Where love resides: Audrey Hepburn

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By Scott Ross

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In an especially charming scene in Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s delightfully bittersweet 1957 romantic comedy Love in the Afternoon, an aging Gary Cooper murmurs to Audrey Hepburn that “everything about [her] is perfect.” Her response is immediate, and utterly characteristic:

Hepburn: I’m too thin! And my ears stick out, and my teeth are crooked, and my neck’s much too long.

Cooper: Maybe so, but I love the way it all hangs together.

So did Wilder. So did we all.

That exchange, of course, was written, but the voice is absolutely Hepburn’s. She did not see herself as (to employ a now overly utilized word) iconic, although she most certainly was. Neither did she regard herself as beautiful; those elements Wilder and Diamond explicate as comprising her beauty are likely the very ones Audrey herself would have cited as proofs against her own loveliness. And, since Wilder was noted for using, and elaborating upon, the on-and off-set behavior and utterances of his actors to spice his deliberately incomplete screenplays (think of Shirley MacLaine’s plaintive query, “Why do people have to love people anyway?” and how Wilder and Diamond placed it in The Apartment, creating one of that excoriating comedy-drama’s most plangent moments) she may well have put it, to him, precisely that way. Actors are often almost shockingly unaware of their own unique gifts: Astonishingly, neither Steve Martin nor Dick Van Dyke considers himself a great physical clown. And Hepburn was sensitive about her appearance.

Above her remarkable looks, and her status as a fashion maven — and, indeed, her very real range as an actor — what Audrey Hepburn had, to an exceptional degree, was charm. Bags of charm, as the British say. It emanated from her as obviously, and as beguilingly, as scent from a rose. Philippe Halsman made a shrewd practice of photographing the famous in the act of jumping, the results creating an instant psychological profile. The most constricted, indeed constipated, were Richard Nixon’s; arguably, the most exuberant, and natural, were Hepburn’s.

These observations, I hope, go some way toward explaining why Hepburn was so uniquely accomplished, in spite of her considerable histrionic gifts, in romantic comedy: From her adorable and, ultimately heartbreaking, princess in that most fairytale-like of Continental romances, Roman Holiday and the slightly sour Cinderella caprice Sabrina, to the lightly satirical Ugly Duckling musical Funny Face, and on through that perfect mixture of badinage and menace, Charade, the soufflé airiness of How to Steal a Million and the unerring emotional temperature of Frederick Raphael and Stanley Donen’s Two for the Road. Even when rather stunningly mis-cast, and in a movie (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) whose nearly inviolate wrong-headedness (Mickey Rooney, anyone?) is offset only by its fabled, soigné sophistication and distinctive Mancini score, the two meeting to spectacular effect in the famous opening image, Hepburn triumphs. She is no more the original author’s Lulamae Barnes than that other Hepburn is a creditable hillbilly in the notorious Spitfire.* She is, however, very much Capote’s self-invented Holly Golightly in all her manufactured urbanity and mercurial emotionalism, seldom more heart-rending than when she learns of her beloved brother’s death. Speaking of “the other” Hepburn, I have long felt that if Katharine was, as I believe, the finest American movie actress, Audrey was the greatest of female movie stars. That does not, however, mean that I don’t believe in her gifts as a performer; Cary Grant was likely the greatest of male movie stars, and although I judge his contemporary, James Stewart, as the finest of all masculine movie actors, that opinion takes nothing away from Grant, who (from Sylvia Scarlet on, anyway) was seldom less than splendid in whatever he did.

Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images

Hepburn’s way with a throwaway line was non-pariel. Take, for instance, another delicious moment in Love in the Afternoon. Maurice Chevalier is a widowed private detective specializing in marital infidelity, Hepburn his beloved daughter. His case files, unknown to him, are his young progeny’s obsession, despite every effort on his part to shield her from “the sordid stuff” which is his stock-in-trade. She ripostes, “I bet when Mama was alive you told her what you were doing.”

Chevalier: Your Mama was a married woman!
Hepburn (Smiling ingenuously): I’m so glad!

