Billy Wilder’s films always combined comedy with heartbreak, but rarely did he pull off the balance quite as well as he did in this look at corporate lifestyles. In the role that revealed his ability to play serious drama, Jack Lemmon stars as a cog in the corporate machinery for an insurance company, who, to curry favor with management, lets them use his apartment for extramarital affairs. When the company’s head asks for a key, Lemmon seems to have made it to the top, only to discover the boss’s mistress is the elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) he’s fallen for. The film was a breakthrough for MacLaine as well. She had already received one Best Actress Oscar nomination, for Some Came Running (1958), but was seen primarily as a comic ensemble player. With the success of THE APARTMENT, she established herself as a major leading lady. Wilder only gave MacLaine the first 40 pages of the script so that she wouldn’t tip the ending. She thought he just didn’t have the script finished, which others working on the film have corroborated. During production, he added scenes to the script, like she and Lemmon playing gin rummy and her speech about love, based on things the actors said during breaks. The APARTMENT won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.
(d. Billy Wilder, 110m, Digital)
In attendance: Shirley MacLaine