The Apartment (1960), written by Billy Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond, is considered a classic. While I was reading the screenplay, it reminded me of a movie I haven’t seen in 5 years, Some Like It Hot (1959). Therefore, It came as no surprise to learn that the latter was written by the same duo just a year before The Apartment. Why did I feel The Apartment resembled Some Like It Hot? Let’s analyze the former’s script to figure it out.
- Draft Read: Undated
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 156
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): NYC
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple months
- Genre(s): Romantic Comedy
- Theme(s): Love, Suicide, Jealousy, Loyalty, Marriage, Infidelity
- Protagonist Change: Significant
The Apartment has a very old-school Hollywood feel. Okay, not a film noir feel, but a Post WW2 America is a bustling, energetic and drug-abusing society feel. Very 50/60s. There’s a certain element of classiness and professionalism left over in this era that we see in both the dialogue and the mannerisms. Everyone is Mr. this or Mrs. that. Of course, the classiness is all a facade behind the scenes, but standards have to be maintained, at least in public.
The screenplay is clearly written by a team that has fundamentally mastered screenwriting. The dialogue is witty, the characters are well thought out, the story is simple, albeit anti-climatic. It’s not a plot that I would think is to be over scrutinized, instead, the story is more about just going with the flow, funny interactions, and like many romantic comedies the idea that true love will find a way.
The story takes a while to get going. Sure, we get the setup right away, a man allows his bosses to use his apartment for hookups, but it’s unclear where that will lead… until the story leaves our protagonist, Baxter, and follows one of the women, Fran. Then it’s obvious she is going to be involved, and that the ultimate goal will be getting Fran and the protagonist together.
How are we supposed to understand a character like C.C. Baxter? At first, he appears like a pushover; then, when he tries to make small talk with Fran, a creep with extremely awkward social skills.
A couple of months ago I looked up your card in the group insurance file.
I know your height, your weight, and your Social Security number — you had mumps, you had measles, and you had your appendix out.
But he’s caring, diligent, and nice, the underdog, and we as the audience emphasize with him. And that alone makes him a great character.
There are other characters, Fran, the female elevator operator who is being used, the misogynistic and somewhat narcissistic executives, and the eavesdropping secretary who reports an executive’s infidelity to his wife. Characters we are all familiar with these days due to their ad nauseam use.
Dialogue & Pacing
The dialogue was witty. How about when the executives who use Baxter’s apartment are congratulating him on his promotion and he says:
So long, fellas. Drop in any time. The door is always open — to my office.
Ba dum tss.
There is a stretched-out First Act. Some of the conflict is predictable. Among other examples, we expect Baxter to walk in on Fran in his apartment at some point, and expect at least one of the executives to be caught.
It’s not a deep story, especially in today’s movie era. It’s worth noting this is a 60-year-old screenplay, released in a different era. But many of the themes are still relevant and the romantic comedy beats are still frequently used in today’s hits.
Best Part of The Script
The opening uses a V.O. to give us a background into Baxter and the company he works for. It’s a common technique these days, and is done well here.
Starting on Page 24, the way Baxter skillfully handles the schedule for his apartment is entertaining.