Saturday, December 10, 2005

I guess you could call this "Lemmon aid": "The Apartment"

You know, it's just weird to see a young Jack Lemmon. For me, he's always been this frumpy, sometimes crusty guy worn down by the world. That may be obvious is something like "Glengarry Glen Ross," but even "The Odd Couple" gave me that vibe. Lemmon might have just been in his 40s, but he sure seemed a lot older, and not just because Felix was a fuddy-duddy.

"The Apartment" was one of those "Great Movies" I had never seen, so I called on my friends at Netflix to right this apparent wrong. We open with Lemmon as a low-level company man who is trying to get ahead by letting executives use his apartment for affairs. Yeah, it's that simple, and it's a little jarring to have the movie start just like that.

In some ways, this isn't so different from "The Seven Year Itch," another Billy Wilder film from five years earlier. Both focus on what apparently was a widely-accepted practice of businessmen boinking women who aren't their wives. But while "Itch" was a full-scale comedy that treated adultery with nothing short of a cavalier attitude, "The Apartment" is more nuanced, benefiting both from better writing and the presence of one Shirley MacLaine ("Cannonball Run II").

I can honestly say MacLaine was a revelation, mainly because I had never seen her as a young actress. Even setting aside the whole past lives business, I always thought of Shirley as a fiftysomething who could act just fine -- see "Terms of Endearment" and "Postcards from the Edge" -- but didn't dazzle me. Back in 1960, though, she could play the pixie wrestling with emotions to perfection, and she's probably the best reason to see "The Apartment."

MacLaine plays an elevator operator -- yeah, that part's a bit dated -- who catches Lemmon's eye. The only problem is that she's involved with the top guy at Lemmon's company. That's Fred MacMurray, who reminded me of Dennis Quaid -- yes, him again --

(NOTE: This post has been cut off twice now, and I'm not rewriting it again. Suffice it to say "The Apartment" was good, and the writing and MacLaine were the best things about it.)


At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I grew up seeing reruns of Fred MacMurray on My Three Sons so seeing him in this movie and even moreso in Double Indemnity really freaked me out. I don't know if it was seeing him as a bad guy or just seeing him as a sexual being. Either way... Way to go Fred


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