What was the name of this brilliant classic film?
September 28, 2008 8:55 AM   Subscribe

MovieFilter: Here's a vague one for you. Caught it on AMC circa 2005. Snappy, witty dialogue. Black and white. Definitely a film from the late 40s to early 50s. Details follow.

An executive of some sort is having an affair. He's on the phone with his wife explaining why he won't be home. She's cooking dinner, or has dinner plans with him. (I seem to recall she knows he's cheating.) The mistress works for him, possibly. I think he's wearing glasses. He might not even want to be having this affair. He is frantic, I think, and weary. 40ish. Corner office, atop a New York high rise. The dialogue was biting. Brilliant. Funny. Several phone calls are made throughout this scene, I believe. Husband to wife. Husband to mistress. Wife to someone (possibly).

The film had that "His Girl Friday" kind of repartee, but faster and funnier. I don't recall any superstars of the day in the scene I saw. (No Bogeys or Carys or Orsons or Cottons. That's not to say they weren't in other scenes.)

Look, I know I'm not giving you much to work with here, but this dialogue haunts me. It was razor sharp. Snarky before snark was a word.

Toss out movies, and I'll Netflix them all.
posted by rentalkarma to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Apartment? It's 1960, but could be mistaken for earlier.
posted by rottytooth at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2008

The Women (1939)?
posted by Riverine at 9:26 AM on September 28, 2008

The Apartment is also what I thought of.
posted by thebabelfish at 9:42 AM on September 28, 2008

Definitely not The Women, there are literally no men in it, so that's not it unless the OP is remembering it really wrong. The Apartment seems likely, though I don't remember any of the businessmen's wives playing much of a part in it.

Although I don't think it's the film you're thinking of, your description of the dialogue reminds me of Sweet Smell of Success, which is totally crisp and snarky and biting, and unforgettable.
posted by SoftRain at 10:14 AM on September 28, 2008

I watched The Apartment recently and the scene you described could fit - the guy who owns the apartment is trying to coordinate his schedules with the men who are borrowing the place, and they have to speak to their spouses and mistresses to work it all out. There are several women involved who work for the businessmen, including a phone operator, an elevator operator, and a secretary (though not in that scene necessarily).
posted by lhall at 12:02 PM on September 28, 2008

Nthing The Apartment.
posted by apetpsychic at 12:15 PM on September 28, 2008

I've seen the movie (I think). I don't think it's The Apartment. Was the wife planning an event, like a birthday party?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:39 PM on September 28, 2008

The film had that "His Girl Friday" kind of repartee, but faster and funnier.

Impossible. :-) NOTHING is better than the first 20 minutes of "His Girl Friday!"
posted by davidmsc at 12:40 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

a black and white movie from 1961 (although I thought it was earlier before checking the date) with that same type of scene is "One,Two, Three".

American guy moves to Berlin with his family, and he and the secretary have "language sessions." Wife knows, but gets back at him in other ways.

Billy Wilder film as well.
posted by Etta Hollis at 12:49 PM on September 28, 2008

Impossible. :-) NOTHING is better than the first 20 minutes of "His Girl Friday!"

Exactly what I was going to say! His Girl Friday wins hands down in the all time fast and funny category.

Flag and move along.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:43 PM on September 28, 2008

I think I've seen your movie on TCM.

Is it An Innocent Affair with Fred MacMurray? The advertising executive in this case has a new client he's trying to land who is also his ex-girlfriend. Ex wants Fred. Fred doesn't want to tell his wife who his big fish client is, so he lies. She knows he's lying but thinks he is having an affair and not trying to professionally woo his ex as a client, so she flirts with a tycoon. Fred thinks he has his finger on everything, but it's out of control.
posted by julen at 7:27 PM on September 28, 2008

There's another one I've been trying to think of (husband starts new ad agency, helped by wife and his ex-girlfriend - a former coworker/competitor who jumps ship to join him at his new agency; he is distracted and unfocused, the ex is trying to get him back, and the wife is trying to save his career/agency. Not a lot of phone use that I can remember), but my searches have been fruitless. Maybe someone else's memory will be jogged.

Other love-crossed advertising movies (but including big stars) include: The Hucksters (1944: Gable, Kerr, Menjou, Gardner - Gable must choose between doing the right thing and doing the work-expedient thing. Coworker love interest no real competition for the client-love interest) and Ex-Lady (1933: Bette Davis lives with boyfriend, believes marriage kills love, but marries him anyway. Other people prove interesting, heartache ensues, etc. etc.).

Another wife-suspicious-of-husband movie is Wife vs. Secretary - Myrna Loy suspects her husband Clark Gable has an affair with his secretary Jean Harlow (in a rare good-girl role).
posted by julen at 8:07 PM on September 28, 2008

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