Sunday, August 18, 2013
The Apartment is one of my favorite films. Released in 1960, it was co-written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. "Izzy" Diamond, and directed by Wilder. It starred Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. Lemmon plays C.C. Baxter, a low-level accountant at a huge New York City insurance company. As he explains, one day a guy needed a place to change out of his work clothes and into a tuxedo for a big company event. Since Baxter had a dingy apartment close by, Baxter offered to let him use it as a means of ingratiating himself with upper management. One thing led to another, and as the film opens Baxter is allowing four mid-level managers (Ray Walston, David Lewis, Willard Waterman, and David White) to use the apartment as a trysting spot with their mistresses.
It's not long before Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), head of human resources, realizes what's going on. Sheldrake also has a mistress: The pretty redheaded elevator girl, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine). He gets into the scam as well, and soon Baxter is promoted to Administrative Assistant. The problem is that Baxter also is interested in Miss Kubelik.
The film begins in September, as Miss Kubelik tries to break up with Mr. Sheldrake. Sheldrake says he'll leave his wife, and she relents. But by Christmas Eve, he still hasn't left his wife. When he is particularly callous toward Miss Kubelik on Christmas Eve and leaves her alone, Fran decides to commit suicide in the apartment with some sleeping pills she's found. Baxter comes home to find her almost dead in his bedroom. With the help of his next-door-neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), Miss Kubelik is saved. Baxter cares for her over the next several days, worried she might try to commit suicide again. I won't give away the final hour of the film.
The Apartment was nominated for a whopping 10 Oscars -- at a time when winning an Oscar meant something! This was the year of Elmer Gantry, Psycho, Inherit the Wind, BUtterfield 8, Hiroshima, Mon Amour, and Spartacus. The competition was quite fierce. It won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best Editing. Jack Lemmon lost the Best Actor award to Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry, although today most people believe Lemmon should have won. Shirley MacLaine lost to Elizabeth Taylor in BUtterfield 8. Jack Kruschen lost to Peter Ustinov in Spartacus.
While doing some research on my Ben-Hur Wikipedia article, I stumbled across a New York Times nugget about locations used in The Apartment. I verified them all.
So here's some trivia about The Apartment you may not ever have known!
Although it looks like a set, the exterior of C.C. Baxter's apartment was a real brownstone apartment building located at 51 W. 69th Street in New York City. Shooting occurred there from midnight to 4 AM for a week.
After he learns that Miss Kubelik is Mr. Sheldrake's mistress, C.C. Baxter goes to a bar to drown his sorrows on New Year's Eve. He has a humorous encounter with a ditzy blond (a wonderful Edie Adams) who is pining for her jockey-sized boyfriend (who has been imprisoned in Cuba for trying to dope a horse). Again, you'd think that the two bar scenes here would have been a set. Nope! They were shot in the Emerald Bar (now the Emerald Inn) at 205 Columbus Avenue. In this screen shot, you can clearly see the bar's address in reverse in over the front door.
The park benches
C.C. Baxtar is just the girl who can't say no -- and so, early in the film, he allows one of the mid-level managers to bring a buxom blond over at 1 A.M. Baxter, of course, must vacate the apartment while they do the dirty deed. In his pajamas and an overcoat, he goes and sits in the park on some benches for five hours. It's clearly a location shot. Where were these benches? Central Park West between W. 67th and W. 69th Streets.
The Rickshaw Cafe
The fictional Rickshaw Cafe plays a critical role in the film. That's where Mr. Sheldrake takes Miss Kubelik for drinks and dinner (always the same thing: sweet-and-sour chicken, followed by egg roll). The interior of the restaurant was a set. But the exterior was not. But it wasn't a restaurant! Rather, it was a barber shop located at 52 New Street in Manhattan.
The Music Man
C.C. Baxter invites Miss Kubelik to see the play The Music Man. She blows him off, and instead goes to the Rickshaw Cafe with Mr. Sheldrake. She tries to break up with Sheldrake, but instead Sheldrake lies and tells her that he's leaving his wife. Poor C.C. Baxter is left standing outside the theater all alone. The Music Man is a real Broadway musical, and in 1959 and 1960 it was really playing on Broadway -- and a huge hit, to boot. In fact, it played at the Majestic Theatre -- and these scenes were shot right in front of the theater (albeit at 12:30 AM, after the last performance of the night and after all the crowds and cast had long gone home).
C.C. Baxter's office
The office building with the Modernist facade where C.C. Baxter works and which is called the "Consolidated Life of New York Insurance Company" building is really 2 Broadway. It is a 32-story office tower built by Uris Brothers and completed in 1959. The building fills the entire lot, with three setbacks as it rises. The original facade featured aluminum metal rectangles with rectangular fanlights above and below that covered blue-green tinted windows. This facade, which you saw in the movie, is now gone. The ground floor bank (which C.C. Baxter and Miss Kubelik also pass by several times) is also gone, replaced by an Ann Taylor Loft, Chipotle's, and Starbucks. By the way, 2 Broadway was also featured in the 1965 movie Mirage with Gregory Peck and Diane Baker.
The Classical Revival building to the right is the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green.