Lemmon wants to go up in the world with the girl he loves…
A clerk’s life becomes complicated when he asks the lift operator he’s always fancied on a date, little realising who she’s dating.
THE APARTMENT (1960) – Official Movie Trailer, soundfan and photos © United Artists
Music in the movies can often make a marvellous movie into a masterpiece. For me in the 1970s, there was the moving Francis Lai’s Sarah’s Theme in International Velvet (1978). The 1980s was the stirring Andrew’s theme in Misunderstood (1984).
More recently, the wonderful love theme, Mia & Sebastian’s Theme (Late For The Date) is heard – and danced to – in the ending montage in the musical La La Land (2016). I’m sure you will have your own choices. But you’ll agree that there is nothing like a hauntingly emotive and beautifully composed film score to get you involved in and with a movie.
All these lovely musical compositions, have me on the verge of tears (if not crying). This even on hearing them even if I’m not watching the film. This meant on hearing that the wonderful opening and recurring music was written for The Apartment (1960) – written by Charles Williams and originally titled Jealous Lover – had my attention from the start.
The music played before Lemmon’s statistically themed prologue – crammed with facts and figures of his current place of work and his job – had even started. This musical tune, evoking the thoughts of love and timeless romance in a sometimes dramatic way. A perfect fit for the film.
This Manhattan-based film tells of a mild-mannered, lowly insurance worker C C Baxter otherwise known as Bud (Jack Lemmon). He’s known less kindly by some of his co-workers as “that schnook who works in the office”. Bud lends out his apartment to the companies executives for their latest extra-marital liaisons with those gals from the office. In exchange, the executives dangle the thought of promotion in Bud’s face by saying they’ll recommend him for advancement to the big boss, Sheldrake.
Since he can’t go home whilst this regular “event” happening, Bud does extra hours at work until it’s “safe” to go home. On one such night, his apartment still “busy”, Bud hangs around outside his apartment. He looks like at best an inept Private Eye and at worst a shifty stalker.
Bud’s neighbours – Dr Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen) is impressed at Bud’s sexual prowess but his wife (Naomi Stevens) thinking Bud is a bit of a cad – believe Bud has at least one new gal every night. Bud lets them think this way, as he’s the soul of discretion in these matters of the heart.
Bud is a lonely bachelor. Once home, Bud spends the remainder of his night with a ready meal and a movie. After he goes to bed an executive calls to use his apartment in the wee small hours. Bud develops a head cold after waiting in the park for this colleague and his mistress to leave. This leaves him ill and tired the next day. Despite this, he goes to work.
Once at work, Bud’s madly in love with Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). the pixie looking lift operator. Bud kinda flirts with Fran in a Jack Lemmon sort of way, by gittering non-stop about facts and figures. Fran appreciates his genuineness and friendship – compared to their more slimy co-workers – and laughs at his easy humour. She also is fond of his gentlemanly ways, as he courteously removes his hat when in her lift.
At work, Bud keeps an apartment “appointment” diary in which he often shuffles times round in a bid to please everyone after a sudden booking. The feverishly ill Bud then summoned to see the head honcho at work on a higher floor. After sharing a lift with Fran, he gabbles and is super happy when she gives him a flower for his lapel.
Then he meets with his boss, Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray). After Sheldrake speaks to his wife about working late, he talks to Bud about his promotion prospects. Sheldrake – after some veiled heavy hints – obtains the key for Bud’s apartment, for him and his mistress. He offers Bud tickets for a show that night in exchange for the key. The lying toad.
After work, Bud asks Fran on a date. She agrees to go to the show with him. However, she’s frank with him. Fran tells him she has some unfinished business to complete with her ex-boyfriend first. She says she was serious about him but now less so. Later Sheldrake meets up with Fran, as it’s revealed, he is the ex-boyfriend she talked of with Bud. Sheldrake is a married man with kids and they ended after he gave her unfulfilled promises of leaving his family.
