Primum non nocere
a beautiful film about two lonely souls finding each other over a New York ChristmasHow well that sums it up! I'd never been interested before in seeing The Apartment; much like Matthew and Doctor Zhivago and his mother's distaste for adultery, I had always found the premise of a man helping his superiors cheat on their wives more than a little off-putting. I had no idea this was such a lovely story! >>SPOILERS <<There is plenty of comedy here (albeit much quieter than the funny business we will-- I hope, I hope -- be enjoying in the next show), and the humor of pleasant companions enjoying each other I liked the best. Like the little carry-over bit with Fran holding up four fingers when she says "Three" is answer to the how-many-boyfriends question --- her own little joke on Buddy's drink-count at the party, even though she is feeling too awful to smile.And I didn't expect the drama to be so quiet, so delicately crafted. The serious elements are given their due: there is nothing comical in Buddy's discovery of the drugged girl in his bedroom, nor in the medical treatment that follows. Buddy's attempts to will Sheldrake into responding decently to the crisis make him a bit of a hero; his efforts for Fran's sake could be written off as saving his own skin, but he had nothing to gain but a bit of comfort for her in pressing Sheldrake to at least speak to her. There was a line that struck me as a bit ironic, when Sheldrake is deriding the girls-on-the-side who expect the men to divorce their wives. He says something like "That's hardly fair, is it?" and Buddy responds "No -- especially to the wives!" Yet it isn't for the sake of the betrayed wives that Buddy decides he can't stomach the aiding and abetting any more, but for the sake of the girls who were, until Fran, only hypothetical stereotypes, whose hopes, dreams, expectations, and disappointments had never occurred to him, much less the possibly tragic consequences of their just-for-laughs falls from grace.The performances were great -- I really enjoyed Jack Lemmon, more contained than in some other roles, and I especially loved Shirley MacLaine, discreet and humorous in public, ingenuous in private, almost elfin in her youth and sweetness. And Fred MacMurray was uncomfortably good as the villain, deceptive, manipulative, quietly malevolent, especially in contrast to the other husbands availing themselves of Buddy's biddable -- or buyable -- nature. There is no sense that these others are lying to the brash mistresses and/or knowing pick-ups they take to the apartment, but there is real wickedness in Sheldrake's pattern of seducing young women from his down-town world, corrupting them with promises of love and future, and discarding them to move on to the next.Oh dear, reality intrudes! More later, I hope.
Wasn't it fun? I had kind of skipped by this movie, but it really was a good one. Jack Lemmon is so funny as a wimpy kind of character, I sometimes forget that he is acting. The cold symptoms, the whining because his higher ups are using his apartment with no consideration to him whatsoever, he really did that well. When you juxtapose the CC Baxter we know with the person his neighbors all presume him to be, it's hilarious! I loved that woman next door, so mad at him. And the doctor, counseling on moderation and taking things a little more with the long run in mind. But what was great fun was the growth of the CC Baxter character. The perspective he gains and the transformation his character goes through are in consequence to his knowing Fran Kubelik. His feelings for Miss Kubelik sparked the stirring of his own better nature, and gave him the courage to be more than he otherwise was. Good stuff!
And that Fred McMurray drove me nuts!
This film used to be a staple during the Sixties on the local TV station's afternoon movie show, so I've have seen it too many times to remember. I always liked it for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine although I found the premise off-putting and somehow unbelievable. I bet housewives watching found it even more so--uncomfortable that is. I wonder how many husbands got the second degree about the number of unmarried/divorced women working in their company after this film came out. I see now where it is based on true events that happened in, where else? Hollywood. No wonder why they set it in the corporate world. At least the writers seemed to have some understanding of the work that went on in the real world, unlike most movies today. Just try and remember the last time you saw a movie where you saw a realistic depiction of a real job. The writers had less familiarity with the cooking time of a TV dinner, though, unless Baxter's oven was a lot better than it looked.I see in the trivia for this movie that Lemmon's cold was written in after he got a real cold after filming that scene of sleeping on the bench after getting shagged from his apartment at 11:30 PM because it was sub-zero when they filmed it. I don't know whether I believe that because I didn't see his breath. And that punch that Lemmon took was supposed to have been real, as Wilder kept the cameras rolling and used that take when Lemmon moved the wrong way during the scene and the punch really landed. Could be. There was a surprised look in Lemmon's face, but he seemed to be a little too composed afterward. Good for him if he really did continue with the scene without missing a beat. Paul Douglas (Angels in the Outfield and Panic in the Streets)wasoriginally supposed to have played Sheldrakeinstead of Fred MacMurray but he died of a heart attack before filming. Wilder offer him the part after seeing him at a restaurant with his new fifth wife Jan Sterling (both had worked for Wilder). I can imagine what Wilder was thinking about Douglas being born for the role.Well as our "elfin" Shirley MacLaine (who was asked to leave ballet when she topped off at six feet en pointe) said "Just because I wear a uniform that doesn't make me a girl scout." I don't have anything to complete that thought, I just like the line. Like I like the happy ending of our first "Christmas" movie.
