best film: The Apartment does not make for an extremely impressive best film overall (at least with all the excellent company surrounding her on this list) but Some Came Running from just two years before from 1958 is right there as well and the two films combine to help make this category more respectable for MacLaine.. But back to The Apartment- Billy Wilder was coming off Some Like it Hot (1959, so was Jack Lemmon) and Shirley MacLaine off Some Came Running (1958). Wilder had nothing to prove at this point in his career- he already had Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard back in his resume. But for MacLaine and Lemmon they were still sort of considered comedians and this here gave them a chance to show their dramatic chops (as well as keeping a bit of their toe in the water as far as making audiences laugh—a real accomplishment when one reads the synopsis of this film).
best performance: The Apartment. MacLaine’s Fran Kubelik is on par with Jack Lemmon’s more famous character C.C. Baxter from this brilliantly written 1960 film- both actors are sublimely perfect here in this romance.
stylistic innovations/traits: Shirley MacLaine is the older sister of Warren Beatty and the sort of kid sister mascot of the Rat Pack (worked with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in Some Came Running and Ocean’s Eleven) but she is surely an extremely accomplished actress as well with an aptitude for both comedy and tragedy in equal measure (sometimes in the very same scene). Her peak is undoubtedly that one-two punch in the late 1950s and early 1960s but she proved she had staying power with one big performance in the 1980s (Terms of Endearment) and one big one in the 1990s (Postcards from the Edge) crushing it along actors like Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep respectively. MacLaine is best remembered for her work in The Apartment (and rightly so) and probably Terms of Endearment (though cinephiles have helped push Some Came Running at or near the front of the line- and justly- over the years). She won an Oscar for Terms of Endearment and both that film and The Apartment won best picture, but a major reason she is on this list is her work in Minnelli’s 1958 work- MacLaine is the soul of that film and steals scenes from a very game Sinatra and Deano.
directors worked with: Vincent Minnelli (1), Billy Wilder (1), Bob Fosse (1), Don Siegel (1), Hal Ashby (1), Mike Nichols (1) and Richard Linklater (1).
top five performances:
- The Apartment
- Some Came Running
- Terms of Endearment
- Postcards from the Edge
- Sweet Charity
|1956- Around the World in 80 Days|
|1958- Some Came Running|
|1960- Ocean’s Eleven|
|1960- The Apartment|
|1969- Sweet Charity|
|1970- Two Mules for Sister Sara|
|1979- Being There|
|1983- Terms of Endearment|
|1990- Postcards from the Edge|
|1991- Defending Your Life|
I think you are underselling McLaine’s role in The Apartment a bit. She has to walk the ultimate tight rope of delivering funny banter while still convincingly being incredibly depressed. Wilder clearly loved working with her; the camera is right on her face constantly, forcing her to sell emotions with her face, not just her words. For instance, the scene at the New Years party where she realizes 1) that Baxter quit his job and 2) that she is in love with him. The subsequent run to him and cutsy banter are the perfect “I love you” without the words ever being muttered. And of course, the scene after he overdose where she has to take each slap without it cutting away and then drag herself across the floor. It’s brilliant physical acting.
I know you appreciate the performance. I just think the argument for McLaine is she delivers one of the all time greatest performances in film history. One that she essentially won the Oscar for (read up on the story of why she didn’t. It’s laughable) and cemented the Apartment, a movie that has no business working, as a great film (even though I know you aren’t as high on it).
I apprecaite your blog as always. Stopped checking it out during your break but glad to see that you are back and pumping these out. Hope you are having a good holidays.
@Matt M – Thank you for visiting the site and the great addition to the page here. You make a compelling argument for her performance for sure. Happy holidays to you as well