Tuesday, February 19, 2008

So Long To Fidel Castro And To The Oldest Topical Joke In Film!

That lovely couple above is Margie McDougall and C.C. (Bud) Baxter having a drink in a New York bar. They're both out and alone--Bud because he's allowing his bosses from the insurance company where he works to use his apartment for their illicit affairs and Margie because... well... her husband Mickey The Jockey is in a Cuban jail. Why?
MARGIE: Castro caught him dopin' a horse.
And thus began one of the longest-standing topical jokes in movie history.

The Apartment took Hollywood by storm in 1960. It's a neat little morality play written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond and directed by Wilder. The cast is letter perfect. Shirley MacClaine, Fred MacMurray, Edie Adams, Ray Walston, and the lovely, brassy lady at the bar above with star Jack Lemmon: Hope Holiday. The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing--a feat that wouldn't be matched until 1980's Manhattan by Woody Allen. As Wilder was returning to his seat after another award, someone is reported to have yelled out "Quit now! It'll never be any better than this!" I'm personally glad Billy didn't listen because we'd never have had Walter Matthau's performance as "Whiplash Willie Gingrich" in The Fortune Cookie or the sophisticated comedy of Irma La Douce.

The Apartment is one of my favorite movies.

Fidel Castro announced today that he is stepping down as the leader of Cuba--a post he acquired shortly before Wilder and Diamond made what I'm sure they thought was a throwaway line. It's been funny for almost forty-eight years. Most movies and television shows have trouble serving up forty-eight seconds worth of funny. If you haven't seen it, please do.

La lucha continua! Cut!

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