Studious insurance worker C.C. Baxter, aka Bud (Jack Lemmon), has an apartment half a block from Central Park, but he can’t always go home when he wants. He offers up his humble abode as a rendezvous for married executives at the firm and has to wait until the secret lovers leave to relax at home. It can be a major inconvenience, especially when he wants to get some sleep, but he often complies to stay in good standing at work. When the firm director Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), finds out about the apartment racket, C.C. has to add him to the list. As a reward, Sheldrake gives C.C. tickets to a show, and his first choice for a date is Fran (Shirley MacLaine), his secret crush and the elevator operator who doesn’t suffer fools or her passenger suitors. Little does C.C. know that Fran is Sheldrake’s secret paramour, and a comedy of errors ensues, leading to heartbreak, near tragedy and a hard look at his actions and their consequences.
With Lemmon’s nuanced, comedic genius and MacLaine’s earnest portrayal of a sharp woman led by her heart, The Apartment is ahead of its time with complex subject matters of suicide, extramarital affairs and morality. Directed by Hollywood great Billy Wilder, who gave us Some Like it Hot and Irma La Douce, the film won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing in 1961. Canadian Edward G. Boyle and Hungarian-born Alexandre Trauner shared the win for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.