The Story (continued)
The Apartment (1960)
In The Rickshaw, a small Chinese restaurant, Fran passes by the piano player who knowingly smiles at her and segues into Jealous Lover. Secretively, she has another rendezvous with Sheldrake - their first date after six weeks: "Like old times, same booth, same song...same sauce, sweet and sour." Vulnerable, Fran is just "beginning to get over" their affair from the summer, but the contemptible Sheldrake convinces her that he wants her back to resume their affair:
Sheldrake: It's been hell...You don't know what it's like, standing next to you in that elevator, day after day. Good morning, Miss Kubelik. Good night, Mr. Sheldrake. I'm so crazy about you, Fran...I never said goodbye, Fran.
Fran: For a while there, you try kidding yourself that you're going with an unmarried man. Then one day, he keeps looking at his watch, and asks you if there's any lipstick showing, then rushes out to catch the 7:14 to White Plains. So you fix yourself a cup of instant coffee - and you sit there by yourself - and you think - and it all begins to look so ugly.
Sheldrake: How do you think I felt riding home on the 7:14 train?
Fran: Why do you keep calling me, Jeff? What do you want from me?
Sheldrake: I want you back, Fran.
Fran: Sorry, Mr. Sheldrake, I'm full up. You'll have to take the next elevator.
Bud waits for Fran well beyond 8:30 pm at the theatre as people crowd into the lobby for the show. To keep Fran strung out as his mistress with more delaying tactics, Sheldrake pretentiously promises that he will get a divorce from his wife:
Sheldrake: Do you remember what we talked about?...I mean about my getting a divorce.
Fran: We didn't talk about it, Jeff, you did.
Sheldrake: You didn't really believe me, did you?
Fran: They got it on a long-playing record now. Music to String Her Along By. My wife doesn't understand me. We haven't gotten along for years. You're the best thing that ever happened to me.
Sheldrake: That's enough, Fran.
Fran: Just trust me, baby. We'll work it out somehow.
Sheldrake: You're not being funny.
Fran: I wasn't trying.
Sheldrake: Fran, if you'll just listen to me for a minute.
Fran: All right, I'm sorry.
Sheldrake: I saw my lawyer this morning. I wanted his advice about the best way to handle it.
Fran: Handle what?
Sheldrake: What do you think?
Fran: Let's get something straight, Jeff. I never asked you to leave your wife.
Sheldrake: Of course not. You had nothing to do with it.
Fran: Are you sure that's what you want?
Sheldrake: I'm sure. If you'll just tell me that you still love me.
Fran: (averting her eyes) You know I do.
They leave as the restaurant crowds up, passing by a booth with an inquisitively-snoopy Miss Olsen watching attentively. Sheldrake hails a taxi to take them to "51 West Sixty-Seventh" - Bud's apartment. By 9 pm, Bud is the only one left in the front of the theatre, stood-up and vainly waiting for Fran to arrive.
The next day, Bud has been promoted further up the corporate ladder - he clears out his desk and moves to one of the much-coveted glass-enclosed cubicles on the outskirts of the office floor. His name is painted on the cubicle's glass door by a sign artist: C. C. Baxter, 2nd Administrative Assistant. Satisfied that he has now finally arrived, Bud proudly looks around - his four cohorts Kirkeby, Dobisch, Eichelberger and Vanderhof stop by to congratulate him, emphasizing: "Teamwork - that's what counts in an organization like this. All for one and one for all - know what I mean?" But the four skirt-chasing lechers complain bitterly about being allowed less access to his apartment - or "public playground."
Sheldrake, who has taken priority over them in the use of Bud's place two nights a week (on Mondays and Thursdays), appears and recommends being given a second apartment key to avoid taking any chances "with that key passing back and forth" through his secretary Miss Olsen. Bud returns a tell-tale broken-mirrored compact with a fleur-de-lis pattern that was left on his couch the previous night - unbeknownst to him, it belongs to Fran. Crassly, Sheldrake craftily reveals how indifferent and manipulative he is toward the elevator girl:
Sheldrake: You know, you see a girl a couple of times a week, just for laughs, and right away, they think you're gonna divorce your wife. Now I ask you - is that fair?
Bud: No, sir, it's very unfair, especially to your wife.
Christmas Eve arrives - the switchboard room is decorated with Christmas cards and a tree, and there's "a swinging party on the nineteenth floor." On top of one of the desks, Dobisch (with his pants legs rolled up) is kicking Rockette-style with four female employees. Drinks are being served from an improvised bar set up in one of the cubicles - Kirkeby and Vanderhof pour the contents of liquor bottles into an office water cooler. Bud delivers a paper dixie-cup filled with booze to Fran, accommodatingly forgiving her for missing their theater date. They toast each other after hardly speaking to each other for six weeks:
Bud: Well, as a matter of fact, I was rather hurt that night you stood me up.
