A common thread in Billy Wilder's best films is that it is the women who are the catalysts. Think of Stanwyck's Phyllis Dietrichson in "Double Indemnity", or Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard", Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch" and "Some Like It Hot". Even, for that matter, in "Ninotchka" it is the women who are driving the plot. In this masterly social comedy the self-deluding hero CC Baxter (Jack Lemmon) thinks he has some control over the events in his life. In reality Baxter is put upon nastily by the oily executives who like to use his handily located Manhattan apartment for extra-marital trysts, and nicely by the elevator girl Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) who sees him as the one decent male in a pool of piranhas.
Baxter wants advancement in the huge insurance company where he works, and Sheldrake, a slimy boss (Fred MacMurray), dangles promotion before him in exchange for the apartment key. Disastrously he discovers that Fran is Sheldrake's mistreated side attraction, placing him in an intolerable dilemma. Should he ditch his upward mobility for the girl he loves?
Wilder and IAL Diamond's brilliantly witty screenplay has a serious undertow as it savages corporate ethics and conjugal infidelity. The humanity of the film resides in the sweet interplay between Lemmon and MacLaine, and the development of their relationship from initial awkwardness to binding trust is beautifully acted out.
Savour too the great last line which, as so often with Wilder and Diamond, was only thought up at the eleventh hour.