I hate when people ask me what my favorite movies are because I don’t know where to begin. Well, that’s not entirely true. I can easily rattle off the top three – Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction and Citizen Kane – and you could probably guess why I love each of them, so I’m not gonna bother with an explanation other than to say that these are the three greatest movies of all time, and whatever you think are the three greatest are not, unless, of course, they are these three. After this triumvirate, however, is where things get more complicated than Rashomon (also a fave, one that should only be seen in The Criterion Collection edition).
I love so many different movies, in so many different genres, by so many different directors, with so many different actors, from so many different countries, from so many different eras, it’s really just an endless list (picture a taller, more beardy version of IMDB). So let me just cut to the chase and talk about one special movie for one special day – The Apartment.
IMHO, it’s Billy Wilder’s simplest, warmest and best work. For the uninitiated, it’s about a lonely dude who lets the executives at his boring insurance company use his place for trysts with their mistresses (the ’50s rocked!), and as they say, complications ensue. And even though I’ve seen it many, many times, the ending always kills me.
Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray are celebrating New Year’s Eve (they had a summer affair, his wife found out and if you haven’t seen it, immediately add it to your Netflix queue, although I’m about to spoil the ending for you). After they briefly kiss at midnight, Fred turns away for a second and when he turns back, Shirley is gone, running back to Jack Lemmon, the aforementioned lonely dude, who she suddenly realizes is the only man who really cares about her. When she triumphantly climbs up the stairs to his apartment (with the music swelling), she hears a loud pop and thinks that Jack may have killed himself. She bangs on the door, frantically yelling his name and when he finally opens it, he’s standing there holding a bottle of flowing champagne.
This next part is what kills. Jack tells Shirley that he loves her and then Shirley asks Jack what he did with the cards (they had played gin rummy earlier in the film after Shirley tries to kill herself), she grabs them from a box, shuffles twice, they cut and then she hands him the deck and says the greatest last line of any movie in the history of all movies:
“Shut up and deal!”
All I’ve ever wanted to hear is that perfect line in real life, and on New Year’s Eve, when I’m watching The Apartment with my girlfriend, maybe I’ll have a shot.