Fran: I don't blame you, it was unforgivable.
Bud: I forgive you.
Fran: Well, you shouldn't.
Bud: You couldn't help yourself. I mean, when you're having a drink with one man, you can't suddenly walk out on him because you're having another date with another man. You did the only decent thing.
Fran: I wouldn't be too sure. Just because I wear a uniform, that doesn't make me a Girl Scout.
Bud: Miss Kubelik, one doesn't get to be a second administrative assistant around here unless he's a pretty good judge of character, and as far as I'm concerned, you're tops, I mean, decency-wise, and otherwise-wise.
They join the other wild, thirsty, uninhibited office party natives - "after a while, there'll be human sacrifices, white-collar workers tossed into the computing machines and punched full of those little square holes." While Bud retrieves more cups of drink, a tipsy, spurned Miss Olsen - who has watched the parade of Sheldrake's mistress-successors for four years, shatters Fran's illusions:
Miss Olsen: Hi. How's the branch manager from Kansas City?
Fran: I beg your pardon?
Miss Olsen: I'm Miss Olsen, Mr. Sheldrake's secretary...You don't have to play innocent with me. He used to tell his wife I was the branch manager from Seattle, four years ago when we were having a little ring-a-ding-ding.
Fran: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about.
Miss Olsen: And before me, there was Miss Rossi in Auditing, and after me there was Miss Koch in Disability, and right before you, there was Miss, uhm, oh What's-Her-Name, on the twenty-fifth floor...You haven't done anything. It's him - oh, what a salesman! Always the last booth in the Chinese restaurant - and the same pitch about divorcing his wife - and in the end, you wind up with egg foo yong on your face.
After ushering a pale, stunned Fran to his new office, Bud produces a bowler hat box from under his desk and shows off "the junior executive model." Inopportunely, he boasts about being close to Sheldrake ("He and I are like that" - he crosses his fingers) and shows her Sheldrake's family Christmas card - picturing the Sheldrake family (a big white French poodle, two boys in military school uniforms, and Sheldrake with his wife Emily) with the caption: SEASON'S GREETINGS, From the SHELDRAKES, Emily, Jeff, Tommy, Jeff Jr., and Figaro. When Fran lets Bud look into her compact's cracked mirror, he is startled to recognize the fleur-de-lis pattern - it's the same compact that was found in his apartment and returned to Mr. Sheldrake. The broken mirror reflects Fran's identity crisis: "I like it that way - makes me look the way I feel." Bud discovers that Sheldrake is having an affair with Fran - someone he's also interested in. He is completely disillusioned and crushed, and walks forlornly through the empty desks on his way out of the office, ignoring Sylvia who is performing a mock strip tease for the raucous employees.
In a local bar on Columbus Avenue (in the 60s), Bud drowns his sorrows on Christmas Eve with over a half-dozen martinis while Sheldrake is borrowing his apartment. Bud arranges olives impaled on the tops of toothpicks in a circular pattern on the bar counter. Another lonely bar patron, Margie MacDougall (Hope Holiday), unable to get Bud's attention by blowing straw wrapper-missiles at him, strolls over and propositions him: "You buy me a drink, I'll buy you some music. Rum Collins." While Adestes Fideles plays on the jukebox, she explains how her jockey husband Mickey was imprisoned in Havana, Cuba by Castro for illegally doping a horse.
Back in Bud's apartment, when Fran bawls and asks the irredeemable Sheldrake why he is hesitating to show commitment, he smoothly responds with another put-offish promise:
Look, I know you think I've been stalling you, but-well, when you've been married to a woman for twelve years, you just don't sit down at the breakfast table and say, 'Pass the sugar, I want a divorce.' It's not that easy. Anyway, this is the wrong time. The kids are home from school. My in-laws are visiting for the holidays. I can't bring it up now.
Fran is despondent after learning from Miss Olsen at the office party that she is the most recent in a long string of Sheldrake's compliant mistresses:
Let me see, there was Miss Olsen, and then there was Miss Rossi, no, no, she came before - Miss Koch came after Miss Olsen...And just think. Right now, some lucky girl in the building is gonna come after me...How could I be so stupid? You'd think I would have learned by now - when you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara.
Exchanging Christmas presents during the bittersweet holiday season, she gives him a long-playing record of "Rickshaw Boy" Jimmy Lee Kiang from their familiar Chinese restaurant. Because he will quickly dispose of her and join his wife and family ("I mustn't miss train...I have to get home and trim the tree"), he stuffs a hundred dollar bill in her handbag - "You go and buy yourself something" - making her feel like a cheap prostitute. When he hurriedly departs, she places the record on the phonograph - it plays the first selection Jealous Lover. In the bathroom as she washes up, she spots a vial of SECONAL sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet. Feeling hopelessly ditched, romantically wounded, and a perpetual loser with men, Fran attempts a suicidal drug overdose.