High among Hepburn’s idiosyncratic attributes was that indefinable, but wholly captivating, accent, a legacy of her bifurcated heritage (Scottish father, Dutch mother.) The enunciation is perfect, yet never studied, the impulses almost uncannily apt — think of the way she utters, in answer to Albert Finney’s troubled declaration of love near the end of Two for the Road, the simple statement “Well, then!”— and is nowhere more charming than when, as in the exchange above, she is delivering a comic line.

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Our concepts of beauty, as much as our notions about it, are of course ineluctably subjective. Quentin Crisp, for one, rejected the need for it. “The Greeks were mad about the human form,” he once noted. “So much so that during its heyday Athens must have looked like a dressmaker’s window during a weaver’s strike. But it was no help. Not one of the great classical statues has the least individuality that would make it desirable, or even interesting.” As with most of us, when Hepburn looked in a mirror she saw only her flaws. For her, beauty was, always, internal: “The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Her love was such that, even in her final months, when she must have been in agony from the colon cancer that eventually killed her, in her capacity as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Hepburn’s primary concern was for the children of the world, and she devotedly lent her presence, and her passion, to what she called the “nightmare” of 1992 Somalia. John O’Hara famously (or infamously) deplored Hepburn’s thinness, not knowing that, despite her lordly pedigree, Hepburn had been starved as a youth in Holland during the Second World War, and was simply incapable, in adulthood, of gaining weight. It was this, as much as her love for her own progeny, which gave her such a passionate drive to alleviate the horror of starving children.

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Her mother, the Baroness Heemstra, imparted in young Audrey an essential dictum: “Manners, as she would say, don’t forget, are kindnesses.” Was it perhaps this that permitted her to accept public humiliations from her one-time husband Mel Ferrer without a murmur of protest or censure? After the very few recorded instances on a movie set in which Hepburn behaved, as she would term it, badly, her apologies were real, immediate, and charming. That sort of grace, as much as innate or even acquired poise, has never been in surplus; now, it seems barely to exist. Today we are far more likely to get a Christian Bale, screaming abuse and obscenities at some technician making a tiny fraction of his salary. We need Audrey Hepburn’s manners now as much as, if not more than, we did when she was with us.

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Hepburn was famously snubbed at the Academy Awards® in 1964, when residual anger at her “usurping” of what was felt to be a role in the sole possession of Julie Andrews in the movie of My Fair Lady mixed with resentment at her singing voice being melded with (and, unfortunately, overshadowed by) that of Marni Nixon insured her not being granted a nomination that year.† But those who have seen, and — there is no other word for it — adored Audrey in Funny Face, and who cherish her (admittedly heavily edited) rendition of “How Long Has This Been Going On?” regret that there was not a greater reliance on her own, limited but utterly charming, vocalese on the MFL soundtrack. (Nixon’s voice simply doesn’t match.) That she was photographed with Andrews after the Oscars® ceremony wearing what seems to be a smile of genuine pleasure, is testament to those kindnesses so prized by her mother. It certainly made her look far more gracious than her critics.

Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews with Oscar

5 Apr 1965 – Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Today’s Google Doodle reminds us that 4 April would, and should, have been Hepburn’s 85th birthday, and it seems as impossible now as it did in 1993 that this most vital of movie presences is no longer with us. Yet, of course, she is. Audrey Hepburn can never really leave us, so long as an appreciation of charm and kindness retain some sort of toehold, however tenuous, in the larger culture.

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We, like Fred Astaire, loved her funny face.

*Capote said later he would like to see Jodie Foster as Holly, in a more faithful adaptation. That, alas, never happened.

†Andrews herself later said she had very little chance, as a movie novice known primarily for her Broadway roles, of netting the role and that, while she hoped for it, she didn’t expect it. It should also be remembered that Jack Warner paid a then-record price for the rights to film the show; that Rex Harrison, while respected, was not at the time a box-office figure (Warner offered it first to Cary Grant, who wisely turned it down); and that a top-line popular actress to stat opposite Harrison was essential.


Text copyright 2014 by Scott Ross

Looking Back in Anger

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By Scott Ross

For the past two days, I have been listening to Quartet Records’ meticulous reconstruction of Miklós Rózsa’s exquisite score for the Billy Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond masterwork The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in, if not exactly a state of rage, at least fits of reasonably manageable pique.

