director Billy Wilder
I’m kicking off a new round of watching those “great movies” that I’ve never seen. I started this last year and saw several before getting somewhat sidetracked on other trends, including “The Worst Movies Ever Made”. My latest push is inspired by a new list produced by the BBC of the 100 Best American Films of all time. While this list has many of the usual suspects and also some questionable entries, it does afford me some clarity on the movies on this list that I’ve never seen.
Billy Wilder’s The Apartment is an odd one for me to have never seen. I do love me some Billy Wilder (as does the BBC list — he’s on there five times for #100 Ace in the Hole (1951), #54 Sunset Boulevard (1950), #35 Double Indemnity (1944), #30 Some Like It Hot (1959), as well as this one which was his highest on the list at #24.) I also love me some Jack Lemmon. And this is one of those movies that seems to play nearly endlessly on TCM. So, how I never saw it? I dunno.
Lemmon is a cog in a big insurance firm in New York, loaning out his convenient bachelor pad to some managers to take their many trysts. When he finally gets a promotion for his efforts, he’s spotted by the big boss, played by Fred MacMurray, who starts to ask for the same favors. Only it turns out that his girl on the side is Fran Kubelik (the very lovely Shirley MacLaine), an elevator gal in the building for whom Lemmon has developed feelings.
While there are elements of comedy about the film, it’s no Some Like It Hot or The Seven Year Itch (1955). Fran tries to kill herself in Lemmon’s apartment, and while he tries to get her taken care of, he’s also trying to keep everything together.
Between The Apartment and Double Indemnity, you can forget all about the fatherly My Three Sons Fred MacMurray and rather see him as one of Hollywood’s best ruthless villains.
I enjoyed the film. Wilder’s popularity is well-earned. I think if I had caught it at a younger age, I might have really connected with it. I certainly would have fallen for MacLaine.