The Apartment (1960)


The Apartment (1960)

As of November 1, 1959, mild mannered C.C. Baxter has been working at Consolidated Life, an insurance company, for close to four years, and is one of close to thirty-two thousand employees located in their Manhattan head office. To distinguish himself from all the other lowly cogs in the company in the hopes of moving up the corporate ladder, he often works late, but only because he can't get into his apartment, located off of Central Park West, since he has provided it to a handful of company executives - Mssrs. Dobisch, Kirkeby, Vanderhoff and Eichelberger - on a rotating basis for their extramarital liaisons in return for a good word to the personnel director, Jeff D. Sheldrake. When Baxter is called into Sheldrake's office for the first time, he learns that it isn't just to be promoted as he expects, but also to add married Sheldrake to the list to who he will lend his apartment. Dobisch, Kirkeby, Vanderhoff and Eichelberger are now feeling neglected as Baxter no longer needs ...
IMDb   8.3 /10
Metacritic   94 %
TheMovieDb    8.2 /10
FilmAffinity   8.4 /10
Release Date1960-06-29
Runtime2h 5mins
GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
Content RatingApproved (Approved)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #117 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 19 wins & 8 nominations.
CompanyThe Mirisch Corporation
C.C. Baxter
Jeff D. Sheldrake
Joe Dobisch
Dr. Dreyfuss
Mrs. Margie MacDougall
Mrs. Mildred Dreyfuss
Karl Matuschka
Mr. Vanderhoff
Mr. Eichelberger
Miss Olsen

The Apartment

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, 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 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 an elevator operator in his office building, Fran Kubelik (MacLaine). He does not know she 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, MacLaine and Kruschen were Oscar-nominated. Lemmon and MacLaine 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.


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 regularly borrowing his Upper West Side apartment for their extramarital liaisons. Bud meticulously juggles the "booking" schedule, but the steady stream of women in and out convinces his neighbors that he is a playboy, bringing home someone else every night.

Bud 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 Bud's apartment, as Bud waits, stood-up, outside the theater.

Later, at the company's raucous Christmas party, Sheldrake's secretary, Miss Olsen, tells Fran that her boss has had affairs with other female employees, including herself. Later, at Bud's apartment, Fran confronts Sheldrake. He professes genuine love for her, but then takes off, heading back to his suburban family, as usual.

Bud—realizing that Fran is the woman Sheldrake has been taking to his apartment—lets himself be picked up by a married floozy at a local bar. However, when they arrive at his apartment, he discovers Fran, passed out on his bed from an apparent suicidal overdose of his sleeping pills. He sends away the woman from the bar and enlists Dr. Dreyfuss, a medical doctor living in the next-door apartment, to revive Fran. Bud intentionally makes Dreyfuss believe that he was the cause of the incident. Dreyfuss scolds Bud for philandering and advises him to "be a mensch (Ger.: a human being)."

While Fran spends two days recuperating in the apartment, Bud cares for her, and a bond develops between them, especially after he confesses to his own suicide attempt over unrequited feelings for a woman who now sends him a fruitcake every Christmas. During a game of gin rummy, Fran says she has always suffered bad luck in her love life. As Bud prepares a romantic dinner, one of the managers arrives for a tryst. Bud persuades him and his companion to leave, but the manager recognizes Fran and informs his colleagues. Later confronted by Fran's brother-in-law, Karl Matuschka, who is looking for her, the jealous managers direct Karl to Bud's apartment. There, Bud deflects the brother's-in-law anger over Fran's wayward behavior by once again assuming all responsibiity. Karl punches him, but when Fran kisses Bud for protecting her, he just smiles and says it "didn't hurt a bit."

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. Sheldrake believes that this situation just makes it easier to pursue his affair with Fran. Having promoted Bud to an even higher position, which also gives him a key to the executive washroom, Sheldrake expects Bud to loan out his apartment yet again. Bud gives him back the washroom key instead, proclaiming that he has decided to become a mensch, and quits the firm.

That night at a New Year's Eve party, Sheldrake indignantly tells Fran about Bud quitting. Realizing she is in love with Bud, Fran abandons Sheldrake and runs to the apartment. At the door, she hears an apparent gunshot. Fearing that Bud has attempted suicide again, she frantically pounds on the door. Bud opens up, holding a bottle of champagne whose cork he had just popped, celebrating his plan to start anew. As the two settle down to resume their gin rummy game, Fran tells Bud that she is now free, too. When he asks about Sheldrake, she replies, "We'll send him a fruitcake every Christmas." He declares his love for her, and she replies, "Shut up and deal."


