That’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.

Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon

The Apartment (1960)

AFI 100 Years… 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ranking: #80

Ah, good old Billy Wilder, director of three other movies on AFI Top 100 list, including The Apartment. This movie walks a fine line between romantic comedy and drama, and it walks it well. It’s endearing enough to help me overlook the slightly outdated elements (“All your troubles are over. I know how worried you were about Ms. Kubelik… I’m going to take her off your hands.”… like she’s some kind of burden?) The topic of attempted suicide is carefully handled and doesn’t overwhelm the light, playful tone of the rest of the story.

Poor C.C. Baxter. He starts off as a bit of a doormat, putting the whims of others before his own personal welfare, like taking the blame for Fran hurting herself, or when he stays out all night so a coworker can use the apartment, catches a cold, then stays out again (!) just to get stood up, instead of going straight to bed. It’s sad that he actually believes his actions will get him ahead at Consolidated Life – well, perhaps they do at first, but as we later learn, since his promotion is not based on merit, it is a shallow victory and at the end of the day, not worth the sacrifices he has made.

Poor Fran Kubelik. I can understand her being in love with a married man, but it’s disappointing how she strings Baxter along throughout the whole movie, while she’s simultaneously, and knowingly, being strung along by Sheldrake. And I can understand why she gets all emotional after learning about the other women in Sheldrake’s life, but that doesn’t quite excuse trying to kill yourself in someone else’s house, in someone else’s bed! Why would you do that?? Finally, the fact that she’s not creeped out by Baxter’s encyclopedic knowledge of her personal life (address, date of birth, SSN, etc.), but is instead more concerned about what will happen to her reputation if it gets out that Baxter knows about an appendectomy she had ages ago? Sillyhead. It’s time to start drinking!

Cocktail #1: Hanky Panky

Suitably named for all the action that Baxter’s apartment (but sadly not Baxter himself) has seen. Recipe courtesy of Speakeasy Cocktails, currently available from the Apple App Store.

  • 1 & 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 & 1/2 oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 barspoon Fernet Branca
  • garnish: orange peel

Stir gin, vermouth, and Fernet in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a coupe glass and add garnish.

Definitely a drink for slowly sipping, not for chugging. If you break the orange peel a bit so that the oils go in to the glass, or even let the peel soak in the cocktail for a while, it takes on a fantastic citrus aroma that really adds to the drink. And since I don’t yet own a coupe glass, it’s going in a nice, sturdy old fashioned glass, complete with smiley orange face 🙂

This film is full of some great moments. I love the Dr. Dreyfuss character. The way he keeps slapping Fran across the face when he’s trying to wake her up always makes me laugh. I wonder if he learned that in medical school? The scene when Baxter uses Fran’s cracked mirror and realizes that she’s the one Sheldrake’s been seeing? Definitely tugged at my heartstrings. The popped champagne cork that sounds alarmingly like a gunshot when Baxter has just quit his job and is depressed over Fran? Classic. And I’ll always remember the endearing bachelor dinner that Baxter makes for Fran, with a tennis racket as a spaghetti colander. Just adorable. My boyfriend tells me that he should be allowed to do it that way now, since “it was on TV!” Haha not a chance.

Here’s our second cocktail to complement that tennis racket spaghetti. “Wait ’til you see me serve the meatballs!”


Cocktail #2: Elevator Girl

When we first see Fran and Sheldrake together at their secret hideaway, the last booth in the back at the Chinese restaurant, she orders a frozen daiquiri. I chose to add a bit of flavor with kiwi fruit – it’s a mildly sweet, yet tart reminder to Fran that Sheldrake is still a married man. Or as Fran laments, “sweet and sour”. Recipe adapted from Men’s Health.

  • 1 & 1/2 oz white rum (I had cachaca on hand so I used that instead)
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and quartered (I threw in the the rest of the second kiwi that was cut for garnish as well)
  • 1/4 tsp lime zest (do this with a microplane grater before you cut and squeeze it)
  • 2 tbl fresh lime juice (I didn’t measure this part, just squeezed half a lime directly into the blender container, but I love citrus so adjust to your tastes)
  • 2 & 1/2 tsp simple syrup (mine was ginger simple syrup since I had some made already, and it didn’t negatively affect the end product)
  • 1 cup ice
  • garnish: kiwi slice

Blend all ingredients. Pour into a martini glass and add garnish.

So easy and delicious! Since mine had extra lime and extra kiwi in there, it could have been a bit sweeter, but my faithful taste-tester and I finished both our drinks without complaint. I love the little specks of black from the seeds!

So is Fran really over Sheldrake by the end of the movie? Does she really love Baxter or does she just realize that he’s better for her? We’ll never know, since she only responds back with, “Shut up and deal.” But with two such charming and likable characters, we don’t really care, do we? I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine