Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Apartment (1960)

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine & Fred MacMurray

Rating 5/10

Poor old C.C Baxter (Lemmon) is caught in a cycle of sychophantic submission to his superiors. Baxter works at a New York City (of course) Insurance Agency with a thousand other plebs at the bottom of the corporate pile.

To get out of this white collar cesspool, Baxter agrees to lend out his apartment for his bosses to get busy with their mistresses. Initially, everything goes to plan. Baxter works late to free up his place and is able to get more work done. However, after a while and a sleep on a park bench where he gets a cold, Baxter begins to tire.

One fine day he meets sassy elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), with whom he falls into sweet, deep love. As Baxter moves up the corporate ladder, however, he soon realises the mess he’s got himself into, the icky world of drink, drugs and affairs. He is shocked to realise that the love of his life is tangled up in this seedy world which drives him over the edge.

This film heralded the dawn of a new era in cinema and society. The conservative 50’s were gone, the swinging 60’s had arrived. When you compare Ben Hur to The Apartment, you can see they are polar opposites. The production feels a lot more modern as well as the themes. It has an abstract feel to it.

The Apartment is all about the pleasure generation: sex, alcohol, drugs and television obsession. Baxter represents the 50’s society merging into the 60’s. He’s a little naive but ravenously consuming anything he can get his hands on. He still has old fashioned ideals of love and romance which are shaken by revelations of Fran’s involvement with a married man! Shock, horror.

Imagine how audiences would have reacted to these themes! Apparently they loved it. Perhaps they were ready for more meaty or shocking storylines from Hollywood.

Jack Lemmon is lovable and a bit sad as the fumbling Baxter. Shirley MacLaine is brilliant and natural as Fran. I felt the film ran a little slow and it was excruciating to watch Baxter struggle through under the thumbs of some very powerful men. In the end, though, Baxter comes of age and finally stands up and becomes a man!

The Apartment Trivia:

  • Budget: $25 million (here you can see the cost of film skyrocketing. Gigi cost $3 million, Ben Hur $15 million)
  • The desks in the main office scene created perspective by having smaller desks and smaller people behind as they went back. To the point where, right at the back, Art Director, Alexandre Trauner, used dwarfs.
  • This was the last Black and White film to win Best Picture (except for Schindler’s List)
  • They shot the Christmas party on December 23 to catch the holiday spirit. It was an easy take for Director Billy Wilder who said, “Today I can just shout ‘action’ and stand back.”
  • Note the reference to former Best Picture winner, Grand Hotel. Baxter starts to watch it on television. There was also a reference to The Lost Weekend. Can you pick it?
  • Wilder was so tired of working with the lazy and demanding Marilyn Monroe that he cast a look-a-like to be the ‘party girl’ in this film. Right back atcha Mazza.
Welcome to the 60’s! We’re almost halfway there. This decade gave us musicals, action and epics! So hold onto your hat! Next week, we hit one of the musicals with West Side Story starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn.
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