The Apartment

The Apartment is a 1960 American romantic comedy film produced and directed by Billy Wilder from a screenplay he co-wrote with I. A. L. Diamond, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, alongside Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, David White, Hope Holiday and Edie Adams.

The Apartment
Original film poster
Directed byBilly Wilder
Produced byBilly Wilder
Written by
Music byAdolph Deutsch
CinematographyJoseph LaShelle
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • June 30, 1960 (1960-06-30)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$24.6 million[1]

The story follows C. C. “Bud” Baxter (Lemmon), an insurance clerk who, in the hope of climbing the corporate ladder, lets more-senior coworkers use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct extramarital affairs. Bud is attracted to the elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine), who in turn is having an affair with Bud's immediate boss, Sheldrake (MacMurray).

The Apartment was distributed by United Artists to favorable reviews and commercial success, despite controversy owing to its subject matter. At the 33rd Academy Awards, The Apartment was nominated for ten awards and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Lemmon and MacLaine were Oscar-nominated and won Golden Globe Awards for their performances in the film. It provided the basis for Promises, Promises, a 1968 Broadway musical by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon.

In the years since its release, The Apartment has come to be regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, appearing in lists by the American Film Institute and Sight and Sound magazine, and being selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry.


C. C. "Bud" Baxter is a lonely office drudge at a national insurance corporation in a high-rise building in New York City. In order to climb the corporate ladder, Bud allows four company managers to take turns borrowing his Upper West Side apartment for their various extramarital liaisons, which are so noisy that his neighbors assume that Bud is a playboy bringing home a different woman every night.

The four managers write glowing reports about Bud, who hopes for a promotion from the personnel director, Jeff D. Sheldrake. Sheldrake does promote Bud, but he knows why they were so enthusiastic and demands exclusive privileges to borrow the apartment himself, starting that same night. As compensation for such short notice, he gives Baxter two tickets to The Music Man.

After work, Bud catches Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator he has had his eye on, and asks her to go to the musical with him. She accepts, but first has to meet a former fling. He is Sheldrake, who convinces her that he is about to divorce his wife for her. They go to Bud's apartment as Bud waits forlornly outside the theater.

Later, at the company's raucous Christmas party, Sheldrake's secretary Miss Olsen (Edie Adams) drunkenly tells Fran that Fran is one of many female employees Sheldrake has seduced into affairs with the promise of divorcing his wife, including Miss Olsen herself. At Bud's apartment, Fran confronts Sheldrake, upset with herself for believing his lies. Sheldrake maintains that he genuinely loves her, but then leaves to return to his suburban family as usual.

Meanwhile, Bud accidentally learns about Sheldrake and Fran when he notices Fran's broken hand mirror, the same one which he returned to Sheldrake. Heartbroken, he lets himself be picked up by a woman at a local bar. When they arrive at his apartment, he is shocked to find Fran in his bed, fully clothed and unconscious from an intentional overdose of his sleeping pills. He sends his pick-up away and enlists the help of his neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss, to revive Fran without notifying the authorities. To protect his job, Bud takes advantage of his playboy reputation, letting Dreyfuss believe Fran had attempted suicide after a lovers' quarrel with him.

Fran spends two days recuperating there, while Bud tries entertaining and distracting her from any suicidal thoughts. He tells her he once attempted suicide himself. They begin playing gin rummy. Bud dissuades her from phoning her family until her head is clear. During this period one of the executives arrives with a woman; Bud sends them away, but the man sees Fran. Then Fran's brother-in-law Karl Matuschka comes to the office looking for her. Resenting Bud for denying them access to his apartment, the executives direct Karl there. When Bud again takes responsibility for Fran's actions, Karl punches him. Fran kisses Bud on the forehead for not revealing her affair with Sheldrake and, sensing that she now cares for him, Bud smiles and says it "didn't hurt a bit."

Sheldrake rewards Bud with a further promotion, and fires Miss Olsen for what she told Fran. However, Miss Olsen retaliates by telling Sheldrake's wife, who promptly throws him out. Sheldrake moves into a room at his athletic club, but now figures that he can string Fran along while he enjoys his newfound bachelorhood.

But when Sheldrake asks Bud for the key to the apartment, Bud instead gives back the key to the executive washroom and quits the firm. That night at a New Year's Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran about this. She finally realizes that Bud is the man who truly loves her. She runs to his apartment, but at the door, she hears a loud noise like a gunshot. Fearing he has attempted suicide again, Fran pounds on the door until Bud opens it, holding an overflowing bottle of champagne which was the source of the noise. Bud has been packing, planning to find a new job and a new home, but is surprised and delighted to see her. Fran insists on resuming their gin rummy game, telling Bud that she is now free as well. He declares his love for her, and she replies lovingly, "Shut up and deal."



Immediately following the success of Some Like It Hot, Wilder and Diamond wished to make another film with Lemmon. Wilder had originally planned to cast Paul Douglas as Sheldrake; however, after he died unexpectedly, MacMurray was cast.

The initial concept came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) meets Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) for a thwarted tryst in his friend's apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger's wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee's apartment.[2] Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond's friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed.

Although Wilder generally required his actors to adhere exactly to the script, he allowed Lemmon to improvise in two scenes: In one scene, he squirts a bottle of nasal spray across the room, and in another, he sings while cooking spaghetti (which he strains through the grid of a tennis racket). In another scene, where Lemmon was supposed to mime being punched, he failed to move correctly, and was accidentally knocked down. Wilder chose to use the shot of the genuine punch in the film. Lemmon also caught a cold when one scene on a park bench was filmed in sub-zero weather.

Art director Alexandre Trauner used forced perspective to create the set of a large insurance company office. The set appeared to be a very long room full of desks and workers; however, successively smaller people and desks were placed to the back of the room, ending up with children. He designed the set of Baxter's apartment to appear smaller and shabbier than the spacious apartments that usually appeared in films of the day. He used items from thrift stores and even some of Wilder's own furniture for the set.[3]


The film's title theme, written by Charles Williams and originally titled "Jealous Lover", was first heard in the 1949 film The Romantic Age.[4][5][6] A recording by Ferrante & Teicher, released as "Theme from The Apartment", reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart later in 1960.


In 1960, the film doubled its $3 million budget at the U.S. box office.[7][8][9] Critics were split on The Apartment.[7][10] Time and Newsweek praised it,[8] as did The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who called the film "gleeful, tender, and even sentimental" and Wilder's direction "ingenious".[11] Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald gave the film a poor review,[10] calling it "a paradigm of corny avantgardism".[12] Others took issue with the film's controversial depictions of infidelity and adultery,[10] with critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review dismissing it as "a dirty fairy tale".[7]

MacMurray relates that after the film's release he was accosted by women in the street who berated him for making a "dirty filthy movie", and one of them hit him with her purse.[3]

In 2001, Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, and added it to his Great Movies list.[13] The film currently holds a 94% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 66 reviews with an average rating of 8.7/10; the site's consensus states that "Director Billy Wilder's customary cynicism is leavened here by tender humor, romance, and genuine pathos."[14]

33rd Academy Awards (Oscars) - 1960

The Apartment received 10 Academy Award nominations, and won 5 Academy Awards.[15][16]

Best Picture Won Billy Wilder
Best Director Won Billy Wilder
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) Won I. A. L. Diamond
Billy Wilder
Best Actor Nominated Jack Lemmon
Best Actress Nominated Shirley MacLaine
Best Supporting Actor Nominated Jack Kruschen
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) Nominated Joseph LaShelle
Best Film Editing Won Daniel Mandell
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White Won Alexandre Trauner
Edward G. Boyle
Best Sound Nominated Gordon E. Sawyer

Although Lemmon did not win the Oscar, Kevin Spacey dedicated his Oscar for American Beauty (1999) to Lemmon's performance. According to the behind-the-scenes feature on the American Beauty DVD, the film's director, Sam Mendes, had watched The Apartment (among other classic American films) as inspiration in preparation for shooting his film.

Within a few years after The Apartment's release, the routine use of black-and-white film in Hollywood had ended. As of 2014, only two black-and-white movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture after The Apartment did: Schindler's List (1993) and The Artist (2011).

Other awards and honors

The Apartment also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source and Lemmon and MacLaine both won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe each for their performances. In 1994, The Apartment was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2002, a poll of film directors conducted by Sight and Sound magazine listed the film as the 14th greatest film of all time (tied with La Dolce Vita).[17] In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time".

American Film Institute

Stage adaptation

In 1968, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon created a musical adaptation titled Promises, Promises opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in New York City. Starring Jerry Orbach, Jill O'Hara and Edward Winter in the roles of Chuck, Fran and Sheldrake, the production closed in 1972. An all-star revival began in 2010 with Sean Hayes, Kristin Chenoweth and Tony Goldwyn as the three leads. This version added famous Bacharach/David songs "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not a Home" to the roster.

See also


  1. "The Apartment (1960)". The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  2. Billy Wilder Interviews: Conversations with Filmmakers Series
  3. Chandler, Charlotte. Nobody's perfect: Billy Wilder : a personal biography.
  4. 5107 Charles Williams & The Queen's Hall Light Orchestra at Archived from Charles Williams at
  5. Eldridge, Jeff. FSM: The Apartment
  6. Adoph Deutsch's "The Apartment" w/ Andre Previn's "The Fortune Cookie"
  7. Fuller, Graham (June 18, 2000). "An Undervalued American Classic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  8. "The Apartment(1960)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  9. Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 170
  10. Phillips, Gene D. (2010). Some Like It Wilder: The Life and Controversial Films of Billy Wilder. Lexington, Kentucky, USA: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2570-1.
  11. Crowther, Bosley (June 16, 1960). "Busy 'Apartment':Jack Lemmon Scores in Billy Wilder Film". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  12. Horrocks, Roger (2001). Len Lye: A Biography. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press. p. 257. ISBN 1-86940-247-2. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  13. Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2001). "Great Movie: The Apartment".
  14. "The Apartment (1960)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  15. "The 33rd Academy Awards (1960) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  16. "NY Times: The Apartment". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  17. BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 - The rest of the directors' list
  18. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  19. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  20. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  21. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
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