Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oscar Profile: The Apartment (1960)

My favorite movie of all-time is on TCM today.

Part of Jill and Michael's 2012 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon.

Directed by Billy Wilder
Produced by Billy Wilder
Written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Jack Kruschen

Synopsis: C.C. Baxter (Lemmon) is an ordinary young bachelor, who is rising fast up the corporate ladder. What makes him special? Why does he ascend to the heights of more privileged older men in his workplace? Because he happens to be letting those very businessmen use his apartment for their extramarital indiscretions. Granted, Baxter has a heart, as he falls in love with Ms. Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), an elevator operator at his office. His world comes crashing down when he learns that his boss Mr. Jeff Sheldrake (MacMurray) was, and is, having an affair with her - in Baxter's apartment of all places. Fran has her own problems, and Baxter takes care of her when she tries to commit suicide after Sheldrake refuses to leave his wife. But will they work out their problems? Will Baxter put a stop to his boss' philandering? Will Fran tear herself away from the married man she hopelessly loves? In short, will the pair end up together? At times funny, at times devastating, and other times oh so tender, this is Billy Wilder's bittersweet masterpiece.

Today TCM is honoring Jack Lemmon. This wonderful film airs at 5:45 p.m.

Oscar Profile: 10 Nominations, 5 Wins

Best Picture: Billy Wilder (WON)

Other Nominees: The Alamo, Elmer Gantry, Sons and Lovers, The Sundowner
Verdict: Richly deserved, especially since Psycho was not nominated.

Best Director: Billy Wilder (WON)

Other Nominees: Jack Cardiff (Sons and Lovers), Jules Dassin (Never on Sunday), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Fred Zinnemann (The Sundowners)
Verdict: Again, well-deserved. Hitchcock does some great things in Psycho, but Wilder's magnum opus is too finely crafted to be beaten.

Best Actor: Jack Lemmon

Other Nominees: Trevor Howard (Sons and Lovers), Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry), Laurence Olivier (The Entertainer), Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind)
Verdict: He already had an Oscar at this point, but it's a shame he had to lose this one. In arguably his best performance, he was passed over for Burt Lancaster's electrifying performance in Elmer Gantry.

Best Actress: Shirley MacLaine

Other Nominees: Greer Garson (Sunrise at Campobello), Deborah Kerr (The Sundowners), Melina Mercouri (Never on Sunday), Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8)
Verdict: She lost to a controversial choice in Elizabeth Taylor, whose film Butterfield 8 was up for the Oscar when she was ill with a severe case of viral pneumonia. Quite sad really, for both actresses.

Best Supporting Actor: Jack Kruschen

Other Nominees: Peter Falk (Murder, Inc.), Sal Mineo (Exodus), Peter Ustinov (Spartacus), Chill Wills (The Alamo)
Verdict: Losing to Peter Ustinov's performance in Spartacus is not the issue, but his nomination seems to have bumped MacMurray out of a deserved nod.

Best Original Screenplay: Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (WON)

Other Nominees: The Angry Silence, The Facts of Life, Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Never on Sunday
Verdict: No dispute. It's a rich combination of comedy and drama with great characters and many memorable scenes. This was an easy choice.

Best Art Direction: Alexandre Taylor & Edward G. Boyle (B&W) (WON)

Other Nominees: The Facts of Life, Psycho, Sons and Lovers, Visit to a Small Planet
Verdict: The film features solid production design, but Psycho deserved this one.

Best Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle (B&W)

Other Nominees: The Facts of Life, Inherit the Wind, Psycho, Sons and Lovers
Verdict: Beautifully shot in the then dying-out black and white palate. Still, Psycho deserved this too (instead of Sons and Lovers).

Best Film Editing: Daniel Mandell (WON)

Other Nominees: The Alamo, Inherit the Wind, Pepe, Spartacus
Verdict: The film is just over two hours, and it avoids dragging its feet. Every scene is perfectly timed, with the heartwarming final scene arriving before you know it.

Best Sound: Gordon Sawyer

Other Nominees: The Alamo, Cimarron, Pepe, Sunrise at Campobello
Verdict: There wasn't much competition here, but The Alamo deserved its win over this particular work.

If you haven't seen this great film, check it out on TCM this evening.


  1. One of my favorite films -- waiting to find a quality blu-ray copy to purchase.

    I'm always up for celebrating Jack Lemmon.

    1. Right now I just have an older edition of the DVD, but it's a treasured item on the shelf.

      Can't go wrong with Jack!

  2. Billy Wilder would certainly be one of my favorite directors, if not THE Favorite and The Apartment is certainly my Favorite Wilder. There are very few Romantic movies as good as this, there are few Movies as good as this. Period.

    About Shirley MacLaine's controversial loss, she said she lost to out to an tracheotomy, you know. :)

    1. Completely agree on Wilder.

      Haha. Yeah, I remember reading that somewhere. Oh well, at least MacLaine got an Oscar later. :)

  3. Great film but between this and Psycho, I'd choce Psycho, btw I love reading retrospective post like that I had no idea Psycho wasn't up for Best Picture! That's crazy!

    1. I know, right? I think only 3 Hitchcock films (Rebecca, Foreign Correspondent, and Spellbound) actually got Best Picture nominations. There's a lot of snubs there.

  4. Billy Wilder was a god and this film is one of my FAVORITES. I'm totally with you on the MacMurray snub. I was actually talking with some friends about that recently and it was brought up that in those times it was really hard to get a nomination without the studio backing, and apparently MacMurray was REALLY hard to work with, so he probably got passed over more for his attitute than anything else.

    1. That stinks. As much as I love the Oscars, the politics are my least favorite part.

  5. Wow this is uncanny, my guest blogger just posted the third part of our Jack Lemmon series :) I'm ashamed that I haven't seen this one but I'm still catching up to the best of the classics, hence I'm seeing Singin' in the Rain tonight on the big screen!

    1. Loved Jack Deth's piece. Ooh, you must see this one.

      I love Singin' in the Rain, but I loved it even more when I saw it on the big screen in July. Enjoy!

  6. Thanks for the awards summary of a great film!

    1. Don't mention it. And thanks for stopping by Joel!

  7. Its clear the uber-leftists in Hollywood were not going to give a patriotic epic (The Alamo) the Oscar the year after a religious epic (Ben-Hur) cleaned up. Especially when the person responsible for creating such a great movie was John Wayne. What a joke!! A movie about adultery beats one of the greatest historic epics in Hollywood history. And Dmitri Tiomkin not getting the Oscar for "The Green Leaves of Summer" is a travesty.

    1. I think The Apartment deserved Best Picture, but it's interesting you feel that way. It's been years since I saw The Alamo, so I really need to rewatch it. I do agree on Tiomkin's loss though. He deserved to win for "The Green Leaves of Summer".