The Apartment

The Apartment is a 1960 American romantic comedy-drama 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
The Apartment (1960 poster).jpg
Theatrical release 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 critical and commercial success, despite controversy owing to its subject matter. It became the 8th highest grossing film of 1960 and at the 33rd Academy Awards, 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. In 1994, it was one of the 25 films selected for inclusion to the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry.[2][3]


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 drunkenly tells Fran that Fran is one of many female employees Sheldrake has seduced into affairs with the false 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 married 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 both his and her jobs, Bud takes advantage of his playboy reputation, letting Dreyfuss believe Fran had accidentally swallowed too many pills after a lovers' quarrel with him. Scolding Bud for his apparent philandering, Dreyfuss advises him to "be a mensch, a human being."

Fran spends two days recuperating in the apartment, while Bud does his best to entertain and distract her from any suicidal thoughts, and a bond develops between them. He tells her he once attempted suicide himself over unrequited feelings for a girl who now sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. They begin playing a game of gin rummy as Fran reveals that she has always suffered bad luck in her love life. Bud dissuades her from phoning her family until her head is clear, before preparing a romantic dinner for her. 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. Miss Olsen retaliates by revealing the years of affairs to Sheldrake's wife, who promptly throws her husband out. Sheldrake moves into a room at his athletic club, but now figures he can string Fran along while he enjoys his newfound bachelorhood. However, when Sheldrake asks Bud for the apartment key, Bud instead gives back the key to the executive washroom, announces he has decided to become a mensch, and quits the firm, no longer willing to participate in the corrupt executives' exploitation of women, especially Fran.

That night at a New Year's Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran what happened. Realizing she is in love with Bud, Fran abandons Sheldrake and runs to Bud's apartment. At the door, she hears a loud noise like a gunshot. Fearing that Bud has attempted suicide again, Fran screams his name and 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, and is surprised and delighted to see her. Fran insists on resuming their gin rummy game, telling Bud she is now free as well. He asks, "What about Mr. Sheldrake?" and she responds, "We'll send him a fruitcake every Christmas." He declares his love for her, and she replies lovingly, "Shut up and deal," which he does as they smile adoringly at each other.


Calvin Clifford "Bud" Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), in a still from the film's final scene: "Shut up and deal."


Jack Lemmon in a still from the film's trailer. The Apartment marked his second collaboration with Billy Wilder after Some Like It Hot.

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.[4] 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.[5]


The film's title theme, written by Charles Williams and originally titled "Jealous Lover", was first heard in the 1949 film The Romantic Age.[6][7][8] A recording by Ferrante & Teicher, released as "Theme from The Apartment", reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart later in 1960.


Shirley MacLaine in the trailer for the film.

In 1960, the film doubled its $3 million budget at the U.S. box office.[9][10][11] Critics were split on The Apartment.[9][12] Time and Newsweek praised it,[10] as did The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who called the film "gleeful, tender, and even sentimental" and Wilder's direction "ingenious".[13] Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald gave the film a poor review,[12] calling it "a paradigm of corny avantgardism".[14] Others took issue with the film's controversial depictions of infidelity and adultery,[12] with critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review dismissing it as "a dirty fairy tale".[9]

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.[5] 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.[15] 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."[16]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
1960 Academy Awards[17][18] Best Motion Picture Billy Wilder Won
Best Director Won
Best Actor Jack Lemmon Nominated
Best Actress Shirley MacLaine Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jack Kruschen Nominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond Won
Best Art Direction – Black-and-White Alexandre Trauner and Edward G. Boyle Won
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Joseph LaShelle Nominated
Best Film Editing Daniel Mandell Won
Best Sound Gordon E. Sawyer Nominated
1960 British Academy Film Awards Best Film The Apartment Won
Best Foreign Actor Jack Lemmon Won
Best Foreign Actress Shirley MacLaine Won
1960 Cinema Writers Circle Awards Best Foreign Film The Apartment Won
1960 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Director - Motion Pictures Billy Wilder Won
1960 Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy The Apartment Won
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Jack Lemmon Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Shirley MacLaine Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Billy Wilder Nominated
1960 Grammy Awards Best Soundtrack Album Adolph Deutsch Nominated
1960 Laurel Awards Top Comedy West Side Story Won
Top Male Comedy Performance Jack Lemmon Won
Top Female Dramatic Performance Shirley MacLaine Won
1960 National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films The Apartment Won
1960 National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
1960 New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Won[a]
Best Director Billy Wilder Won[b]
Best Screenplay Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond Won
1960 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Billy Wilder Nominated
Best Actress Shirley MacLaine Won
1960 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond Won

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).

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).[19] In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time".

American Film Institute lists:

Stage adaptationEdit

In 1968, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon created a musical adaptation titled Promises, Promises which 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tied with Sons and Lovers.
  2. ^ Tied with Jack Cardiff for Sons and Lovers.


  1. ^ "The Apartment (1960)". The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  2. ^ "25 Films Added to National Registry". The New York Times. 1994-11-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  3. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  4. ^ Billy Wilder Interviews: Conversations with Filmmakers Series
  5. ^ a b Chandler, Charlotte. Nobody's perfect: Billy Wilder : a personal biography.
  6. ^ 5107 Charles Williams & The Queen's Hall Light Orchestra at Archived from Charles Williams at
  7. ^ Eldridge, Jeff. FSM: The Apartment
  8. ^ Adoph Deutsch's "The Apartment" w/ Andre Previn's "The Fortune Cookie"
  9. ^ a b c Fuller, Graham (June 18, 2000). "An Undervalued American Classic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  10. ^ a b "The Apartment(1960)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  11. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 170
  12. ^ a b c 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.
  13. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 16, 1960). "Busy 'Apartment':Jack Lemmon Scores in Billy Wilder Film". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  14. ^ Horrocks, Roger (2001). Len Lye: A Biography. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press. p. 257. ISBN 1-86940-247-2. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2001). "Great Movie: The Apartment".
  16. ^ "The Apartment (1960)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 27 November 2019.
  17. ^ "The 33rd Academy Awards (1960) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  18. ^ "NY Times: The Apartment". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  19. ^ BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 - The rest of the directors' list
  20. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  21. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  22. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  23. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-17.

External linksEdit