A Cup of Kindness at Christmas
One of my favorite Christmas moments is a small one in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) is bedridden after attempting suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is in love with Fran, and after saving her life by staying up with her, he tries to cheer her up by playing a game of gin rummy.
To back up a bit, we learn that Fran tried to kill herself over the insensitive acts of her boss/boyfriend (Mr. Sheldrake). Baxter, who also works for Sheldrake, has been loaning his apartment to him to carry on his dalliances with Fran. This has left Fran depressed and heartbroken, while Baxter is there to care for her.
During the game of gin rummy, Baxter is trying to get her to focus on her cards, while Fran finds it hard to even care. She goes on about how she has been unlucky with men, counting the number of bad luck romances she’s had in her life. Afterwards she becomes too tired to continue the rummy game and falls asleep. In a small graceful moment, Baxter goes in to pull the bed covers over her and turns on his electric blanket to keep her warm.
The lovely, yet lonely music by Adolph Deutsch plays under the scene, as Baxter walks out to leave her alone. This scene is small but there is tenderness with Baxter’s action. Fran is seen as a woman of hard luck, who has been taken advantage that has left her broken enough to try to kill herself. Of all the men in her life, Baxter is the one who shows he really cares for her, and the only one who shows her some much needed decency.
With the small act of trying to distract her with a gin rummy game (something that will be echoed in the film’s final scene), and leaving her to sleep, and turning on his electric blanket to keep her warm, Baxter gives Fran a moment of kindness and tenderness. The type she would hope for, even though she may not have realized it yet.
Of course, Baxter is the man she has been waiting for, and this scene, which incidentally takes place on Christmas, shows the type small act of kindness which may go unnoticed but can go a long way.