A note on the Quartet website explains, to a large degree, the reason for my fury: The company’s producers and engineers, it tells us, “spent almost three years searching for the best possible sources, but the original masters are, unfortunately, forever lost […]  We have used three different monaural music-only stems from the MGM vaults for this release — none of which was in ideal condition.”

This is, sadly, an old story, all too often replicated. It is an especially cruel irony that, while the loss of priceless soundtrack masters is not unheard of within the vaults of the major Hollywood studios, this deplorable state of affairs holds true with much more depressing regularity on movies produced outside the system — in those very places where the filmmakers and their collaborators had more freedom than anywhere else. Time after depressing time, we who love film scores are told that the soundtrack for X movie, the cherished LPs of which we’ve worn to hockey pucks over the years, is simply gone.

For older studio scores, the major problem is often that effects and music (and, occasionally, some dialogue) were stored on the same tracks. Nothing to be done about that… at least for now; who knows what digital magician of the future may arrive to perform some as-yet unknown feat of prestidigitation that will ameliorate that issue? Fortunately, later scores were isolated, often with their stereo components intact, or their composers kept master tapes in their own collections, so many of the glories of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s can come to us more or less in full, sometimes with astounding aural freshness (Kritzerland’s release of the Les Baxter Black Sunday is a good example.)

In the case of an entity such as United Artists, however, home-from-home for so many gifted screenwriters, directors, actors and composers during that time, the elements were sometimes scattered to the four winds when not destroyed outright. (Often, the LP masters, which can differ markedly from what’s heard in the movies, are all that remains.) Varèse Sarabande just barely caught Elmer Bernstein’s magnificent Hawaii in time, after nearly giving up hope, and Quartet recently performed a miracle resuscitation on Burt Bacharach’s Casino Royale. Jose Luis Crespo has done a remarkable job with The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and deserves the praise and thanks of so many who love Rózsa, and revere this movie, and its score. But the facts behind this release are intolerable. The London studio where the score was recorded in 1970 has since been demolished. Well, fair enough. These things happen. But much of its holdings were destroyed in the process. And that is damn near unforgivable. It’s very much akin to Warner Bros. in the ’60s quite literally bulldozing decades’ worth of its animation department’s irreplaceable history just to make more room for its publicity department.

Wilder and Diamond envisioned, and shot, Holmes as a three-hour “roadshow” presentation, with four distinct segments. By the time the picture was edited the Mirisch Brothers of U.A., leery of the shellacking Hollywood studios had been taking on so many big-budget flops, demanded Wilder cut the picture by an hour. Not that it mattered; the movie, a comic/melancholic exercise of rare beauty and rue, died anyway. Of the two trimmed episodes, one is extant only without sound while the other exists solely as soundtrack, the filmed footage having disappeared decades ago. If what exists were not, like Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons and Stroheim’s Greed, so exceptional, it might not hurt so much to know that the possibility of a true restoration is, in all likelihood, nothing more than a pretty but ultimately foolish dream. And so, the loss of Rózsa’s achingly beautiful score in its optimal presentation somehow just feels like the perfect capper to the entire, doomed project.

Wilder asked Rózsa to base the score on his alternately plaintive and exhilarating Violin Concerto, cannily equating both its moods and its primary instrument with Holmes. The result is one of the finest scores, not merely of the composer’s own impressive oeuvre, but in the annals of movie scoring. It should be said that Crespo & Co. have done wizard’s work, given what they had to work with, and that their sheer determination to present The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in anything like Rózsa original earns them a special seat in Paradise.

Still. The losses to music history, and to its future, are incalculable. So, if you’ll forgive me for it, and even if you won’t… I’m still angry.


Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross


Post-Script, January 2014

If you didn’t order this one fast, I’m afraid it’s already too late; as with so many limited edition soundtrack releases, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is already sold out.

My Five Favorite Movies

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By Scott Ross

I hope to write at length about each of these titles, but for the moment this set of capsules will have to suffice.

