#12 – The Apartment (1960)
Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray
Director: Billy Wilder, Producer: Billy Wilder, with associate producers I. A. L. Diamond and Doane Harrison, Production Company: United Artists
A enterprising young clerk at a big New York insurance company is advancing his career faster than most by lending his apartment to married executives for their little flings in exchange for promotions. Little does he know that the pretty elevator operator he admires is the mistress of the executive.
As I stated in my article about Jack Lemmon’s Shurlock Era career, this movie’s basic premise is unbreenable. It is about a young man who lends his apartment to married executives so they have a place to bring female friends. Everyone in the audience knows that, unlike Bud (Jack Lemmon) and Fran (Shirley MacLaine), they aren’t going there just to play gin rummy. This basic premise is extremely improper, and it isn’t implied very subtly. Also, leading lady Fran is carrying on an affair with notorious philanderer Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), feeling only remorseful about the fact that he lied about intending to divorce his wife. While it doesn’t feature revealing costumes like Billy Wilder’s previous Jack Lemmon vehicle, Some Like It Hot (1959), it features a few uses of profanity, which its predecessor did not. In addition to the blatant suggestions of adultery, this movie contains a couple of pickups, one of which is carried out by a drunken Bud, one suicide attempt, and the discussion of a contemplated suicide. If strictly adhering to the story problem I outlined above, this movie could not be a Code film. However, almost any film can be breened if one is willing to change the story enough. If the basic idea is about a young executive who is in love with an elevator operator, not knowing she is the boss’s girlfriend, it could theoretically be a Code film. The boss could only be married if she didn’t know he was and there relationship clearly had not been an illicit one. Perhaps the angle of the apartment itself could be worked in for some other shady purpose, such as hosting gambling or other illegal meetings. Last year I breened Some Like It Hot, so this film probably could be breened too. However, the fact that Billy Wilder had the idea for this film for at least fifteen years before he actually made it suggests that he wouldn’t have wanted to make it according to the Code’s moral standards. The people in this film have no morals and shame, so the general feeling of this movie is one of darkness and depression, which is typical of the Shurlock Era.
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