AFI's Top 100 Movies

The Apartment, #80 on AFI’s List

The Apartment, 1960

Director: Billy Wilder

Writers: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray

Jack Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, one worker in thousands at an insurance company trying to work his way up the ladder. Shirley MacLaine plays Fran Kubelik the elevator operator. Knowing this movie was filmed over fifty years ago, I was still mesmerized by the youth and beauty of both MacLaine and Lemmon. But more importantly, their acting chops are just as strong as they are in later movies, and both actors utterly compelling in their performances.

He’s a really nice guy, but besides being a highly efficient and responsible employee, he’s trying to achieve executive status by lending out his apartment to executives in his office for their extra marital affairs. He finds himself in various difficult situations because of it.

There are some differences in some social aspects, not surprisingly, from current day morals. One is that when Baxter is asking Kubelik out on a date, he tells her he knows everything about her because he looked up her personal information in the insurance files. He knew her address, birthday, social security number. She thought it was funny. We thought he was a stalker.

The other was that when a married executive fires an ex-lover because she told his current lover about their relationship. He was very frank about why he was firing her and had no fear of legal retribution. She did get even, but not by pursuing sexual harassment or appealing the job loss.

The movie suddenly takes a serious turn and is absolutely mesmerizing. I absolutely loved the ending, when it seemed that we were going to get a cliche ending and didn’t with my favorite response EVAR to a character being told “I love you.”

Fran simply says, “Shut up and deal,” while playing a card game with Baxter when he confesses his love for her.

It’s a completely charming film with a blunt view of affairs, sexuality and the appetites of powerful men taking full advantage of their place in life. I am sad that the vast majority of women in the film seem to be drunken bimbos, other than the absolutely charming balance of goodness of MacLaine’s Fran and the apartment’s neighbor-wife. There was not a lot of depth given to either, and all the female characters fulfilled a cliche, but for its time that is not a surprise.

While no where near my favorite movie on the list, it’s solidly in the middle and I enjoyed it immensely.