The Apartment

The premise of The Apartment (1960) came to legendary writer-producer-director Billy Wilder after seeing David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), in which a doctor and a housewife, both married, use a friend’s residence for a romantic assignation: “I always thought there was an interesting character there—the one who loans the apartment, a touching a funny character, and I kept this idea with me.”

C.C. “Bud” Baxter (Jack Lemmon), an employee of the Consolidated Life insurance company, begrudgingly advances his career by loaning out his New York City bachelor pad to a string of philandering co-workers. Jeff Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), director of personnel, promotes Baxter—with the understanding that Sheldrake can use the apartment himself to rekindle an extramarital affair. Unbeknownst to Bud, Sheldrake’s paramour is elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), with whom Bud is smitten.

Over the course of his career, Wilder worked with many of Hollywood’s greatest composers, including Franz Waxman and Miklós Rózsa. His previous film, Some Like It Hot (1959), had been scored by Adolph Deutsch, who returned for The Apartment. Deutsch composed a playful “Career March,” which helps chronicle Baxter’s quick rise upward through the ranks at Consolidated Life, and “Lonely Room,” a piece that speaks eloquently of his solitary existence amid constant reminders of the sexual escapades regularly unfolding in his apartment. Yet the most famous music associated with the film was a pre-existing work: Charles Williams’s “Jealous Lover,” originally composed for an obscure 1949 British film, The Romantic Age.

Williams (whose real name was Isaac Cozerbreit) enjoyed a successful career as a composer of “light music” and worked extensively in radio and film (including Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail and The 39 Steps). He scored “Jealous Lover” in concertante style for piano and orchestra, following in the footsteps of other British films of the period, such as Brief Encounter (which famously made use of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2), 1941’s Dangerous Moonlight (Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto) and 1944’s Love Story (Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody).

“Jealous Lover” is indicated in The Apartment’s script as the piece of music played by a restaurant pianist upon Fran’s entrance: during her prior relationship with Sheldrake it was “their song.” The melody is also incorporated into the underscore and used for the film’s title sequence. By an arrangement with the original publisher, Mills Music, the piece was renamed “Theme from The Apartment” and became a hit tune under that title. Ferrante & Teicher, a duo-piano team recently signed to the United Artists label, recorded an arrangement that rose to No. 10 on the Billboard charts and helped propel them to stardom.

Another pre-existing tune—“Madalena,” a samba by Brazilian songwriters Ary Macedo and Ayrton Amorim—is heard as source music throughout the film when Baxter’s co-workers entertain their lady friends at the apartment, and also at a New Year’s Eve party attended by Fran and Sheldrake.

Although only Deutsch was credited in the film and on the soundtrack LP (UAS 6105), Charles Williams was widely acknowledged on other recordings of his theme. Now-legendary composer John Williams (no relation) also contributed to the film’s score: he not only played piano on the soundtrack but assisted with the orchestration as well. “I’d known Deutsch from playing on other films like Some Like It Hot and Funny Face,” John Williams told Derek Elley in a 1978 interview. “He said to me, ‘Look, can you orchestrate three or four sequences from this section of The Apartment?’ And I said, ‘Sure. Of course. Let me have the sketches.’”

This release marks the CD premiere of the soundtrack album for The Apartment (the original film tracks no longer survive). For clarity, the album tracks are discussed below in film order.

