The Apartment (1960) Director: Billy Wilder
The Apartment is a surprisingly racy movie for a Best Picture winner in the year 1960. It was directed by Billy Wilder, a Hollywood legend whose later fame would include Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, and many others. The Apartment was unique in that it won Billy Wilder the first string of Oscars for Best Director, Producer, Screenwriter, and Picture.
The Apartment is an odd choice to win Best Picture. It is about a mid-level insurance clerk named “Bud” Baxter (played by Jack Lemmon) who begins offering his Manhattan apartment to senior leaders at his company in exchange for preferential treatment and advancement opportunities at work. The executives use Baxter’s apartment for romantic liaisons -so much so, in fact, that Baxter’s neighbors suspect him of being an insatiable playboy. At work, Baxter attempts to pursue an elevator girl named Fran (played by Shirley Maclaine) but unbeknownst to anyone she is having a secret affair with one of the corporate executives at Baxter’s apartment. She grows depressed at the affair and Baxter is shocked one night to find her lying in his bed after attempting an overdose of sleeping pills. Baxter rouses his neighbor who is a doctor (and who is now more suspicious of Baxter) and he cares for her and offers to play cards with her. Eventually she leaves and Baxter keeps quiet about the incident at work which earns him a promotion, but he soon decides to quit the toxic culture of his company. We are led to believe that Baxter and Fran end up together in the end when she returns to his apartment to play cards.
While the film contains allusions to early greats like King Vidor’s The Crowd, ultimately The Apartment is Billy Wilder’s portrayal of an adult-themed cynical comedy. The expected romance between Baxter and Fran is dragged out until the very end of the film, and even then it is unsatisfying and perhaps that was Wilder’s intent. I found this film mostly unsatisfying, albeit entertaining. I prefer Billy Wilder’s other classic films, like Sunset Boulevard.