After Fran admits she still loves him, Sheldrake uses his smooth charm on her. The pair then go on to Bud’s apartment. Meanwhile, Bud realises he’s been stood up. Soon after this tryst, Bud returns a recently broken compact mirror to Sheldrake. Sheldrake and Fran’s relationship is inadvertently revealed to Bud at the Christmas party.
Fran lends him that same mirror and Bud – although heartbroken – hides he knows the truth from the pair. At this party, Fran discovers – through Sheldrake’s bitter and drunken secretary and ex-lover – she is one of many female employees who Sheldrake has bedded. To see what happens next in this Oscar-winning Best Picture movie, the choice is yours…
I loved this film, which reminded me of those early days of Mad Men (2007-15) with just as many in-office politics and shenanigans. Lemmon was credible as the much put upon employee. He made Bud a likeable and sympathetic character as used by his colleagues for their own ends. With Lemmon’s ordinary man persona and presence, he was easy to relate to than if a matinée idol had played him.
Lemmon effortlessly showed many depths to this character from a more hopelessly romantic side to a sincere and empathetic one. Lemmon showing wonderful comic talent and timing also was a powerful and moving on-screen presence in the more dramatic scenes. In all scenes, his character appeared genuine, supportive and loving to MacLaine’s Fran.
MacLaine in her cheerful, friendly role showed a softer, innocent and vulnerable side to Fran as her role developed. MacLaine gave a wonderfully natural and honest performance. Initially, Fran seemed shrewd and perceptive about her being the boss’s “bit on the side”. However, your heart ached for her when she spoke about the pain that went along with it.
You felt sympathy for her character when the more oily and unfeeling side to her on-screen lover in MacMurray’s character was revealed. With her sweet on-screen chemistry and rapport strongly evident with Lemmon from the outset, I’ll admit to rooting for the underdog Bud and Fran to get together.
MacMurray was fantastically evil in this bad guy role. He portrayed his snake-like character as unfeeling and cold, and uncaring to all the women in his life. This seen in his relationships with his wife, female employees and Fran. In his first scene, he blatantly lies to his wife about his whereabouts for that evening saying he’ll be late home as he’s entertaining a colleague.
This lie told so he can meet with Fran to attempt a reconciliation. These scenes were seen to full effect with MacMurray’s coolly distant performance, where his only apparent affection was shown in a scene with his two boys. In his interactions with Bud, my first impressions were positive as he seemed more professional, but then he seemed bad if not worse than the other executives.
He was charmingly manipulative, calculating and heartless. Initially, his character built Bud up to believe he was being promoted for his hard work. Then smoothly saying (and callously implying) a promotion would only happen if Bud provided the hospitality of his apartment.
This called for some wonderful acting with MacMurray easily showing this character’s two-faced attitude. It was a telling moment when his secretary revealed that he’d had a fling with her too. This made her outburst to Fran less damning, more a badly executed warning.
The film’s sharp and astutely written script was intelligently written for all the characters. The script was apt for this skilled acting talent in both comic and dramatic scenes. Finally some facts and figures. Out of ten Oscar nominations, this film won five. Lemmon and MacLaine both had Oscar nominations for this film as Best Actor and Actress. Both sadly lost out for their Oscars, but this film, however, led them to new heights of fame.
Later Lemmon received Oscars in The China Syndrome (1979) and Save the Tiger (1973) for him and McClaine for Terms of Endearment (1983). These along with another 210 award nominations – of all kinds – between them. MacMurray in 1960 won recognition of a different kind, with a Star on the Walk of Fame. Later he garnered a handful of Golden Globe nominations, before creating a buzz in his final movie, The Swarm (1978).
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂🙂🙂🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10
This post was added to For Phyllis Loves Classic Movies Fred MacMurray Blogathon. Other posts with this cast include Fred MacMurray in The Swarm. Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment HERE and HERE. Jack Lemmon stars in Airport 77.