were nominated in the acting categories, too. I’d have been ok if Lemmon had won Best Actor but then again I don’t know who else was nominated that year. Baxter is the heart and soul of this film, and the transformation of his character as the film progresses is very believable.

I love so many things about this movie. The sharp script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, lovely music by Adolph Deutsch, and the perfect balance of drama and comedy. I love the hilarious way Baxter made spaghetti, straining the pasta through the grid of a tennis racket. It’s quite an iconic scene that’s cute and heartwarming.

Fran Kubelik: What’s a tennis racket doing in the kitchen?
C.C. Baxter: Tennis racket? Oh, I remember, I was cooking myself an Italian dinner.
[Fran looks confused]
C.C. Baxter: I use it to strain the spaghetti.

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Of course the performances are great all around, I quite like the chemistry between Lemmon and MacClaine, and it’s the kind of romance that’s rarely seen today as their love develops with barely any physical contact! There’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them.

The ending is one of those that made me go up and cheer… especially when Baxter finally stands up for himself and decides to become a *human being* (or a mensch as his doctor neighbor told him to be it just the night before). It turns out having the career he’s always wanted is not all that’s cracked up to be, meanwhile Fran too has an epiphany moment of her own. The finale is definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve moments in movies. I feel that this ending is pretty typical for rom-coms, complete with the girl running to catch the guy she *finally* realizes to be the love of her life + a bit of panic happening that she could be too late. Yet, it doesn’t feel clichéd or hackneyed here, and that’s the beauty of this movie.

I’m glad I finally caught The Apartment, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Now that I’ve seen two Billy Wilder movies, I definitely see why people love his work so much. I look forward to catching up on more of his films in the future, especially Sunset Blvd. that’s been recommended to me ages ago.

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4.5 out of 5 reels


This is the fourth entry to my 2014 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil at The Matinee, and continued by Dan Heaton at Public Transportation Snob .

As I missed April’s BlindSpot, there’ll be a Double Entry next month.


What do you think of  The Apartment? I’d love to hear what you think!

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49 thoughts on “May 2014 Blind Spot Film: The Apartment (1960)

    1. Hey thanks Michael! It’s been great catching up on the *essential* classic films, and now I see what the fuss is about Billy Wilder 🙂

  1. Of the many films I saw last year, this was my 2nd favorite discovery (non-Blind Spot) that I saw as I was just floored by the story, the direction, and most of all, Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. It is further proof into how good Billy Wilder is as a filmmaker and why he is so revered as I think this is one of the rare Best Picture winners that not only earned its due but has managed to become an undisputed classic. My favorite moment in the film is when Baxter got punched in the face by Fran’s brother-in-law and he just smiles. It’s Lemmon at his finest as I hope to see more Wilder films in the coming months.

    1. Hi Steven! Amen to all you said. Yeah that was a memorable scene indeed, it’s such a pure love that he had for Fran as at the time he didn’t think he could ever have her.

  2. Ted S.

    I’ve always heard good things about this movie and the its rating on imdb is pretty high. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to see it, I’m so picky as to what I watch now.

    1. Hi Natalie! I actually like the remake of Sabrina more than the original (yes I know I’m in the minority). But I LOVED this movie, definitely met my expectations!

  3. You’re right about the balance between the comic and the drama. The level of darkness at it heart was unexpected as I thought it was an out and out comedy. It’s one of my all time favourites.

    1. Hello Dirk. Yeah, I thought it’d be more comedic like Some Like It Hot, but it made me like it more though to have that dramatic tension.

  4. I haven’t seen this, but “there’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them” intrigues me so much that I’m adding it to my watchlist. Great review, Ruth!

    1. Hi Elina! It’s really rare to see this kind of romance, it’s almost like a Jane Austen movie though even in those you’d have a kissing scene at the end 🙂

  5. Superb film Ruth, and great review of it. So glad you made this your blind spot! I love Wilder. He’s was a tremendous director who balanced out, as you said, the drama and comedy perfectly.

    1. Hi Andrew! I’m glad I made it my BlindSpot too, but really it was my first choice 🙂 I’m quite happy that I ended up loving it, it doesn’t always happens even w/ films most people seem to love.

  6. Yay! It’s a great film. Billy Wilder’s best, I think. Shirley MacClaine’s voice is sweet, isn’t it? As she got older, she played mostly bitchy women beautifully like Bette Davis, but here, she’s a dream. Jack Lemmon is a perfect actor. So talented. Comedy or Drama.

    1. Yeah her voice is much coarser now isn’t it? Plus her character is soooo cute, it was hard to imagine it’s the same woman as in Guarding Tess and Bernie, ahah. Yeah, Jack Lemmon is one of the classic greats for sure. I need to see more Bette Davis’ films too, love her in All About Eve.

  7. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    “Miss Kubilek, I love you!”

    “Shut up and deal!”

    It doesn’t get much better than that. Excellent dissertation of a film whose entire cast ROCKS!

  8. asrap virtuoso

    I still haven’t seen this but I don’t believe I’ve read a bad review about it! I guess its one of those classics and if its like you’ve said that its similar to Roman Holiday, then I know I’ll enjoy it!!

    1. Hi Asrap! Well it’s not exactly similar to Roman Holiday overall, I was just referring to the character of Baxter’s transformation that’s similar to Joe Bradley’s character in RH 🙂 But this one is just as lovely, hope you’d give this a rent one day.

  9. Great review Ruth! I love this movie so much. It’s one of my favorite movies ever.
    Wilder got the tone perfect between drama and comedy.

    My favorite pice of trivia about this movie is that Wilder got the idea from one line in the movie Brief Encounter. A man having an affair mentions (yes mentions) in passing that he’ll speak to his friend about lending them his apartment for the night. Wilder took this idea and decided to write a story about how *that* guys life would be lending out his apartment for trysts.

    Lemmon and McLaine are both perfect in their roles and since I always thought of McMurray as a wholesome father from My 3 sons, it was nice seeing him play a different kind of character.

    I came across this movie abt 15 years ago by accident and have never looked back and have seen it so many times.

    Glad you finally got top see this via your blind spot!

    1. Hello Rob! I see what the fuss is about Mr Wilder now, though the first two films of his I saw I wasn’t as enamored w/ them.

      Wow, that is a cool trivia, thank you for that. And yeah Lemmon & MacClaine are both perfect here, never saw any McMurray film before but I like him here too.

  10. Dan Heaton

    Ruth, I’m glad to see that you enjoyed The Apartment so much. You should definitely check out a lot more work from Wilder, particularly Ace in the Hole, Sunset Boulevard, and Double Indemnity.

    1. Hi Dan! I can’t wait to see Sunset Blvd, that sounds like something I’d enjoy. Oh and Double Indemnity too, good thing that one is on Netflix streaming!

  11. Haven’t seen The Apartment even though I’ve been meaning to for quite a while. I love Jack Lemmon, especially after watching him in Glengarry Glen Ross. I will get to this before the summer is out!
    Fine review Ruth!

    1. Hi there Mark! Some of their best work eh? It seems that it’s one of Wilder’s best as well, based on people’s comments 🙂

  12. Woo hoo! I could watch this film any day of the week. It’s just so charming and lovable, and Lemmon and MacLaine are pretty great together. Hope you get to watch Sunset Blvd. soon!

    1. Yeah, I could easily watch it again too. Lemmon is so likable and he’s super sweet here in his scenes w/ MacClaine. Can’t wait to see Sunset Blvd either!

  13. I love this movie! I am so glad you liked it. How friggin cute is Shirley MacClaine? So adorable. The office almost reminds me of the first season of Mad Men. Such a simple movie, that still remains watchable and fun.

    1. Hi Melissa! MacClaine is so adorable, I LOVE her pixie cut here too. Oh I can see how the office drama would remind you of Mad Men, those execs are despicable aren’t they?

    1. Hi Fernando! It took me a while to finally get to it too, but it’s so totally worth seeing. I think you’d enjoy it, it’s got all the ingredients for a great drama AND comedy!

  14. “Shut up and deal.”

    Excellent review, Ruth, really glad you enjoyed this one so much! I definitely recommend Sunset Blvd as your next Wilder film. It’s a close second behind The Apartment as my favorite from him.

  15. This is my February blindspot and I’m glad you loved it too! I adore that spagetti-tennis racket scene, quite hilarious and warm at the same time. Shirley McLaine was so pretty. I agree with the script. The movie was de-light-ful 🙂 Have a safe flight and enjoy the trip!

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  17. “I said I live alone, I didn’t say I have an empty apartment”

    I only watched this movie for the first time five years ago – now it’s an all-time favorite. For how witty it is, for how funny it is, and for how dark it gets when it needs to.I could spend days sitting in the presence of Miss Kubelik and Mr. Baxter…they don’t even have to do anything, just sit there playing gin and I’d be a happy man. I think the only thing that gives me a bigger smile than thinking back on this film is when I start noticing its influence on other films…like AMERICAN BEAUTY and ALMOST FAMOUS.

    As you can tell by the landslide of comments you sparked, it’s a film that still has a lot of traction amongst film fans. Definitely happy you got to find out why!

    PS – If you ever want to dig deeper into Wilder, let me know. He’s become something of a hero of mine in these last five years and I can give you a shortlist of his great works.

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