So glad you all liked it. This has been a top ten favourite of mine ever since my school days, when I first became aware of the ease with which the least affectionate, trustworthy and considerate boys managed to acquire the loveliest girlfriends, while the nice guys came last. C.C. Baxter is kind of a poster boy for the sensitive invisible man.I loved the way that finding redemption in their own lives is the thing that brings Fran and Baxter together: he insults Sheldrake and walks out of his job because he realises it is the only right thing to do, not with any hope whatever of winning Fran, which he thinks is a completely lost cause. Similarly, it is only when she resolves to stop being used and helping men like Sheldrake exploit their positions and betray their families that she discovers accidentally how deeply Baxter cares for her.And it being Billy Wilder, I love how the totally stirring, totally affecting romanticism of her rush through the streets to find him is then beautifully counterpointed by the final scene and last line.Cathy makes a good point that while all the other guys that leech off Baxter are kind of lowlifes, they are nonetheless not monsters, whereas there's something kind of evil about Sheldrake, which the brilliant casting of normally loveable Fred MacMurray only accentuates. (I had no idea till I read Darrell's comment that his casting was so last-minute.) So there is real moral drama here, parts of it I find poignant and gripping, as well as great good humour and celebration of human warmth.I also love all the running dialogue jokes, the look of the thing generally, Shirley's haircut, the scene where Baxter gets drunk and picks up a girl in the bar and she asks him what he thinks about Castro ("that big shot down in Cuba with the crazy beard"), and the way that by the end even the doctor, Baxter's severest (though unkowingly unjust) critic has come to like him, and will miss him when he's gone.Any Bewitched fans in the house? Did you spot Darren's boss Larry as one of Baxter's sleazy workmates? No? Oh well. That's the way it crumbles (cookie-wise).
Yes, I saw David White and was going to mention it. There's a lot of Larry Tate in Mr. Eichelberger. Or is that vice versa?Shirley gave herself that haircut after Bob Fosse told the stage manager to tell her to get rid of her long red ponytail that was whipping around as she danced, taking away attention from the principals when she danced chorus in The Pajama Game. Of course that made her still stand out but they probably thought she would shave herself bald if they said anything.One last bit of triva--that office shot where the desks seemed to go on forever was actually filmed with forced perspective in mind. The desks were made progressively smaller the farther away from the camera you got and they were staffed by smaller and smaller people--eventually hitting dwarfs.I also thought a lot of what would happen after the fade to black. They are now both unemployed.Baxter took a, what, four-year hit on his career. He couldn't expect any references from any of his "buddy boy" buddies. If it lived on the straight and narrow in the future, would he live out his life as employee 16,789 somewhere?
Shirley visited Cuba after The Apartment, when she had returned to starring on Broadway, and claims to have slept with Castro [when her Cuban maid was unpacking her suitcase after the trip she found a picture of MacLaine and Fidel and promptly quit). [About Shirley MacLaine by Shirley MacLaine: Sage-ing While Age-ing ] She also claimed they never had a finished script on The Apartment and that she and Jack talked out many of the lines with Wilder picking and choosing for the takes. With her belief in pre-destination in her life, maybe she got the idea for the visit from that line in the movie.
Well, this was a good one. We should have 'A Christmas Story' up in a couple of days or so.
Any Bewitched fans in the house?Oh, my stars, was television ever graced with anyone lovelier than Elizabeth Montgomery in the first season of Bewitched?Her look changed a bit -- I don't know how to express this, but it's as though they hardened her up, as the humor became broader (and broader), Endora's lurking malevolence got toned down, and Darrin became increasingly frenetic. Don't get me wrong -- I LOVED Bewitched, watching the reruns as a kid. But it's definitely a treat to come across one of the really early episodes. (And the second Mrs. Kravitz cannot compare.)Come to think of it, it was only in the first season or so that Larry Tate was depicted as a bit of a Mr. Eichelberger. After that he was more family- (or, perhaps, housewife-) friendly, an only slightly henpecked husband with a very likeable wife.As for Ms. MacLaine and her contested elfin-ness -- all I can say is, Jack Lemmon must have been much taller than I thought. ;)
Oh -- one more favorite bit from the movie. I loved the moment when, during the New Year's Eve partying, Fran uses Buddy's quip about "cookie-wise" and a funny reminiscent smile spreads over her face. That's when she knows that she could fall in love with a nice guy like him, and their very satisfactory reunion/first step ends the show, but for me, that few seconds on Shirley MacLaine's face made the scene and act.I'm so glad we did this!
Shirley said en pointe. Maybe she has really long feet. Ballet-wise. Or Wilder had her in a ditch during filming, like they did when Audie Murphy or Alan Ladd starred. That might explain her politics.David White lost his son Jonathan on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. I remember that in the news. And seeing that David White himself he had been a Marine during the war.
Mark Steyn has weighed in, and is in full agreement with Matt on The Apartment being an excellent Wilder film: "Kubelik-wise, the jackpot is a long way off, and how loser boy gets there is forlorn and funny all at the same time. The Apartment is a comedy, but it catches the desperation of inconsequential people passed over by the holiday season. And so it is that Christmas-wise C.C. gets to spend the day with the recuperating Fran, who's abandoned at his apartment after Sheldrake goes home for the holidays with the wife and kids. In Fran and C.C.'s bedsit Christmas, there are no chestnuts roasting, but they do play gin rummy. Baxter's face is never happier than when he's straining spaghetti through his tennis racket and never more loving than when he innocently tucks in his sleeping elevator gal. It may not be much of a Christmas, but it beats the previous year when he went to the zoo and had Christmas dinner at the automat."Very good.