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).


Wilder a surgeon and economic with his word choices -apparently the lack of freedom he gave his actors to ad-lib or improvise frustrated MacLaine- but that frustration certainly never shows up on screen. 



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.


the twenty-four (24) year old MacLaine as in 1958’s Some Came Running


Without MacLaine’s talents opposite Jack here in 1983’s Terms of Endearment,  it seems likely that Nicholson would simply wiped out the actor opposite him with his screen presence.



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:

  1. The Apartment
  2. Some Came Running
  3. Terms of Endearment
  4. Postcards from the Edge
  5. Sweet Charity



archiveable films

1956- Around the World in 80 Days
1958- Some Came Running
1960- Ocean’s Eleven
1960- The Apartment
1966- Gambit
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
2011- Bernie