5. Jaws (1975) On the basis of this item alone, Steven Spielberg must be regarded as one of the most talented people to ever stand behind a movie camera. The source was pure potboiler, the shooting went on and on and on, the crew’s activities were stymied by a mechanical shark that couldn’t work. And out of this chaos, Spielberg delivered a masterpiece — in what was only his second theatrical feature. The time spent waiting for the shark to function added to the movie’s special quality of life observed: the co-scenarist, Carl Gottlieb (Peter Benchley did the first draft) was on hand to add punch to the script, and the actors spent so much time together that their relationships (and improvisations) made for an especially rich character palette. And, since a working shark was largely absent, Spielberg made a virtue from a deficit by not showing the monster fully until well into the picture — the unseen menace is much more terrifying. Side-note: Roy Scheider improvised the famous “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” line on the set. With Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton, Lorraine Gary and John Williams’ spectacularly effective orchestral score.

4. Pinocchio (1940) Bar none the greatest animated movie ever made in this country, and the finest work of Walt Disney’s long career. Its failure, along with that of Fantasia, caused Disney to retreat from conscious art to conscious kitsch — one of the great tragedies in popular American art. Pinocchio has never been as popular in its various reissues as more comforting fare such as Cinderella, and it’s a dark movie, no question. The Pleasure Isle transformation of Pinocchio’s truant pal Lampwick into a donkey ranks among the most terrifying animated sequences ever created, and there’s a truly disturbing image of an ax hurled at a smiling, immobile marionette that’s the stuff of childhood nightmares. But it’s an enchanting picture overall, from its great Leigh Harline-Paul Smith score to the inspired voice work of Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards as Jiminy Cricket. The movie has a deep, detailed look unparalleled in animated features and, in the whale chase, one of the most excitingly executed cartoon sequences ever put on film. I can’t hear Cliff Edwards’ pure, ethereal falsetto on the high notes at the end of “When You Wish Upon a Star” without chills running up my back.

3. Cabaret (1972) In another post I said Singin’ in the Rain was the best musical ever made, and I meant it: Bob Fosse’s transliteration of the Broadway hit Cabaret is less a musical than a drama with musical numbers. Only one of them occurs outside the context of the creepily seductive Berlin nightclub where Liza Minnelli’s Sally Bowles performs, and that isn’t a production number (the movie doesn’t really have any) but an impromptu anthem by an angelic-looking Aryan Youth that builds into a terrifyingly musical mob statement of National Socialistic fealty. Based rather loosely by Jay Presson Allen on the show and on its source, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin StoriesCabaret goes much further into the original’s slightly veiled sexuality than any other version of this material prior to the recent Broadway revival of the stage musical. (Isherwood famously described Michael York’s homosexuality in the movie as something undesirable and uncontrollable, “like bed-wetting” and was heard to say, after a screening, “It’s a goddamn lie! I never slept with a woman in my life!”) Is it condescending? I don’t think so. Fosse and Allen (and “consultant” Hugh Wheeler) never condemn York’s bisexual adventures, and you have to take their version of Isherwood as merely a single variation on the original material. (Although Minnelli’s using it as a pretext against marrying York is a bit much; would the real Sally Bowles have cared?) In any case, the look of the movie is overwhelming — it’s how we now think the Berlin of 1929 must have felt — and Fosse’s editing style dazzles no matter how often you’ve seen the movie. York is sumptuous to look at and, with his slightly shy smile and Isherwood-like haircut, perfectly cast. Minnelli was never better, or more controlled, and Joel Grey’s Emcee becomes a truly Mephistophelean figure, commenting on the action and winking lewdly. With Helmut Griem as the sexy bisexual count who woos both Minnelli and York, and, memorably, Fritz Wepper and Marisa Berenson as the ill-met lovers. The faux-Kurt Weill songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb are about as good as you can get.

2. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) The most entrancing movie I’ve ever seen. I can vividly remember sitting in a crowded theatre in 1977, with almost no foreknowledge of the story, and feeling this great, empathic fantasy wash over me like annealing waters. Steven Spielberg may have greater audience popularity with Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park and won his Oscars for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, but Close Encounters is his true masterwork. It’s the most benign alien-invasion movie ever made, and full of wonders. (The special effects look so natural in large part because Spielberg shot them in standard ratio and then had the images blown up to widescreen.) Richard Dreyfuss makes a perfect Everyman, Francois Truffault’s face shines with gentle passion, and little Cary Guffey is an absolute amazement. The perfectly integrated score is, of course, by John Williams.

