Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THE APARTMENT | 1960 | Classic Screwball evolves into a "Dirty Fairy Tale"

I wrote the post below on my iPhone and emailed it to myself shortly after my annual New Years Eve viewing of the film. The plan was that, once sober, I'd gussy it up into something of substance and share it here.  It has sat in my in-box unread ever since.  Here it is, still un-gussied...  Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm not yet sure if THE APARTMENT is a screwball comedy, but it probably wouldn't exist without screwball.  At the very least it shares some DNA with classic screwball, what with all of the rapid-fire dialog, the romantically self-serving "all is fair" philosophy of most characters, as well as the consistent levity in spite of how dark the story gets.  Not to mention NYC and all of the cocktails.

Actually, it's a bit like the flip-side of a comedy of remarriage, the alternate reality where the heroes aren't the married couples, but the single schnooks. Imagine if THE AWFUL TRUTH focused on Ralph Bellamy's Oklahoma oilman, or even the voice instructor.  In that film we're so focused on seeing Jerry and Lucy (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) reunited, that we are relieved to see these two speed-bumps on the road to true love in the rear-view mirror.  And, yet, if these were real people, we'd (hopefully) feel for them a bit, because they have invested their hearts in people that will never reciprocate.

In another film, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) and Fran Kubelick (Shirley MacLaine) would have been the speed bumps.  Instead, Billy Wilder focused in on them and explored the pain of feeling like a pawn, and the frustration of not getting what you want.  Luckily, because the losers-in-love have been promoted to leading roles, these two schnooks get a happy ever after.  Ending-wise.

In the near future, I'll see if I can't stretch and twist my definition of screwball so that THE APARTMENT qualifies.  I'd love to be able to reference it often.

Released: 1960 (Oscar win, Best Picture)
Director: Billy Wilder (Oscar win)
Leads: Jack Lemmon (Oscar nom), Shirley MacLaine (Oscar nom), Fred MacMurray
Supporting: Jack Kruschen (Oscar win, Best Supporting Actor)
Writer: Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond (Oscar win, Best Original Screenplay)
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama, Dirty Fairy Tale, and possibly a Screwball Comedy (TBD)
Plot Summary and reviews of THE APARTMENT @ Rotten Tomatoes