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The Apartment – Billy Wilder

Submitted by on February 2, 2011 – 2:22 pmNo Comment

It is on this day that Bud comes to the attention of Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), the Director of Personnel, who, after delivering a sermon on morality, offers to trade two tickets to The Music Man and a future promotion for exclusive rights to Bud’s apartment. As Bud’s reluctance turns to elation, he finds the courage to invite the girl of his dreams, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), an elevator operator in the building, to join him at the theater. She hesitatingly agrees to meet him at 8:30 in the lobby. That night, while Bud waits for her at the theater, Mr. Sheldrake is busy convincing Fran that if she will resume their affair, he will divorce his wife. Sheldrake prevails and Bud gets stood-up.

Throughout the next month, on Mondays and Thursdays the apartment is reserved for Mr. Sheldrake, and true to his word, he promotes Bud to one of the glass-enclosed cubicles. It is now December 24, and the wild office Christmas party serves as a dividing point in the movie. Wilder helped to capture the true spirit of office parties, where everyone forgets his inhibitions in a swirl of booze, music, and laughter, by actually shooting the scene on December 23. Until now the movie has concentrated on Bud’s culpability and ambitiousness, and on his bosses’ lechery. At this point, however, the human consequences begin.

During the Christmas party both Fran and Bud have their illusions shat-tered. First a drunken Miss Olsen (Edie Adams), Mr. Sheldrake’s secretary, taunts Fran about the number of conquests, herself included, which Mr.Sheldrake has scattered throughout the building. Then, when Bud asks her opinion of his new derby, Fran lets him look at himself in her compact’s cracked mirror. Startled, Bud recognizes it as the compact he had found in his apartment and returned to Mr. Sheldrake a few weeks before.

While the disillusioned Bud drowns his sorrows in martinis at the local bar, Fran confronts Sheldrake at the apartment. Realizing that he regards her only as a mistress and not as his future wife, the despondent Fran happens to find a bottle of sleeping pills in the bathroom. Wilder uses the mirrors in the bathroom and her compact to symbolize the identity crisis with which she is suffering. Unable to cope with the reflection she sees in the glass, Fran takes the pills.

When Bud returns home, he finds Fran unconscious with the bottle of pills in her hand. He quickly summons his neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), who pumps out her stomach, and, believing Bud to be responsible for her suicide attempt, delivers a lecture on being a mensch. Dr. Dreyfuss, an honest, straightforward human being, presents Bud with an alternative role model to the corporate connivers he has been trying to emulate. It has become clear that in the world presented in The Apartment, corporate success and integrity cannot coexist, and Bud will soon be forced to make a choice. Wilder, however, manages to keep the suicide attempt and the moral dilemma from becoming too bleak through the use of plenty of deft comedy.

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