1. Some Like it Hot (1959) My favorite movie, and arguably the funniest comedy made after the advent of sound. Billy Wilder and co-scenarist I.A.L. Diamond took an episode from a forgotten German comedy and expanded it into a breakneck farce that took in gangland massacres, sexual duplicity, homosexual implication and transvestitism, turning it into one of the cheeriest comedies in movie history. Marilyn Monroe, famously unreliable, is luminous — when she’s onscreen you can’t take your eyes off her. The only fault I can finds in Tony Curtis’ defining performance as an unrepentant heel is that, in the persona of “Josephine,” his falsetto was provided by Paul Frees. But it is Jack Lemmon, whooping it up as “Geraldine,” who gives the movie’s greatest performance. It’s so inspired it seems to have come (as Lemmon always claimed the character was anyway) from the moon. Lemmon was, and is, my favorite actor, and for all his fine work (in The Apartment, Irma La Douce, Days of Wine and Roses, The Great Race, “Save the Tiger,” The China Syndrome, Missing and Glengarry Glen Ross) I don’t think he was ever better than he is here. This is Billy Wilder’s ultimate masterpiece, the movie that summed up everything he could do without breaking a sweat. The great Joe E. Brown has the classic final line — which Wilder always claimed was written by Diamond, and vice-versa.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

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By Scott Ross

One of Billy Wilder’s loveliest movies, cut drastically before its premiere. Worse, over time the sound has gone missing from one sequence, and the picture from another; barring a minor miracle no true reconstruction is possible. A genuine pity, since this autumnal masterwork deserves a much wider following.

Wilder and his compatriot, I.A.L. Diamond, conceived their Holmes (Robert Stephens) as a melancholy, acerbic misanthrope, both amused by and irritated at the fictions of Dr. Watson (Colin Blakely). Wilder and Diamond caught the ire of Sherlockians everywhere by implying that their Holmes might be homosexual (“You mean you and Dr. Watson — he is your glass of tea?” “If you want to be picturesque about it.”) and the matter is muddied even further when the consulting detective becomes entranced by a duplicitous double-agent (Geneviève Page.)

Also around to upset traditionalists is Christopher Lee as a very gaunt Mycroft Holmes and Irene Handl’s less-than-enchanting Mrs. Hudson. Lee later credited Wilder’s casting with lifting him out of the horror ghetto typecasting he’d been subjected to, although the filmmaker could not resist, on seeing a bat flying near the Loch Lomand set at dusk, remarking to Lee, “You should feel right at home here.”

Stanley Holloway also shows up as a gravedigger (a nod perhaps to his famous turn in Hamlet?) The exquisite cinematography is by Christopher Challis, the marvelously detailed production design is Alexandre Trauner’s, and Miklós Rózsa provides the sumptuous, haunting score; at Wilder’s request he adapted his own Violin Concerto, a canny move that dovetails beautifully with Holmes’ plangent choice of musical instrument.


Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

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By Scott Ross

Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond began their razor-sharp collaboration with this utterly charming adaptation of the Claude Anet novel Ariane. Along with the team’s later, rueful 1971 movie of the Samuel Taylor farce Avanti!, Love in the Afternoon constitutes the most thoroughly Lubitschean of Wilder’s comic romances. The set-up (or as Wilder would call it, the “Wienie”) is a honey: Maurice Chevalier is a private detective specializing in marital infidelity, assiduously — and vainly — trying to guard his virginal daughter Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) from too much knowledge of the seamier aspects of his avocation. Naturally enough, the girl becomes involved with her father’s primary bête noire, a dissipated American roué (Gary Cooper) whom she begins meeting in the Parisian afternoons.

Hepburn and Wilder on set.

The “love” of the title is, bracingly for the movie’s period, really sex, and as long as it remains that way, Cooper is happy. Hepburn, of course, falls hard for her coeval, while maintaining a false soignée attitude that causes her intense emotional pain. While the movie holds the contour of a boulevard farce, that ache is its central concern; Love in the Afternoon may be the funniest romantic drama Billy Wilder ever made, a warm-up for Some Like it Hot and The Apartment.

Cooper, long past his sensual prime, still manages to conjure wispy echoes of his own history as the beautiful icon of 1930s stoicism, and the long sequence in which he listens to Hepburn’s voice on a recorder recounting her (wholly fictional) amorous past with an initial delight that turns into almost violent brooding is one of Wilder’s most memorable comic coups. Hepburn is her usual luminous self, veering from adolescent absorption (the old tune “Fascination” is the movie’s recurring melodic motif) to erotic and emotional enthrall with a delicacy and charm that can break your heart. Chevalier has his best-ever role as her solicitous father, and the supporting cast includes the peerless John McGavin as the adenoidal cuckold whose obsession with his wife’s unfaithfulness starts the whole ball of wax rolling.

The Wilder-Diamond screenplay is delicious, and includes one of their finest exchanges, when Chevalier asserts his need to keep the sexual excesses in his files from his daughter and Hepburn protests that her late mother knew what was in them:

Chevalier: Ariane! Your mother was a married woman!
Hepburn (Smiling ingenuously): I’m so glad!


Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

Irma La Douce (1963)

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By Scott Ross

Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond followed The Apartment with the riotous One, Two, Three. That one was no blockbuster, but this wild adaptation of the Paris, London and Broadway success (sans its musical numbers) was a huge hit — the last the pair would ever have. Wilder later admitted that the movie isn’t nearly French enough, and it does feel like an American comedy with the occasional bit of Gallic street patois and European attitude tossed in. Of course, the Parisian milieu of mecs and poulles couldn’t work in any other social setting, particularly an American one, and part of the fun of this slightly overlong but immensely enjoyable farce is the matter-of-fact way prostitution is woven into the economic fabric of Les Halles, where the story is set. In brief, it involves an honest cop called Nestor (Jack Lemmon) who falls in with the sweet-natured whore of the title (Shirley MacLaine) and becomes her pimp. The joke is that he grows insanely jealous of her customers. To keep them both going — and himself from the loony bin — Nestor enacts a charade in which he pretends to be an impotent nitwit of a British lord (concocted from parts of all the English movies he’s ever seen) and becomes Irma’s sole client, while working himself to shreds at night in a variety of menial jobs. The trouble is, he quickly becomes inflamed with jealousy against his own doppelganger…

Note Lemmon in three keys: As flic Patou, mec Nestor and client Lord X.

The movie is a racy variation on the old Molnar comedy The Guardsman, and a fine example of Wilder’s self-appraisal of his work as a mix of Lubitsch and Von Stroheim. Lemmon and MacLaine are dead perfect, as is Lou Jacobi as the story’s compere (a role Wilder originally intended for Charles Laughton.) Alexander Trauner’s main set is a superb evocation of Les Halles, and Marguerite Monnot’s songs were beautifully adapted (and enlarged upon) in Andre Previn’s exquisite score. Irma was Wilder’s first color movie since The Spirit of St. Louis, and it’s exquisitely photographed by his longtime confederate Joseph La Shelle, the soft pastels cheerfully offsetting the narrative’s essential grubbiness.

The combined TV viewing of this and The Great Race (made a year later) when I was 11 introduced me to Jack Lemmon and started a one-way love affair with that absolutely essential American actor that will likely continue the rest of my life.

Wilder and Lemmon walk through a rehearsal on Trauner’s Les Halles set.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross

The Apartment (1960)

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By Scott Ross

Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s successor to Some Like it Hot is an excoriating exposé of dirty little American business practices that was itself, amazingly (and rather hysterically) labeled smutty.

Jack Lemmon has seldom been better than he is here, playing a nebbish who loans out the key to his apartment to his firm’s executive staff in hopes of bettering himself at the office. Shirley MacLaine is almost impossibly adorable as the elevator girl he pines for, in the performance that should have won her the Oscar she had to wait a quarter-century to receive. And Fred MacMurray is used to unprecedentedly smarmy effect as the big boss who’s stringing them both along.

The Wilder/Diamond screenplay contains a plethora of memorable lines, most of them for MacLaine as Fran Kubelik and including one (“Why do people have to love people anyway?”) that came straight from the actress herself.



MacLaine: Some people take, some people get took. And they know they’re getting took, and there’s nothing they can do about it.



MacLaine: That’s the way it crumbles… cookie-wise.

MacMurray: What are you talking about?
MacLaine: I’d spell it out for you, only I can’t spell.



Lemmon: I love you, Miss Kubelik. Did you hear what I said, Miss Kubelik? I absolutely adore you.

MacLaine: Shut up and deal.


Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross