The Apartment

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The Apartment
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBilly Wilder
Written by
Produced byBilly Wilder
CinematographyJoseph LaShelle
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Music byAdolph Deutsch
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • June 15, 1960 (1960-06-15) (NY)[1]
  • June 21, 1960 (1960-06-21) (LA)[1]
  • July 23, 1960 (1960-07-23) (London)[1]
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office$24.6 million[2]

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

The film follows an insurance clerk (Lemmon) who, in hopes of climbing the corporate ladder, allows more senior coworkers to use his Upper West Side apartment to conduct their extramarital affairs. He is attracted to an elevator operator (MacLaine) in his office building, unaware that she is having an affair with the head of personnel (MacMurray).

The Apartment was distributed by United Artists to widespread critical acclaim and was a commercial success, despite controversy owing to its subject matter. It became the 8th highest-grossing film of 1960. At the 33rd Academy Awards, the film was nominated for ten awards, and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Lemmon, MacLaine and Kruschen were Oscar-nominated. Lemmon and MacLaine won Golden Globe Awards for their performances. It provided the basis for Promises, Promises, a 1968 Broadway musical by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon.

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.[3][4]


C.C. "Bud" Baxter is a lonely office drudge at an insurance corporation in New York City. To climb the corporate ladder, he allows four company managers to take turns borrowing his Upper West Side apartment, 51 West 67th Street, for their extramarital affairs. Baxter meticulously juggles the "booking" schedule, but the steady stream of women convinces his neighbors that he is a playboy.

Baxter solicits glowing performance reviews from the four managers and submits them to personnel director Jeff Sheldrake, who then promises to promote him – but Sheldrake also demands use of the apartment for his own affairs, beginning that night. As compensation for this short notice, he gives Baxter two theater tickets for that evening. Bud asks his secret crush, Fran Kubelik, an elevator operator in the office building, to join him. She agrees but first meets up with a "former fling", who turns out to be Sheldrake. When Sheldrake dissuades her from breaking up with him, promising to divorce his wife, they head to Baxter's apartment, while Baxter waits outside the theater.

During the company's raucous Christmas party several weeks later, Sheldrake's secretary, Miss Olsen, tells Fran that her boss has had affairs with other female employees, including herself. Fran confronts Sheldrake at Baxter's apartment, but he claims he loves her, then heads back to his suburban family after presenting her with a "Christmas present" of a $100 bill.

Realizing that Fran is the woman Sheldrake has been taking to his apartment, Baxter lets himself be picked up by a married lady at a local bar. When they arrive at his apartment, he discovers Fran, passed out on his bed from a suicidal overdose of sleeping pills. He ditches the woman from the bar and enlists Dr. Dreyfuss, a medical doctor living in the next-door apartment, to revive Fran. When Baxter makes Dreyfuss believe that he was the cause of the incident, Dreyfuss scolds him for philandering and advises him to "be a mensch."

The next day, Mrs. Dreyfuss brings breakfast over for Fran and pleads with her to make a lifestyle change and settle down. Mrs. Dreyfuss and Fran repeatedly point out the poor housekeeping in Baxter's bachelor pad, including the fact that he uses a tennis racket as a spaghetti strainer in the kitchen. Dr. Dreyfuss recommends that Fran spend two days recuperating in the apartment, during which time she grows close to Baxter, especially after he confesses to his own botched suicide attempt over unrequited feelings for his best friend's wife, who now sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. Fran says she has always suffered bad luck in her love life.

As Fran is sleeping in Baxter's room, one of the managers arrives for a tryst. Baxter persuades him and his companion to leave, but the manager recognizes Fran and informs his colleagues. The next day, confronted by Fran's brother-in-law, Karl Matuschka, who is looking for her, the jealous managers direct Karl to Baxter's apartment. Baxter and Fran are in the middle of eating meatballs and spaghetti, which Baxter strained using the tennis racket, when Karl rings the doorbell and demands that Fran return home to her sister, who is concerned about her. Baxter deflects the brother's-in-law anger over Fran's wayward behavior by once again assuming all responsibility. When Karl finds out about Fran's suicide attempt, he punches Baxter, knocking him to the floor. Fran reacts by kissing Baxter on the forehead for protecting her, exclaiming softly, "Oh you fool, you damn fool."

When Sheldrake learns that Miss Olsen tipped off Fran about his affairs, he fires her, but she retaliates by spilling all to Sheldrake's wife, who promptly throws her husband out. With no regrets for his behavior, Sheldrake believes that this situation just makes it easier to pursue Fran, although she hints that she is losing interest. Having promoted Baxter to an even higher position, which includes a key to the executive washroom, Sheldrake expects Baxter to loan out his apartment yet again for him and Fran. Baxter refuses to let Sheldrake bring anyone to his apartment again, "especially not Miss Kubelik". When Sheldrake threatens to fire him, Baxter gives back the washroom key instead of the apartment key – proclaiming that he has decided to become a mensch – and quits the firm. He decides to move out of the apartment and begins to pack his belongings, including the tennis racket and the handgun from his suicide attempt.