1. Main Title—Theme from The Apartment
“Jealous Lover” plays over the opening credits. The album version includes eight bars of solo piano not used in the film.
9. Career March
Deutsch’s march theme is first heard after the main titles, when Baxter introduces himself and his company in voiceover. This extended version was created for the album.
13. Office Workers (They Want You Upstairs)
A heroic variant of the march sounds as Baxter is summoned to Sheldrake’s office, yielding to the “Lonely Room” theme as Bud chooses Fran’s elevator and brags to her that he is expecting to receive a promotion.
7. Hong Kong Blues
That night after work, Fran meets Sheldrake at a Chinese restaurant. The piano player strikes up “Jealous Lover” when she enters, and continues playing the tune as Sheldrake pleads with her to return to him. The pianist continues with this Deutsch composition, “Hong Kong Blues,” when Sheldrake promises to leave his wife for Fran. This longer instrumental version created for the LP features solos for clarinet, piano and muted trombone.
6. Tavern in Town
On Christmas Eve, a wild office party unfolds on the 19th floor of Consolidated Life. An arrangement of “There is a Tavern in the Town” (a popular 19th century song by composed by William H. Hills) plays as source music as Bud encourages Fran to join the party.
12. Little Brown Jug
Source music for the party continues (with another popular 19th century tune, by Joseph Winner) while Miss Olson (Edie Adams), Sheldrake’s secretary, reveals to Fran that she is aware of her affair—and that she preceded Fran as Sheldrake’s mistress.
4. Ring a Ding Ding
An original piece of source music by Deutsch follows as Bud happily shows off his new bowler hat to Fran, who is distracted by the revelation from Miss Olson.
2. Lonely Room
Deutsch’s “Lonely Room” theme is heard as source music in a bar on Christmas Eve while Bud—exiled from his apartment once again by Sheldrake—drowns his sorrows after discovering that Fran is Sheldrake’s lover.
8. Theme from The Apartment
Fran gives Sheldrake a Christmas present: an LP recorded by the pianist from the Chinese restaurant. After Sheldrake leaves the apartment to go home to his family, Fran remains behind and, distraught, puts on the record. “Jealous Lover” plays as she discovers sleeping pills in Bud’s medicine cabinet and attempts suicide.
10. Blue Christmas
Back at the bar, Bud and a lonely woman, Mrs. Margie MacDougall (Hope Holiday), are the last two customers left at closing time. They dance to this tune playing on the jukebox.
14. This Night
Bud puts on the “Madalena” record when he brings Mrs. MacDougall back to his apartment. It plays through the scene as he discovers Fran passed out on his bed and rushes to get help from his neighbor, Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen).
5. So Fouled Up
Bud keeps Fran company in his apartment on Christmas Day as she recovers from her suicide attempt. She relates her life story as he deals cards for a game of gin rummy. Fran wants to write a letter to Mrs. Sheldrake, but Bud dissuades her and Fran—exhausted—falls asleep. Deutsch provides sensitive support with a tender setting of “Jealous Lover.”
11. Kicked in the Head
Sheldrake gives Baxter a promotion to the 27th floor but Bud’s reaction is sober rather than jubilant when he also learns that Sheldrake is getting divorced and plans to continue his relationship with Fran. The “Lonely Room” theme evokes sympathy for Baxter’s heartbreak.
3. Where Are You, Fran?
On New Year’s Eve, Fran learns from Sheldrake that Bud has quit his job rather than let his boss use the apartment for another tryst with Fran. She abandons Sheldrake, running through the streets of Manhattan to Baxter’s apartment, accompanied by a rapturous setting of “Jealous Lover.” The music turns frantic when Fran hears what she thinks is a gunshot—Baxter had once tried to commit suicide by shooting himself, but this time it is only a champagne cork. Bud invites her in for a game of gin rummy and expresses his true feelings as “Jealous Lover” plays tenderly, the music swelling for the end credits. — 

From the original United Artists LP…

Comedy, an illusive wench in our century, has been undergoing a spirited revival in the quick and wonderful hands of Billy Wilder—a bespectacled veteran of Hollywood who wound up and tossed us Some Like It Hot last year and now offers the key to The Apartment. After a couple of dusty decades, brimmed up with serio-psychological, couch-thumping dramatic fare, Wilder’s whacky and wistful return to the grand arts of the slow take, punch line and pinch-in-the-elevator seems to delight even the folks who have spent their early afternoon shuffling their budget to include a bomb shelter. The old canard that “laughter is wisdom” is a long-haired and literate way of explaining Wilder’s impact in recent years, but the whole truth lies somewhere in the sound of uncanned and uncontrollable laughter.

Unlike Some Like It Hot, The Apartment casts both a soft and a ridiculous eye on the machinations of modern man. It’s set in the opaque jungle of Manhattan Island—and stars Jack Lemmon as a wistful insurance clerk who appears to be a cross between H.T. Webster’s “Timid Soul” and Willy Loman. Jack has a bachelor’s brownstone apartment in the city and finds his vocational future opening miraculously as he slips his apartment’s key into the hot palms of his commuting superiors. Shirley MacLaine, as a wide-browed elevator operator and Jack’s secret love, joins the parade of pretties that stream through his flat, and Fred MacMurray plays the owner of one of those hot palms.

As in all Wilder films, The Apartment has a special and wondrous “touch” that this time ranges from rib-cage comedy to a soft study of a little guy locking horns with a very big city. As always, part of that “touch” is Wilder’s choice of music, in this case an alternately raucous and sentimental score by Adolph Deutsch. Owner of a trio of Oscars for his scoring of Annie Get Your Gun, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Oklahoma!, Mr. Deutsch has approached the impossible again by making music that supports, sustains and celebrates one of the funniest and friendliest comedies of this or any year.