Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #141 on the list, Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.
One of the reasons for starting this project was to make myself finally sit down and watch some of those films that have always been on my list of “Yeah, I need to watch that sometime” movies. Billy Wilder’s The Apartment has been on that list for awhile now, and I’m happy to say that I’m very glad to have finally gotten around to it, as the movie is definitely one of the all-time best, and only serves to show why Wilder’s is a name that deserves to be much better known by the wider movie-going audience and not just amongst those of us who consider ourselves to be film buffs.
Wilder, of course, is perhaps best known for another film which also stars Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot, which derives much of its reputation and public awareness from the presence of Marilyn Monroe, but it’s a shame that that film has eclipsed so much of his other work, including this film, which may arguably be his best.
The Apartment is the story of C. C. Baxter, a man who, rather than trying to “sleep his way” to the top, actually finds himself losing a lot of sleep in order to make the same kind of meteoric rise in the insurance company for which he works. He is doing this by providing his apartment as a place for four managers (played by Ray Walston, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, and David White) to go for liasons with their mistresses. He also handles a calendar which makes it possible for these men to schedule their various liasons in a way which will keep them from finding out who the other people involved in the scheme are, and also keep them from inadvertently running into or overlapping with each other.
This plan seems to be working well, until each of these managers write glowing reports on Baxter in order to help him get promoted to manager level, a move which catches the eye of Personnel Director Jeff Sheldrake (played by Fred MacMurray who is taking obvious glee in this generally out of character smarmy role). At first fearful that Sheldrake will fire him once he learns of the scheme, Baxter is at first relieved when he finds out that the director actually wants in on the plan and is willing to even further advance Baxter’s career if he will allow him to also schedule time in the apartment.
Of course, while this at first seems a blessing in disguise for Baxter, it really only serves to make his own already overly-complicated and wearying life even more so, and things are further thrown askew once he earns just whom Sheldrake is having his liasons with.
Needless to say, this film is an utter delight, and the entire cast shines throughout. Especially of note is Shirley MacLaine who is surprisingly delightful in her role as an elevator operator who catches everyone’s eye, especially that of Lemmon’s Baxter. (MacLaine won a Best Actress Golden Globe Award for this role, and was also nominated for an Academy Award in the same category.) For those, like myself, who are really only familiar with Ms MacLaine because of her later roles, it may come as an eye-opener as far as just how charming and simply downright cute she is in this role.
Along with the Awards mentioned above for Shirley MacLaine, the film also won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Black and White Set Decoration, and Lemmon was also nominated for Best Actor, while Jack Kruschen was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
In the end, it’s easy to see why the film was nominated and won so many awards, and the only real question that remains in my mind is why this gem is simply not better known to the public. But, at least I personally, thanks to this project, can not only cross another movie off my personal “to watch” list, and add it to my list of all-time favorites.
Now “shut up and deal.”
So what are your thoughts on The Apartment? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.