The Apartment is the final black & white film to win Best Picture in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Fitting since it’s a good transitional film. The Apartment may have a classic look, but its themes are distinctly modern and a bit controversial for the time. But that didn’t stop it from winning Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay in a landmark series of wins for Billy Wilder. The first person to win all three awards for the same movie. Like most great Wilder pictures, The Apartment is about an unconventional romance and boundary pushing subject matter.
Jack Lemmon shines as C.C. “Bud” Baxter. An insurance agent who climbs to the top by loaning his apartment to his sleazy adulterous bosses. Bud (or Buddy Boy) can’t catch a break however. Although his doctor neighbor thinks he’s this big lady’s man, the one woman he does fall for is tangled up in an apartment affair of her own. Shirley MaClaine also shines as Fran Kubelik. An elevator operator who’s pulled back into an affair with Bud’s boss Sheldrake. Fred MacMurray could’ve just been a standard villain, but he turns the ensemble into a believable character study. One that feels like a play since everything revolves around the titular apartment.
As if the affairs weren’t edgy enough, Fran attempts suicide in Bud’s apartment after leaving Sheldrake. The unconventional romance comes when Bud looks after her and she opens up to him over a game of gin rummy. Fortunately Bud manages to stand up for himself and Fran does the same. Ending on another ambiguously hopeful Wilder line, “Shut up and deal.” The Apartment is a funny, honest depiction of old & new ideas.