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J.D. Sheldrake: Ya know, you see a girl a couple of times a week, just for laughs, and right away they think you're gonna divorce your wife. Now I ask you, is that fair?
C.C. Baxter: No, sir, it's very unfair... Especially to your wife.
A lowly office drone, C.C. "Bud" Baxter, has just found the solution to getting up the corporate food chain: let the corporate bigwigs use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. His boss, J.D. Sheldrake finds out, and promotes Baxter on the condition that he lets him use the apartment for his own affair. Naturally, Baxter accepts the condition, but he reconsiders when he finds out his crush, Fran Kubelik, is Sheldrake's other woman. Things turn very complicated when he finds her close to death on his bed.
- Academy Award
- Better Living Through Evil: What Sheldrake gives Baxter.
- Bungled Suicide: Baxter tells Miss Kubelik he attempted suicide once, and ended up accidentally shooting himself in the knee.
- Catch Your Death of Cold: Baxter is forced to sleep in the park for hours until someone is through with the apartment, and he gets a nasty cold and fever.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: J.D. Sheldrake.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Until Schindler's List, this was the last black and white film to win Best Picture.
- Did I Mention It's Christmas?
- Dogged Nice Guy: Baxter
- Drowning My Sorrows: Baxter, when he learns Miss Kubelik is Mr. Sheldrake's other woman.
- Especially Zoidberg: This exchange:
Baxter: You're not going to bring anybody to my apartment.
Sheldrake: I'm not just bringing anybody; I'm bringing Miss Kubelik.
Baxter: Especially not Miss Kubelik.
- Grew a Spine: Baxter eventually refuses to loan his apartment to Sheldrake again, and quits instead.
Sheldrake: What's gotten into you, Baxter?
Baxter: Just following doctor's orders. I've decided to become a mensch. You know what that means? A human being.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Baxter's bosses include Uncle Martin and Larry Tate, while the Santa Claus at the bar is Otis Campbell.
- I Uh You Too: Baxter confesses his love to Miss Kubelik while they play Gin Rummy. She responds with this classic line:
"Shut up and deal."
- Interrupted Suicide: Miss Kubelik tries to kill herself when she realized Mr. Sheldrake didn't really love her back. Baxter prevents her from becoming an example of Driven to Suicide.
- Last-Name Basis: Bud and Fran always refer to each other as "Miss Kubelik" and "Mr. Baxter".
- Love Triangle
- Maybe Ever After: "Shut up and deal."
- The Mistress: Miss Kubelik.
- Moral Myopia: The other executives -- who are cheating on their wives and depriving Baxter of his home whenever it suits them in order to do so -- get outraged and act as if they're the ones being wronged when Baxter finally pulls the plug for them.
- New Year Has Come
- Nice Hat: Baxter gets a bowler hat after his promotion.
"It's what they call the 'junior executive' model."
- Playing Against Type: Fred MacMurray as J.D. Sheldrake - back then, he was known for roles in family films.
- Not to Billy Wilder, who had previously cast him as a murderer in Double Indemnity.
- Race For Your Love: In the end, Miss Kubelik leaves Sheldrake on New Year's Eve and runs to Baxter's apartment.
- Santa Claus calls in at the bar where Baxter is drowning his sorrows, but his cheerful wisecracking is no match for the glum stare that Baxter gives him. At the end of the night we see Santa himself sitting morosely at the bar, all alone. So much for Christmas in New York!
- Screen to Stage Adaptation: Adapted as the Broadway Musical Promises Promises, with a book by Neil Simon, music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David.
- Shout-Out: The shot where the camera swoops in to find Baxter at one in a sea of desks is a Shout Out to King Vidor's 1928 silent classic, The Crowd.
- Trying to schedule a tryst with one of the company switchboard operators, one of the bosses suggests they meet at the apartment on Thursday night. "Thursday? But that's The Untouchables with Bob Stack!"
- Baxter attempts to watch Grand Hotel on television but gives up when it keeps getting interrupted by commercials.
- Baxter gets tickets to The Music Man from Sheldrake and tries to take Miss Kubelik to the show.
- One of Billy Wilder's own earlier films gets a Shout Out when Kirkeby tells Dobisch about Miss Kubelik staying at Baxter's apartment:
Dobisch: No kidding. Buddy-boy and Kubelik having themselves a little toot!
Kirkeby: Toot? More like a lost weekend. Neither of them showed up for work today.
- Stalker with a Crush: Baxter's rather unnervingly thorough knowledge of Miss Kubelik hints at this.
- Sudden Principled Stand
- Take That/No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Ditz that Dobisch takes to the apartment is a thinly veiled lampoon of Marilyn Monroe. Billy Wilder had earlier directed Monroe in The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot, and didn't think much of her professionalism. Lampshaded when Dobisch even mentions that the girl looks like Marilyn Monroe.
- Unfortunate Implications: Deliberately invoked in-universe when Sheldrake hands Miss Kubelik the money.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Baxter, at least initially.
- Urban Legend Love Life: Baxter's neighbors see all the girls cycling through the apartment and come to the conclusion that he's a Casanova.
- Verbal Tic: The office workers in the film have the habit of adding -wise to words. At one point, Baxter even says "otherwise-wise".
- The Tagline on the movie's original poster: "Movie-wise, there has never been anything like The Apartment love-wise, laugh-wise, or otherwise-wise!"
- Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond's screenplay ends thusly, following Miss Kubelik's "Shut up and deal" line:
"Bud begins to deal, never taking his eyes off her. Fran removes her coat, starts picking up her cards and arranging them. Bud, a look of pure joy on his face, deals -- and deals -- and keeps dealing.
And that's about it. Story-wise."
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Dr. Dreyfuss encourages Baxter to "be a mensch", while Mrs. Lieberman opines that the bad weather "must be from all that mishegass at Cape Canaveral".
- Your Cheating Heart