A long time ago… before office cubicles mercifully developed actual walls—long before Mad Men became known as the largest ham in show-biz, Billy Wilder’s fast-and-funny Best Picture-Oscar-winner (and The Frida Cinema Volunteer-of-the-Month Ben Tuschman‘s pick) The Apartment explored sexual shenanigans in the workplace.
Wage-slave C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), strung along with hints of raises and promotions, allows senior executives at his firm the use of his apartment to cheat on their wives. The frequency (and decibel level) of these liaisons lead Bud’s neighbors to believe he leads the life of a playboy. In reality, Bud is very lonely, wondering how to approach Fran (Shirley MacLaine), an adorable elevator operator who is also being manipulated… by Bud’s boss (Fred MacMurray), who is now asking Bud for his apartment keys.
The Apartment is now known as one of Wilder’s finest films. It firmly established both MacLaine and Lemmon as major stars (both were nominated for Oscars).
“A common thread in Billy Wilder’s best films is that it is the women who are the catalysts. Think of Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, or Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Monroe in The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot. Even, for that matter, in Ninotchka it is the women who are driving the plot.” — George Perry, BBC
“I admired the social statement Billy was making, and the extraordinary sophistication he brought to making that statement. And, I liked the idea that Fran was caught in this maze, like everyone else in the film” — Shirley MacLaine; Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder by Kevin Lally
“Deftly blending social satire with light humor, Billy Wilder manages to weave together a film that is both stinging in its social criticisms and generous in its humanity.” — Kate Williams, Pop Matters