November’s Monday Matinee is the award winning film, The Apartment. The 1961 Oscar winner for Best Picture is chock full of young stars that you will certainly recognize. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray create a powerhouse triad. Edie Adams (Miss Olsen) is thrown in for good measure. The film won an Academy Award in nine additional categories including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Cinematography.
Set in New York City, the film tells an “edgy for the time” tale of a young employee of a large insurance company, C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon), who works his way to the top through giving personal favors. No! Not what you’re thinking. He has a great apartment on West 60th Street just a few blocks from Central Park and it just so happens that it makes a perfect love nest for many of the top executives at the insurance company. He offers a vintage-style AirBnB option to his top executives as they canoodle with a myriad of women at the company. The film captures the essence of the Mad Men time period when “none the wiser” wives were at home and their successful men took the train into the city and stayed late to “entertain” their clients (or the secretaries from the office).
C.C. Baxter isn’t your typical conniving ladder climber. He is a sweet gentleman who develops a mad crush on the elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). Unfortunately for Bud, Fran is drawn like a moth to a flame to the “married with children” top executive Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray), who plays the perfect cad with zero empathy for the women he uses and tosses aside. In this role, MacMurray plays polar opposite of his previous movie roles and his iconic squeaky clean role in My Three Sons. But don’t worry, his secretary, the leopard-print-pillbox-hat-wearing Miss Olsen (Adams), gives him a taste of his own medicine.
The film is categorized as a drama/comedy. I found it to be light on the comedy and heavy on the drama. It’s more sophisticated humor is skillfully woven into the dialogue. It is Shirley MacLaine who has the best delivery of the witty lines. My favorite line of Fran Kubelik, as she works the floor selection panel on her elevator, is “Just because I wear a uniform doesn’t mean I’m a girl scout.” Her character is unapologetically innocent yet wonderfully feisty and surprisingly naive and fragile. The depth of her character is best captured when Baxter returns to her a make-up compact with a broken mirror. Her reply, “yes, I know. I like it that way. Makes me look the way I feel.” I found the young Shirley MacLaine to be a captivating actress; she stole the movie from her male counterparts for me.
The film’s director and screenwriter, Billy Wilder, is a legend in the film industry, earning the highest accolades in the industry. His directorial style supported his passion for writing and his gift as a storyteller. He received twenty-one Academy Award nominations and took the trophy home at six award shows. You may remember him from other hit films of yesteryear including Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, Sunset Boulevard and Sabrina…just a sampling of his successful film-making career.
For a glimpse into life during the early 60’s, take a walk through the fabulous vintage New York City scenes and a peak at some mega stars in the summer of their careers, come out to see The Apartment for free at the Greenbelt Community Center on November 4 at 1:00 pm.