On April 17, 1961, the great and the good of the American film industry gathered at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica for their annual ceremony of mutual backslapping. This had been the year of Psycho and Elmer Gantry; of Spartacus and The Magnificent Seven. None of these films, however, picked up any major Oscars. Instead, one film made a clean sweep, and one man – Billy Wilder – became the first individual to walk away with three of the most prestigious awards: best director, best original screenplay (with his co-writer IAL Diamond) and best picture. The film in question was The Apartment.
As Wilder was being presented with the screenplay award by the playwright Moss Hart, legend has it that Hart whispered some words into his ear: “This is the moment to stop, Billy.” Wilder, however, was seen to smile and shake his head. He was in his mid-fifties, his directing career was at its peak, and he had no intention of quitting at this point.