Jack Lemmon is very good at playing the regular guy. You can easily imagine that he is your best friend, Uncle, or the nice guy in your workplace. That's because he is so easygoing with his acting style. He never seems to be trying hard, but becomes the man he is playing. The Apartment is one of his greatest films.
Lemmon plays C.C. "Bud" Baxter, a low-level accountant for a huge insurance company. He is a worker bee who slaves away in the corporate structure hoping to get noticed for a promotion some day. Baxter finally finds a way to ingratiate himself with the executives in his company by lending the use of his apartment to them to help them conduct their extramarital affairs. All seems to be going well.
The head of personnel, Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), gives Baxter the promotion, but only because he wants to use the apartment to fool around with the latest of many of his girls on the side. Baxter is getting fed up with all of it, and how will he react when it turns out that Sheldrake is fooling around with the woman Baxter loves, Fran Kubelick (Shirley MacLaine)?
Will Baxter stand up to the executives? Will he find love with Fran?
The film is full of great performances. I always wondered why people thought so highly of Shirley MacLaine. Today, she is famous for being kooky, not for being a great actress. However, she is fabulous in this film as the elevator operator desperately in love with the man who promises to leave his wife for her. MacLaine is able to make her character pitiful, but also shows signs of strength and life.
Fred MacMurray is another actor who surprised me. I am used to seeing him as the kindly, wise father in My Three Sons or as Disney's Nutty Professor. However, he is the most evil man on the planet in this film. Slick and devious, his character, Sheldrake, will make your blood boil.
The film, like The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, is a stinging indictment of corporate America and exposes white-collar angst for all the world to see. It was very daring for its time, 1960. Watch how quickly the executives turn on Baxter when they don't need him anymore. Remind you of anyplace you have worked?
The audience also must question Baxter's motives and actions. He has used the executives just as much as they have used him. By tossing his morals and beliefs out the window, he has forgotten what is important to expedite his rise up the ladder of success. Will he save his soul?
If you are in the mood for a stunning drama with tough social commentary, hidden in the guise of a drama, check out The Apartment.
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Jack Lemmon .. C.C. "Bud" Baxter
Shirley MacLaine Fran Kubelick
Fred MacMurray . Jeff Sheldrake
Ray Walston . Joe Dobish
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