If Melanie Met Baxter and Fran, at the Apartment…

Everybody is familiar with the concept of a guilty pleasure. We all have our stranger opinions; I just copped to one the other day when I bracketed both Addicted to Love and One Fine Day with The Philadelphia Story. That’s only because I enjoy the presence of George Clooney, Michelle Pfeiffer and Meg Ryan, and I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy sometimes. Either way, I don’t feel “guilty” about it, and why would anybody ever feel guilty about liking a film?
Mel and Jack in Black and WhiteOne Fine Day is one of those movies I enjoy waxing lyrical about, for its breathless atmosphere and its great pool of acting talent. Films of this calibre are a rarity these days, so thank goodness for DVDs. Last night, as well as an umpteenth viewing of the Clooney/Pfeiffer barbfest, I had the pleasure of watching Billy Wilder’s 1960 classic The Apartment for the first time, and it was wonderful. The film is a perfect blend of romance, drama, and comedy, with a lot to say about human nature.cc-and-franThe Apartment stars Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine and their chemistry is great throughout. Blending corporate satire with an odd romance, the real heart of the film is Lemmon’s character, C.C. Baxter, a determined (but lonely) man trying to climb the corporate ladder by offering his apartment as a safe haven for company executives to bring their mistresses each night.shirley-and-fredHis neighbours think he is a notorious playboy who moves from one girl to another. But he only has one woman on his mind, and that is MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik, the adorable elevator girl at work. Matters inevitably get complicated, when Baxter finds out that Ms. Kubelik is the mistress of Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), the boss that he’s been trying so hard to impress.
c-c-baxterThe more Billy Wilder movies I watch, the more I realise what a master he was. My favourites include Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole, and now, The Apartment. The Apartment is magical, the kind of film that Hollywood doesn’t even try to make anymore, with an ending, reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally…. A marvellous mixture of last-minute tension, humour, pathos and hope.
goddess-in-new-yorkWhile Lemmon and MacLaine entrance the viewer with their dynamic chemistry, and down to earth personas, Clooney and Pfeiffer feel more like a god and goddess on holiday in the Big Apple. Clooney is always Clooney, the charismatic lothario, the last of the old-time movie stars. Michelle manages to pull out the raw, human element at the centre of Melanie, a haughty, heavenly single mother, with beauty to distract, even from the divine Miss McLaine.shirley-maclaineI am more familiar with Shirley’s later roles, so I was surprised by the wholesome naivety of her character in The Apartment. The strong-willed yet deeply vulnerable Fran carries lots of emotional baggage, but I liked her because I could see all the charm, the flaws, and the sweetness that Baxter sees in her.lenses-linger-on-melanieAlthough I wouldn’t claim One Fine Day‘s Melanie Parker to be a spiritual successor to Fran Kubelik, the side-by-side viewings were an insight into changing styles in films. The more I look, the more I realise Michelle’s not quite like anybody else. Not like the young Shirley MacLaine, Carole Lombard or the young Katharine Hepburn. She’s an original who was born in the wrong era.maggie-watches-the-milky-way-man1-3I can’t help but wish then, that Pfeiffer, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan could’ve taken a machine back through time to get tangled up in a film written and directed by Billy Wilder. A romantic comedy blending the humour of Some Like It Hot, the dialogue of Double Indemnity, with the genius of The Apartment.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “If Melanie Met Baxter and Fran, at the Apartment…

  1. Great post 🙂 I love how you compare and contrast the qualities of One Fine Day (1996) and The Apartment (1960). I also wonder how director Ernst Lubitsch (The Shop Around the Corner and other sophisticated comedy classics) would have tackled One Fine Day. Interesting bit of trivia: whenever Billy Wilder was writing a script for a comedy, he had a sign on his wall that read “How would Lubitsch do it” 🙂 I also love your last paragraph about how you think Wilder would have wrote and directed a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan comedy. Fascinating thought 🙂

    Not to get off topic, but months ago, I watched the 1981 American version of Pennies from Heaven with Steve Martin. It was known for being one of his very few dramatic roles. It was also based on Dennis Potter’s 1978 British mini-series of the same name. I have not watched that one yet, but I am interested in watching it. Nevertheless, I do love the American version and I think you should check it out or at least the American remake. I mention this because the drama plays out like something gritty while the singing scenes play out like an homage to the MGM musical (the film’s distributor). Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  2. Oh yes these are such great movies Paul, whenever I catch them on cable I always watch, and since there is always such a gap of time, it’s amazing I always find some little piece I’ve missed or have forgotten about. You’re so right they just don’t make movies like them any more:(

  3. Last time I watched One Fine Day I was reminiscing on my 2 years spent in New York City and it made me miss it so much. The chemistry between Clooney and Pfeiffer is so fantastic I often wish this wasn’t just a movie at all! One Fine Day is that one romantic comedy I could watch over and over again. I didn’t have the pleasure of watching The Apartment. Yet! I love Shirley MacLaine. She’s amazing on Steel Magnolias, but her earlier work I did not watch as much. Hmmmm, have some catching up to do. Amazing review as always, Paul.

    • Thanks Reut. It’s really nice to hear from you, I’ve missed you around the place. I’ve gone out on a limb, with my addiction to One Fine Day over the last few months, blowing my cinematic credibility in the process, so I’m happy to know there’s another fan out there too.
      I love the thought it “wasn’t just a movie at all! “

      • Of course! I don’t think you’re losing your credibility at all from the comments I read. Your posts are awesome and super fun to read. Keep it up, fella. You’ve got my vote 😉

  4. A beautiful post!!
    I wouldn’t exactly call ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940), & to some extent, ‘One Fine Day’ (1996), guilty pleasures!!! Both are actually excellent films!!
    ‘Addicted to Love’ (1997), hmmm!! Maybe, but it’s still very good, thanks to dear Meg!!
    Guilty Pleasures are films that are generally not held in high regard!! Films you know are silly, but you still love them!!
    For example, my guilty pleasure happens to be ‘Back to the Future’ (1985)!! It’s not, in the general sense, the kind of movie, I’d love. BUT I do!! 😀
    I gave it 10/10!! Mainly due to it’s comical aspects!!
    Can you believe I still haven’t seen ‘The Apartment’ (1960)!! I’d love to!!
    Billy Wilder is one of my favourite director’s as well. AND I love ‘Double Indemnity’ (1944) too!!!
    This a great unique post!! Keep up the good work man!!

    • Thanks for the awesome comment and for sharing your guilty pleasure, it’s been far too long since I last watched Back to the Future!
      I’m trying to marry my addiction to One Fine Day with my love of classic movies and at the moment I’m enjoying it. It appears I’m doomed to look for Pfeiffer and Ryan in every old movie, but if you ever think I’m overdoing it, please let me know!

  5. I am so glad you watched The Apartment.

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