16 May 2015

The Apartment: a favourite (movie-wise)

This post is my contribution to the My Favourite Classic Movie Blogathon in celebration of National Classic Movie Day, hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe. Click here to check out all the other entries.



I don't really have a favourite movie. There are so many great movies, I find it very difficult to pick just one. But one of the films that has always ranked high on my list of favourites --one that I've seen many times and will certainly watch again-- is Billy Wilder's black comedy "The Apartment" (1960). There's so much to love about this film. The script by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond which contains the most brilliant lines ("That's the way it crumbles... cookie-wise", for one); the performances from the entire cast, in particular the leads Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine; the crisp black-and-white cinematography by Joseph LaShelle; the wonderful music score by Adolph Dietsch -- all these elements, masterfully put together by Billy Wilder, make "The Apartment" a gem from start to finish. 

Back in 1960, the public also loved "The Apartment". Audiences went to see the film en masse, making it a box-office hit immediately upon release. But it was not just a commercial success, the film was also lauded by the critics and by Wilder's peers. At the Oscar Ceremony in April 1961, "The Apartment" was awarded a total of five Oscars, three of which went to Wilder: Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay (the latter he had to share with I.A.L. Diamond). To congratulate Wilder on the film and its success, many colleagues sent him letters and telegrams. Below you'll find some of the correspondence Wilder received, both in 1960 when the film was released and in 1961 after his big Oscar win. The correspondence comes from Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Zinnemann, Kirk Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Crawford, John Sturges and Hal Wallis; the letter from Hitchcock has been posted on this blog before, but I thought it was nice to include it here as well.

Transcript: 

1960 MAR 16

BILLIE WILDER, SAMUEL GOLDWYN STUDIOS=

1040 NORTH FORMOSA DLR BY MSGR HOLLYWOOD CALIF=

DEAR BILLIE HAVE JUST SEEN YOUR TRADE AD FOR THE QUOTE APARTMENT UNQUOTE THE INDUSTRY HAS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT AS LONG AS THERE ARE PEOPLE LIKE YOU IN IT
MUCH LOVE=
SAMMY DAVIS JR.

Transcript:

1960 MAY 5
BILLY WILDER
1041 NORTH FORMOSA HOLLYWOOD CALIF=

DEAR BILLY: DAN TARADASH AND 19 OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME "THE APARTMENT" IS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL WARMEST CONGRATULATIONS 
CORDIALLY=
FRED ZINNEMANN.

Note: Daniel Taradash was a screenwriter; his credits include "Golden Boy" (1939) and "From Here to Eternity" (1952).

Transcript:

Dear Billy-

I have to tell you again how thrilled I was about seeing your picture this evening. You've certainly eclipsed "Some Like It Hot"- no mean feat.
This is a great example of movie-making --the sharp comments on various phases of American life, the daring juxtaposition of comedy and tragedy, the incisive penetration into the soul of a woman in love with a married man, the direction that led to some magnificent performances all add up to make one of the greatest pictures I've ever seen.

Transcript:

June 29, 1960

Mr. Billy Wilder
10375 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, California

Dear Mr Wilder,

I saw THE APARTMENT the other day.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it, and how beautifully made. 

I felt this so much that I was impelled to drop you this note.

Kindest regards,

(signed)
Alfred J. Hitchcock

Transcript:

October 10, 1960

Billy dear,

I have just seen "The Apartment". You have done the most adroit, professional, exciting, poignant, delightful film I have seen in years. Thank you for giving the industry the "goose" it needed, and thank you for the joy it has given, not only millions of people, but your friend--

Joan (signed)

Transcript:

April 18, 1961

Dear Billy:

It was a great pleasure to see you scoop up that family of little men. Particularly since the picture was a complete original- a rare and admirable thing.

Please include I.A.L. in my congratulations.

With all the best,

John (signed)

Mr. Billy Wilder
1041 N. Formosa
Hollywood 46, California


Transcript:

April 19, 1961

Dear Billy,

This is getting to be a habit, but I am sure it is one you have no objection to acquiring.

In any event, my fond regards and sincere congratulations on the well deserved Oscars.

Sincerely,

(signed)
Hal Wallis

Images of the telegrams and letters courtesy of Heritage Auctions (here and here).

19 comments:

  1. I wonder if people take the time for that sort of thing any more.

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    Replies
    1. Probably not, they'd probably send an email or text/whatsapp message :( Thanks for reading!

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  2. How cool to read this correspondence from various celebrities to Mr. Wilder! One of the most interesting was the one from Kirk Douglas. My assessment of THE APARTMENT is pretty much the same as Kirk's!

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    1. Thanks for visiting and hosting this great event, Rick!

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  3. I love this film so much - certainly in my top 10 (or 5). Bless Joan Crawford for having beautiful taste and always being concerned about the movies.

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    1. "The Apartment" would probably be in my top 5. Thanks for reading!

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  4. Love this! So cool to see the correspondence! This is such an amazing movie, and I really enjoyed your perspective on it. Thanks!

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  5. I love getting to see the letters that were sent! How good to see it received the appreciation it deserved at the time. It makes me realize I'm behind on my letter writing...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for dropping by! And yes, I should also send more postcards and letters. I love getting snail mail myself...

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  6. Haha love Hitchcock's note. I can mentally hear him read it. Great and unique post!

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    1. Hitch was such a great letter writer, thanks for reading!

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  7. What an impressive collection of notes – and fans! It was truly uplifting to read these congratulatory messages.

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  8. Good to see that Wilder's contemporaries loved The Apartment as much as audiences do today. These letters are such a great insight into the personalities that shaped film history, and I hate to think that this kind of correspondence doesn't exist any more :(

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    1. Yes, it is a shame that people don't write letters anymore. But fortunately we can still enjoy the correspondence from these old film celebrities...

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  9. Great article. I really have to watch this film another time! I remember enjoying it, but I saw it only once and a long time ago. I adore Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. The part with the letter was so nice, especially Hitchcock's one! :D

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  10. This film really deserves multiple viewings! Thanks for reading!

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