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.
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
SAMMY DAVIS JR.
1960 MAY 5
1041 NORTH FORMOSA HOLLYWOOD CALIF=
DEAR BILLY: DAN TARADASH AND 19 OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME "THE APARTMENT" IS ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL WARMEST CONGRATULATIONS
Note: Daniel Taradash was a screenwriter; his credits include "Golden Boy" (1939) and "From Here to Eternity" (1952).
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.
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.
Alfred J. Hitchcock
October 10, 1960
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--
April 18, 1961
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,
Mr. Billy Wilder
1041 N. Formosa
Hollywood 46, California
April 19, 1961
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.
Images of the telegrams and letters courtesy of Heritage Auctions (here and here).