The Apartment (1960)
“On November 1, 1959, the population of New York city was 8,042,783. If you laid all these people end to end, figuring an average height of five feet, 6.5 inches, it would reach from Times Square to the outskirts of Karachi, Pakistan.”
The camera sweeps over late 1950s New York City as Jack Lemmon says the first line in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Lemmon’s Buddy is an insurance company dreg. His life revolves around numbers, repetition, and a sense of anonymity. In a futile effort to get ahead, he pimps out his apartment to company executives to use for their affairs. Meanwhile, he starts to fall in love with a waif-like elevator operator, played by Shirley MacLaine, who is having an affair with one of the execs.
Many of the early laughs rely on the usual screwball comedy of the era, but when MacLaine tries to kill herself in Buddy’s apartment, the story takes on a darker, richer narrative about loneliness, love, and the connections forged by strangers in the big city.
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