The Apartment

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The Apartment
The Apartment (1960 poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by
Produced byBilly Wilder
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Edited by Daniel Mandell
Music by Adolph Deutsch
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • June 15, 1960 (1960-06-15)(NY) [1]
  • June 21, 1960 (1960-06-21)(LA) [1]
  • July 23, 1960 (1960-07-23)(London) [1]
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$24.6 million [2]

The Apartment is a 1960 American romantic comedy-drama film directed and produced by Billy Wilder from a screenplay he co-wrote with I. A. L. Diamond. It stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, David White, Hope Holiday and Edie Adams.


The story follows C.C. "Bud" Baxter (Lemmon), an insurance clerk who, in the hope of climbing the corporate ladder, lets more senior coworkers use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct extramarital affairs. Bud is attracted to an elevator operator in his office building, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). He does not know she is having an affair with his immediate boss, Sheldrake (MacMurray).

The Apartment was distributed by United Artists to critical and commercial success, despite controversy owing to its subject matter. It became the 8th highest grossing film of 1960. At the 33rd Academy Awards, the film was nominated for ten awards, and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Lemmon, MacLaine and Kruschen were Oscar-nominated. Lemmon and MacLaine won Golden Globe Awards for their performances. It provided the basis for Promises, Promises , a 1968 Broadway musical by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon.

In the years since its release, The Apartment has come to be regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, appearing in lists by the American Film Institute and Sight and Sound magazine. In 1994, it was one of the 25 films selected for inclusion to the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry. [3] [4]


C.C. "Bud" Baxter is a lonely office drudge at an insurance corporation in New York City. To climb the corporate ladder, he allows four company managers to take turns regularly borrowing his Upper West Side apartment for their extramarital liaisons. Bud meticulously juggles the "booking" schedule, but the steady stream of women in and out convinces his neighbors that he is a playboy, bringing home someone else every night.

Bud solicits glowing performance reviews from the four managers and submits them to personnel director Jeff Sheldrake, who then promises to promote him—but Sheldrake also demands use of the apartment for his own affairs, beginning that night. As compensation for this short notice, he gives Baxter two theater tickets for that evening. Bud asks his secret crush, Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator in the office building, to join him. She agrees, but first meets up with a "former fling", who turns out to be Sheldrake. When Sheldrake dissuades her from breaking up with him, promising to divorce his wife, they head to Bud's apartment, as Bud waits, stood-up, outside the theater.

Later, at the company's raucous Christmas party, Sheldrake's secretary, Miss Olsen, tells Fran that her boss has had affairs with other female employees, including herself. Later, at Bud's apartment, Fran confronts Sheldrake. He professes genuine love for her, but then takes off, heading back to his suburban family, as usual.

Bud—realizing that Fran is the woman Sheldrake has been taking to his apartment—lets himself be picked up by a married lady at a local bar. However, when they arrive at his apartment, he discovers Fran, passed out on his bed from an apparent suicidal overdose of his sleeping pills. He sends away the woman from the bar and enlists Dr. Dreyfuss, a medical doctor living in the next-door apartment, to revive Fran. Bud intentionally makes Dreyfuss believe that he was the cause of the incident. Dreyfuss scolds Bud for philandering and advises him to "be a mensch ."

While Fran spends two days recuperating in the apartment, Bud cares for her, and a bond develops between them, especially after he confesses to his own suicide attempt over unrequited feelings for a woman who now sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. During a game of gin rummy, Fran says she has always suffered bad luck in her love life. As Bud prepares a romantic dinner, one of the managers arrives for a tryst. Bud persuades him and his companion to leave, but the manager recognizes Fran and informs his colleagues. Later confronted by Fran's brother-in-law, Karl Matuschka, who is looking for her, the jealous managers direct Karl to Bud's apartment. There, Bud deflects the brother's-in-law anger over Fran's wayward behavior by once again assuming all responsibility. Karl punches him, but when Fran kisses Bud for protecting her, he just smiles and says it "didn't hurt a bit."

When Sheldrake learns that Miss Olsen tipped off Fran about his affairs, he fires her, but she retaliates by spilling all to Sheldrake's wife, who promptly throws her husband out. Sheldrake believes that this situation just makes it easier to pursue his affair with Fran. Having promoted Bud to an even higher position, which also gives him a key to the executive washroom, Sheldrake expects Bud to loan out his apartment yet again. Bud gives him back the washroom key instead, proclaiming that he has decided to become a mensch, and quits the firm.

That night at a New Year's Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran about Bud quitting. Realizing she is in love with Bud, Fran abandons Sheldrake and runs to the apartment. At the door, she hears an apparent gunshot. Fearing that Bud has attempted suicide again, she frantically pounds on the door. Bud opens up, holding a bottle of champagne whose cork he had just popped, celebrating his plan to start anew. As the two settle down to resume their gin rummy game, Fran tells Bud that she is now free, too. When he asks about Sheldrake, she replies, "We'll send him a fruitcake every Christmas." He declares his love for her, and she replies, "Shut up and deal."


Calvin Clifford "Bud" Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), in a still from the film's final scene: "Shut up and deal." The apartment trailer 1.JPG
Calvin Clifford "Bud" Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), in a still from the film's final scene: "Shut up and deal."


Jack Lemmon in a still from the film's trailer. The Apartment marked his second collaboration with Billy Wilder after Some Like It Hot. The apartment trailer jack lemmon.JPG
Jack Lemmon in a still from the film's trailer. The Apartment marked his second collaboration with Billy Wilder after Some Like It Hot .

Immediately following the success of Some Like It Hot , Wilder and Diamond wished to make another film with Lemmon. Wilder had originally planned to cast Paul Douglas as Sheldrake; however, after he died unexpectedly, MacMurray was cast.

The initial concept came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) meets Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) for a thwarted tryst in his friend's apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger's wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee's apartment. [5] Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond's friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed.

Although Wilder generally required his actors to adhere exactly to the script, he allowed Lemmon to improvise in two scenes: In one scene, he squirts a bottle of nasal spray across the room, and in another, he sings while cooking spaghetti (which he strains through the grid of a tennis racket). In another scene, where Lemmon was supposed to mime being punched, he failed to move correctly, and was accidentally knocked down. Wilder chose to use the shot of the genuine punch in the film. Lemmon also caught a cold when one scene on a park bench was filmed in sub-zero weather.

Art director Alexandre Trauner used forced perspective to create the set of a large insurance company office. The set appeared to be a very long room full of desks and workers; however, successively smaller people and desks were placed to the back of the room, ending up with children. He designed the set of Baxter's apartment to appear smaller and shabbier than the spacious apartments that usually appeared in films of the day. He used items from thrift stores and even some of Wilder's own furniture for the set. [6]


The film's title theme, written by Charles Williams and originally titled "Jealous Lover", was first heard in the 1949 film The Romantic Age . [7] [8] [9] A recording by Ferrante & Teicher, released as "Theme from The Apartment", reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart later in 1960.


Shirley MacLaine in the trailer for the film. The apartment trailer maclaine1.JPG
Shirley MacLaine in the trailer for the film.

The film doubled its $3 million budget at the American box office in 1960. [10] [11] [12] Critics were split on The Apartment. [10] [13] Time and Newsweek praised it, [11] as did The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who called the film "gleeful, tender, and even sentimental" and Wilder's direction "ingenious". [14] Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald gave the film a poor review, [13] calling it "a paradigm of corny avantgardism". [15] Others took issue with the film's controversial depictions of infidelity and adultery, [13] with critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review dismissing it as "a dirty fairy tale". [10]

MacMurray relates that after the film's release he was accosted by women in the street who berated him for making a "dirty filthy movie", and one of them hit him with her purse. [6] In 2001, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, and added it to his Great Movies list. [16] The film currently holds a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 66 reviews with an average rating of 8.7/10; the site's consensus states that "Director Billy Wilder's customary cynicism is leavened here by tender humor, romance, and genuine pathos." [17]

Awards and nominations

1960 Academy Awards [18] [19] Best Motion Picture Billy Wilder Won
Best Director Won
Best Actor Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Actress Shirley MacLaine Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jack Kruschen Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond Won
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Alexandre Trauner and Edward G. Boyle Won
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Joseph LaShelle Nominated
Best Film Editing Daniel Mandell Won
Best Sound Gordon E. Sawyer Nominated
1960 British Academy Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Foreign Actor Jack LemmonWon
Best Foreign Actress Shirley MacLaineWon
1960 Cinema Writers Circle Awards Best Foreign FilmWon
1960 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Director - Motion Pictures Billy WilderWon
1960 Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jack LemmonWon
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Shirley MacLaineWon
Best Director – Motion Picture Billy WilderNominated
1960 Grammy Awards Best Soundtrack Album Adolph Deutsch Nominated
1960 Laurel Awards Top ComedyWon
Top Male Comedy PerformanceJack LemmonWon
Top Female Dramatic PerformanceShirley MacLaineWon
1960 National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 8th Place
1960 National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
1960 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Won [lower-alpha 1]
Best Director Billy WilderWon [lower-alpha 2]
Best Screenplay Billy Wilder and I. A. L. DiamondWon
1960 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Billy WilderNominated
Best Actress Shirley MacLaineWon
1960 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Billy Wilder and I. A. L. DiamondWon

Although Lemmon did not win the Oscar, Kevin Spacey dedicated his Oscar for American Beauty (1999) to Lemmon's performance. According to the behind-the-scenes feature on the American Beauty DVD, the film's director, Sam Mendes, had watched The Apartment (among other classic American films) as inspiration in preparation for shooting his film.

Within a few years after The Apartment's release, the routine use of black-and-white film in Hollywood ended. Since The Apartment only two black-and-white movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture: Schindler's List (1993) and The Artist (2011).

In 1994, The Apartment was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2002, a poll of film directors conducted by Sight and Sound magazine listed the film as the 14th greatest film of all time (tied with La Dolce Vita ). [20] In the 2012 poll by the same magazine directors voted the film 44th greatest of all time. [21] The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002. [22] In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time". The Writers Guild of America ranked the film's screenplay (written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond.) the 15th greatest ever. [23] In 2015, The Apartment ranked 24th on BBC's "100 Greatest American Films" list, voted on by film critics from around the world. [24] The film was selected as the 27th best comedy of all time in a poll of 253 film critics from 52 countries conducted by the BBC in 2017. [25]

American Film Institute lists:

Stage adaptation

In 1968, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon created a musical adaptation titled Promises, Promises which opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in New York City. Starring Jerry Orbach, Jill O'Hara and Edward Winter in the roles of Chuck, Fran and Sheldrake, the production closed in 1972. An all-star revival began in 2010 with Sean Hayes, Kristin Chenoweth and Tony Goldwyn as the three leads. This version added famous Bacharach/David songs "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not a Home" to the roster.

See also


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