  • Jack Lemmon as Calvin Clifford (C.C.) "Bud" Baxter
  • Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik
  • Fred MacMurray as Jeff D. Sheldrake, personnel manager, Baxter's boss and apartment user
  • Ray Walston as Joe Dobisch, office manager and Baxter apartment user
  • Jack Kruschen as Dr. David Dreyfuss, Baxter's neighbor
  • David Lewis as Al Kirkeby, manager and Baxter apartment user
  • Edie Adams as Miss Olsen
  • Hope Holiday as Mrs. Margie MacDougall
  • Joan Shawlee as Sylvia
  • Naomi Stevens as Mrs. Mildred Dreyfuss
  • Johnny Seven as Karl Matuschka (Fran's cab driving brother-in-law)
  • Joyce Jameson as the blonde in the bar
  • Hal Smith as Santa Claus in the bar
  • Willard Waterman as Mr. Vanderhoff, manager and Baxter apartment user
  • David White as Mr. Eichelberger, manager and Baxter apartment user


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. 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.


The film's title theme, written by Charles Williams and originally titled "Jealous Lover", was first heard in the 1949 film The Romantic Age. 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. Critics were split on The Apartment. Time and Newsweek praised it, as did The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther, who called the film "gleeful, tender, and even sentimental" and Wilder's direction "ingenious". Esquire critic Dwight Macdonald gave the film a poor review, calling it "a paradigm of corny avantgardism". Others took issue with the film's controversial depictions of infidelity and adultery, with critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review dismissing it as "a dirty fairy tale".

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. 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. 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."

Awards and nominations

1960Academy AwardsBest Motion PictureBilly WilderWon
Best DirectorWon
Best ActorJack LemmonNominated
Best ActressShirley MacLaineNominated
Best Supporting ActorJack KruschenNominated
Best Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the ScreenBilly Wilder and I. A. L. DiamondWon
Best Art Direction – Black-and-WhiteAlexandre Trauner and Edward G. BoyleWon
Best Cinematography – Black-and-WhiteJoseph LaShelleNominated
Best Film EditingDaniel MandellWon
Best SoundGordon E. SawyerNominated
1960British Academy Film AwardsBest FilmThe ApartmentWon
Best Foreign ActorJack LemmonWon
Best Foreign ActressShirley MacLaineWon
1960Cinema Writers Circle AwardsBest Foreign FilmThe ApartmentWon
1960Directors Guild of America AwardsOutstanding Director - Motion PicturesBilly WilderWon
1960Golden Globe AwardsBest Motion Picture – Musical or ComedyThe ApartmentWon
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or ComedyJack LemmonWon
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or ComedyShirley MacLaineWon
Best Director – Motion PictureBilly WilderNominated
1960Grammy AwardsBest Soundtrack AlbumAdolph DeutschNominated
1960Laurel AwardsTop ComedyWest Side StoryWon
Top Male Comedy PerformanceJack LemmonWon
Top Female Dramatic PerformanceShirley MacLaineWon
1960National Board of Review AwardsTop Ten FilmsThe ApartmentWon
1960National Film Preservation BoardNational Film RegistryInducted
1960New York Film Critics Circle AwardsBest FilmWon
Best DirectorBilly WilderWon
Best ScreenplayBilly Wilder and I. A. L. DiamondWon
1960Venice International Film FestivalGolden LionBilly WilderNominated
Best ActressShirley MacLaineWon
1960Writers Guild of America AwardsBest Written American ComedyBilly Wilder and I. A. L. DiamondWon

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. 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). In the 2012 poll by the same magazine directors voted the film 44th greatest of all time. The film was included in "The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made" in 2002. 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. In 2015, The Apartment ranked 24th on BBC's "100 Greatest American Films" list, voted on by film critics from around the world.

American Film Institute lists:

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (#93),
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#20),
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions (#62),
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) (#80).
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: Fran Kubelik: "Shut up, and deal." – Nominated
  • Fran Kubelik: "Shut up, and deal." – Nominated

Stage adaptation

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.