When closing time arrives at the bar, Bud returns to his apartment with Margie: "We might as well go to mine, everybody else does." As they enter his vestibule and climb the stairs to his apartment, he introduces himself: "C.C. Baxter, junior executive, Arthur Murray graduate, lover" and "a notorious sexpot." He asks his sexually-willing partner: "Dig up some ice from the kitchen and let's not waste any time - preliminary-wise." When he finds Fran's gloves left on the coffee-table and tosses them into his bedroom, he notices that she is sprawled across his bed - fully dressed and apparently sleeping.
She doesn't respond to his efforts to rouse her: "I used to like you, I used to like you a lot. But it's all over between us, so beat it. O-U-T. Out!" He picks up the empty sleeping-pill vial and is paralyzed with fear when he realizes that Fran is unconscious and near death. Rather than call emergency on the phone, he pounds on the Dreyfuss apartment door in the hallway and summons the doctor with his medical bag. He dismisses Margie without explanation - she bitterly denounces him as she is thrown out: "Some lover you are, some sexpot!"
The doctor vigorously attempts to resuscitate Fran by noisily pumping her stomach in the bathroom, and later by injecting her with a hypodermic, slapping her face, and reviving her with ammonia ampules. Bud prepares coffee in the kitchen - his attention is drawn to the night table next to his bed where a sealed envelope (with a hand-lettered Jeff on the front) - a suicide note? - is propped up against a lamp. He stuffs the letter in his back pants-pocket. Dr. Dreyfuss believes that the irreprehensible Bud is responsible for her suicide attempt:
Dr. Dreyfuss: Want to tell me what happened?
Bud: I don't know, I mean, I wasn't even here. You see, we had some words earlier. It was nothing serious, what you might call a lovers' quarrel.
Dr. Dreyfuss: So you went right out and picked yourself up another dame.
Bud: Something like that.
Dr. Dreyfuss: You know, Baxter, you're a real cutie-pie, yes, you are. If you had come home half an hour later, you would have had quite a Christmas present.
Eventually, they walk Fran back and forth across the floor to keep her awake for the next couple of hours - and she is successfully brought around. It is considered prudent to have her convalesce in Bud's apartment for twenty-four hours until she's fully recovered - Dr. Dreyfuss agrees to not report the incident when Bud begs: "Can't you forget you're a doctor. Let's just say you're here as a neighbor." However, Bud is given a stern lecture on being a mensch [a Yiddish term for a human being]:
As your neighbor, I'd like to kick your keester clear around the block...I don't know what you did to that girl in there, and don't tell me, but it was bound to happen, the way you carry on. Live now, pay later. Diner's Club! Why don't you grow up, Baxter? Be a mensch! You know what that means?...A mensch - a human being!
As a gesture of his compassionate warmth and humanity, Bud plugs in and turns on the electric blanket to keep Fran warm. He slumps into the chair next to her.
The next morning - Christmas Day, Bud makes a person-to-person phone call to Sheldrake's home, where the family has just celebrated a lavish Christmas under the tree. His two sons are testing a Cape Canaveral launch pad and rocket, and thinking of sexual experimentation with flies in the nose cone:
Why don't we put a fly in the nose cone and see if we can bring it back alive?...Maybe we should put in two flies - and see if they'll propagate in orbit...Propagate, you know, multiply. Baby flies?
Baxter amiably recommends, "I thought maybe you'd like to be here when she wakes up," but Sheldrake shamelessly refuses to offer help even though he hears that Fran took an overdose of sleeping pills and is recovering after a "touch and go" night: "She left a letter. Would you like me to open it and read it to you?...I kept your name out of it. So there'll be no trouble, police-wise or newspaper-wise. You see, the doctor is a friend of mine. So we've been very lucky in that respect. Actually, he thinks she's my girl. No, he just jumped to the conclusion. Around here, I'm known as quite a ladies' man."
As Bud helps her back on her feet ("It's always nice to have company for Christmas") and nurses her back to health, their relationship slowly starts to develop, although she is genuinely still in love with Sheldrake: "He doesn't give a damn about me...He's a liar. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is I still love him." When Mrs. Dreyfuss brings over a tray with "a little noodle soup with chicken - white meat - and a glass tea" for the ailing patient, she severely reprimands her neighbor with a speech:
You must eat and you must get healthy and you must forget him. Such a fine boy he seemed when he first moved in here - clean and cut - a regular Ivy Leaguer. Turns out he is King Farouk. (Mixing German and English) Mit the drinking, mit the cha-cha, mit the no napkins. A girl like you, for the rest of your life you want to cry in your noodle soup? Who needs it! You listen to me. You find yourself a nice, substantial man, a widower maybe, and settle down, instead of nashing all those sleeping pills, for what, for whom? for some Good Time Charlie?