‘The Apartment’: A Holiday Classic

One night, many, many years ago, my father showed me his favorite film for the first time. I wish I could tell you that I remember that viewing concretely, but the truth is, I don’t. I’ve seen this film so many times, I can’t even remember when the original viewing was, let alone what my first impressions were.

I do, however, remember a viewing from when I was in high school. Something clicked that time, resonated with me on a deeper level. But before I get to all that, a little background. The Apartment, made in 1960, was written and directed by Billy Wilder. If you’re not familiar, he’s responsible for some of the best films of the last century such as Sunset Blvd., Ace in the Hole, and Some Like it Hot. He was known for his snappy dialogue and his satirical edge.

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Billy Wilder was influenced to make The Apartment after seeing David Lean’s Brief Encounter. When the couple in Brief Encounter tried to use a friend’s apartment, Billy Wilder got stuck on the friend. What was his life like? With I.A.L. Diamond, he wrote a screenplay about that friend, giving life to Bud “C.C.” Baxter.

The hero, or I should say lead, of The Apartment is C.C Baxter (Jack Lemmon), an ambitious clerk in a major New York insurance company. His superiors at the company use his apartment for their mistresses and he gets promotions. But, all of that becomes complicated when C.C. finds out that the head of his department, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) has been taking the elevator girl he’s in love with, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), to his apartment.

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Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice: A Modern Classic

If you have have never seen this film, I’m about to change your life. That may sound overdramatic (and it probably is) but really, I feel that Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is one of those standbys, a modern classic.

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I have a very vivid memory of seeing Pride and Prejudice back when it was originally released. My mom wanted to see it. I, however, had no interest and thus, brought a friend along to laugh at it with me.I don’t know that we were necessarily watching it so much as we were just having a good time and there happened to be a movie on in the background. We were especially pre-teen if there was kissing or giggling girls onscreen. Aw, to be thirteen. Afterwards, my mom was pissed. She, of course, had loved it.

Life went on and I didn’t see the film again until my mom put it on at home a few years later. I groaned and scoffed, “Why are you watching this movie?” She just gave me a look. Then, something strange happened. I caught myself watching the movie and then I kinda couldn’t stop. I sat down and went on the emotional journey that is Pride and Prejudice and came out the other side maybe its biggest fan.

My mom and I don’t agree on many things, at least in regards to film and television. But, Pride and Prejudice became one of our staples. We can watch it over and over and over and somehow, it’s still THAT GOOD. I’ve thought a lot about why this movie works and think I can pin it down in a few solid points:

Casting-wise, they killed it!

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Keira Knightley was just twenty when she starred as Elizabeth Bennett, though she exudes a maturity beyond that. She helms the film with poise and adds a modern sensibility to the classic tale. No one can push her around!

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Matthew MacFayden is perfect as Mr. Darcy, understated and quiet. I know fans of the 1995 mini-series will always see the character as Colin Firth, but come on, he’s pretty great!

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As the younger Bennett sisters are some ladies who went on to some pretty cool careers. Rosamund Pike, of Gone Girl fame, plays Jane. Jena Malone, who was probably the most well known then, is also the only one putting on a British accent. She’s American, guys! Carey Mulligan, who’s fantastic in everything, also plays one of the younger Bennett girls.

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In supporting roles, Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn are both fantastic, giving us the Bennett parents in all their craziness.

The Score is lush, gorgeous and incredible.

Dario Marianelli composed the score for this film, and I daresay, it’s almost half the reason I love it. It’s beautiful and classic, drawing from the music that was popular during the time Jane Austen’s tale takes place. Take a listen:

The Cinematography is gorgeous.

Roman Oslin’s cinematography is one of the things that makes Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice different from other adaptations. There’s a real artfulness in his shots and lighting. Case in point:

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The story itself…is amazing.

Okay, yes, we all know that Elizabeth ends up with Mr. Darcy, but it’s not about that. Jane Austen’s story is universal and it’s not about finding a husband. It’s about being that age and figuring out what you want out of life. I recently read an article written by romance novelist, Kristan Higgins called Never read a Romance Novel? Grow Up. I agree with her and I think it applies to Pride and Prejudice too…

“A typical female protagonist is not incomplete until marriage. Her journey is not about getting to the altar—it’s about growing as a person so that she can create a full life for herself, and yes, find happiness with a decent, kind partner who deserves her and whom she deserves”. – Kristan Higgins, Publishers Weekly

It’s just plain fun. 

Depressing, sad movies are great but sometimes you just want to be uplifted and go to your happy place. This movie is one of those happy places for me.

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Vintage trailer below:

 

“It happened one night”…a long, long time ago

When Claudette Colbert finished filming Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night, she apparently told friends, “I’ve just finished the worst picture in the world!” Still, even given her hostility and disdain for the film, it has prevailed as an endearing classic and an archetype for the screwball comedy genre.

I first saw the film sometime when I was in my teens. I had, of course, heard of the film but had never gotten around to actually watching it. It was not much of a shocker that I loved it, considering it had all my favorite elements: witty dialogue, leads who have great chemistry, and the whole reporter-getting-close-to-a-girl-for-a-story-but-then-not-being-able- to-write-the-story-because-he-falls-in-love-with-her cliche.

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Okay, so we’ve covered that Capra’s amazing. Made in 1934, this film is truly one of his best. And even though according to Capra, the making of this film would have made a great screwball comedy in itself, it was not an easy film to make. Capra had to deal with two spoiled stars (Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert) who did not want to make the film. Nonetheless, it was the first film to sweep the Oscars, winning in all five major categories.

And if you’ve never heard of Claudette Colbert then I must tell you, no, she is unfortunately not related to Late night talk show host, Stephen Colbert. However, she’s just as awesome. She dominated the industry as a leading lady for two decades.

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In It Happened One Night, Colbert plays Ellie Andrews, a rich heiress who has run away from her father because he wants her to divorce her newlywed husband, King Westley. Clark Cable plays Peter is a down and out reporter who happens to meet Colbert on a bus. He figures out who she is and decides to help her and get a scoop that will catapult him to success. Basically, it’s the same premise as Roman Holiday, but you have to remember that film was made many years later. The script was written by Robert Riskin, adapted from a short story by Samuel Hopkins Adams and it sizzles, both in dialogue and its risque situations (for the time).

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This film has some of the greatest one-liners and famous scenes, but really, the reason is stands the test of time, is the fabulous chemistry between Colbert and Gable. They set a high bar for all the romantic comedy couples that came after them.

Criterion Edition trailer below.