Best Picture Winners. Movie #115: The Apartment (1960)

From now until Oscar Sunday I will be reviewing Best Picture winners. Enjoy!

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Hope Holiday, Joan Shawlee

Academy Awards (1961):

Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White: Alexandre Trauner, Edward G. Boyle

Best Director: Billy Wilder

Best Film Editing: Daniel Mandell

Best Picture: Billy Wilder

Best Writing, Story or Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond

Academy Award Nominations:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jack Lemmon

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jack Kruschen

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Shirley MacLaine

Best Cinematography, Black-and-White: Joseph LaShelle

Best Sound: Gordon Sawyer (Samuel Goldwyn SSD)

apartmentposter

Manhattan insurance clerk C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) gains favor with some of his superiors at work by allowing them to use his apartment as a rendezvous for their extramarital affairs.  Things get complicated, though, when Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray), the company boss, brings Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), an elevator operator who Baxter has fallen in love with, to the apartment.

There are a lot of layers to this story, and they’re intricately woven together and flow smoothly to make for a charming film.  There is the right balance of humor and seriousness, light-heartedness with darker elements.

Jack Lemmon has a certain “it” factor and charm that I’ve always enjoyed.  Most of the films I’ve seen him in have been great showcases of his comedic acting.  However, there always seems to be just enough depth and seriousness with his performances that sets him apart from other exclusively comedic actors.  He’s adds enough serious, meaningful acting to not just be the funnyman.  His performance in The Apartment showcases this balance between funny and serious probably better than any of his other films, at least that I’ve seen.

Shirley MacLaine complements both Lemmon and Fred MacMurray in her given relationship with each man.  She performs her character’s inner conflict very well, and she holds her own with the comedic parts as well.

Jack Kruschen, who earned an Oscar nomination for his part as Baxter’s neighbor Dr. Dreyfuss, carries some of the comedic load of the film and complements the two leads quite well.  Though he plays the irritated neighbor, he also does a great job as a paternal voice of reason.  MacMurray also does a good job as the overbearing womanizer boss type.  It’s interesting to me that My Three Sons started its twelve-year run in 1960.  MacMurray has that 50s/60s “model dad” look to him.  It adds a different dynamic to his performance as Sheldrake.

apartmentending

The Apartment has an alluring balance of comedy and drama.  Complementary and believable performances by all the major characters really bring this film together.  It’s lighthearted  at times, but serious when it needs to be.  Though the technology and outside cultural influences have become incredibly dated, the core story of the growing love between two people in spite of everything going on around them is still engaging and enjoyable to watch.  Jack Lemmon gives one of his best performances in this film.  I’d definitely recommend this one, and it’ll stay on my radar as one to revisit at some point.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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