That night at a New Year's Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran about Baxter quitting rather than letting him bring her to his apartment. Realizing that Baxter really loves her, Fran abandons Sheldrake and runs to the apartment. Running up the stairs, she hears an apparent gunshot. Fearing that Baxter has shot himself, she frantically pounds on the door. Baxter opens the door with a bottle of champagne in his hand, having just popped the cork. As they sit down to finish a game of cards started during Fran's recuperation, she reveals that she is on her own, like he is. When he asks about Sheldrake, she replies, "We'll send him a fruitcake every Christmas,” prompting him to declare his love for her. She hands him the cards and affectionately tells him to "Shut up and deal".


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.[5] 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.[6]


The film's title theme, written by Charles Williams and originally titled "Jealous Lover", was first heard in the 1949 film The Romantic Age.[7][8][9] 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.

The film made double its $3 million budget at the US and Canadian box office in 1960.[10][11][12] Critics were split on The Apartment.[10][13] Time and Newsweek praised it,[11] as did The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who called the film "gleeful, tender, and even sentimental" and Wilder's direction "ingenious".[14] Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald gave the film a poor review,[13] calling it "a paradigm of corny avantgardism".[15] Others took issue with the film's controversial depictions of infidelity and adultery,[13] with critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review dismissing it as "a dirty fairy tale".[10]

MacMurray, having generally played guileless characters, related 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.[6] 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.[16] The film critic Clarisse Loughrey has identified it as one of her two favorite movies, along with the 2010 film Boy.[17] The film holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 103 reviews with an average rating of 8.8/10; the site's consensus states that "Director Billy Wilder's customary cynicism is leavened here by tender humor, romance, and genuine pathos".[18] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 94 out of 100 based on 21 reviews, and was awarded the "Must-See" badge.[19]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
1961 Academy Awards[20][21] 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 Won
Best Foreign Actor Jack Lemmon Won
Best Foreign Actress Shirley MacLaine Won
1960 Cinema Writers Circle Awards Best Foreign Film Won
1960 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Director - Motion Pictures Billy Wilder Won
1960 Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy 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 Won
Top Male Comedy Performance Jack Lemmon Won
Top Female Dramatic Performance Shirley MacLaine Won
1960 National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 8th Place
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 ended. Since The Apartment only two black-and-white movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture: 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).[22] In the 2012 poll by the same magazine directors voted the film 44th greatest of all time.[23] The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002.[24] In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time". The Writers Guild of America ranked the film's screenplay (written by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond.) the 15th greatest ever.[25] In 2015, The Apartment ranked 24th on BBC's "100 Greatest American Films" list, voted on by film critics from around the world.[26] The film was selected as the 27th best comedy of all time in a poll of 253 film critics from 52 countries conducted by the BBC in 2017.[27]

American Film Institute lists:

Stage adaptation[edit]

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 also[edit]


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


  1. ^ a b c The Apartment at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  2. ^ "The Apartment (1960)". The Numbers. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  3. ^ "25 Films Added to National Registry". The New York Times. 1994-11-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  4. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-05-18.
  5. ^ Billy Wilder Interviews: Conversations with Filmmakers Series
  6. ^ a b Chandler, Charlotte. Nobody's perfect: Billy Wilder : a personal biography.
  7. ^ 5107 Charles Williams & The Queen's Hall Light Orchestra at Archived from Charles Williams at
  8. ^ Eldridge, Jeff. FSM: The Apartment
  9. ^ Adoph Deutsch's "The Apartment" w/ Andre Previn's "The Fortune Cookie"
  10. ^ a b c Fuller, Graham (June 18, 2000). "An Undervalued American Classic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  11. ^ a b "The Apartment (1960)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 15 October 2022.
  12. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 170
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 16, 1960). "Busy 'Apartment':Jack Lemmon Scores in Billy Wilder Film". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  15. ^ Horrocks, Roger (2001). Len Lye: A Biography. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press. p. 257. ISBN 1-86940-247-2. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 22, 2001). "Great Movie: The Apartment".
  17. ^ "Kino Society". Archived from the original on 2022-11-18. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  18. ^ "The Apartment (1960)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  19. ^ "The Apartment Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  20. ^ "The 33rd Academy Awards (1961) Nominees and Winners". 5 October 2014. Retrieved 2023-12-24.
  21. ^ "NY Times: The Apartment". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-02-10. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
  22. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 – The rest of the directors' list". Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2007-12-28.
  23. ^ "Directors' Top 100". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2012. Archived from the original on February 9, 2016.
  24. ^ "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The New York Times. 2002. Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  25. ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  26. ^ "100 Greatest American Films". BBC. July 20, 2015. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  27. ^ "The 100 greatest comedies of all time". BBC Culture. 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  28. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  29. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  30. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-07-17.
  31. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2011-03-13. Retrieved 2016-07-17.

External links[edit]