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Sunset Blvd.
Drama, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Billy Wilder
William Holden as Joseph C. 'Joe' Gillis
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling
Nancy Olson as Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark as Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough as Morino
Jack Webb as Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum as Undertaker - Chimp's Funeral
Larry J. Blake as First Finance Man (as Larry Blake)
Charles Dayton as Second Finance Man
Hedda Hopper as Herself
Buster Keaton as Himself - Bridge Player
Anna Q. Nilsson as Herself - Bridge Player
H.B. Warner as Himself - Bridge Player
Storyline: The story, set in '50s Hollywood, focuses on Norma Desmond, a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max who was once her director and husband has become her self-contained world. Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis, a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness.
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Wonderful performances and edge of your seat story-telling...
1st watched 1/4/2003 - 8 out of 10(Dir-Billy Wilder): Wonderful performances and edge of your seat story-telling in this classic Billy Wilder film. What I think really holds this picture together is the well-down over-the-top portrayal of silent film star Norma Desmond by Gloria Swanson. William Holden also does a good job of standing his own as well in a quiet but effective performance. Basically, this is a story about a failing screenwriter's accidental encounter with Norma Desmond who still lives in the past with the household staff playing along at every beat. He then becomes entangled in her web and has to fight himself out of her grip, but struggles with this because he is being taken care of financially and socially. But once Norma gets jealous of Holden's encounter with another woman the inevitable happens(which I will not give away). Overall, this was daring filmmaking for it's time with only some minor annoyances but otherwise splashingly good.
One Helluva Film

Sunset Boulevard was absolutely amazing to watch again given the fact that it was made some 40 odd years ago and still holds up as a very modern film whose commentary on Hollywood is still right on. Gotta love Gloria Swanson for having the balls to take on this role, given the fact that she was, at this point, a faded star in real life. William Holden is magnificent, the kind of man's man that never seem to be onscreen nowadays. Just to have Von Stroheim and DeMille in a film playing themselves is a trip in itself.

A tribute to just how amazing Billy Wilder was. They'll never be another quite like him.
The ghosts of Hollywood's ravaged past...
Hack screenwriter chances upon mansion of a faded Hollywood silent screen star who 'hires' him to ghost-write her return project "Salome", but who really wants him for her lover. Poor Norma Desmond: she's 50 years old and over the hill! Literate, but queasy black comedy has a great script and majestic performances, but creeps its way to the depressingly inevitable. The palpable aroma of vintage cigarettes and the smell of rosy perfume hanging in the air permeates this incredible Billy Wilder film; yet, the deeper it crawls into its dark corner, the more repulsive it all seems. It can easily be called a masterpiece, but is it an entertaining movie? Great to see Hollywood circa 1950, with Schwab's Drug Store still there, but it's sad to think that even in 1950, stars were being discarded, replaced by the new and the younger, and even a star like Norma Desmond couldn't get a picture made. Thank goodness she had those oil wells in Bakersfield ("Pumping...pumping."). There's a lesson to be learned from the film: invest! *** from ****
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
This dark shadowy film noir was an excellent classic that I recommend to anyone. It is funny, dramatic,and tragic. Although the humor is dark it is tasteful. The opening scenes of Sunset Blvd. are some of the most famous in motion picture history. After the opening credits, the camera follows motorcycles and police cars as they pull up to a Beverly Hills mansion where a body floats face-down in a pool. Then a voice over narration begins telling the story of a dead man. The house is almost another character altogether and an amazing mise en scene for a film. Film lovers will love the movie driven story, fantastic performances and great direction. It's one of the few movies that will be well known forever and never forgotten.
"Mr. Wilder, I'm ready for my close-up"
Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were about the best writing team in Hollywood for more than three decades. "Sunset Boulevard" shows the men at the pinnacle of their profession. Billy Wilder directed the film with his usual panache at this nostalgic look at a Hollywood that had faded almost a quarter of a century before. If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.

With the advent of the "talkies" a lot of film stars of the silent era lost their privileged positions as the most admired people in movies. When the new generation appeared in the scene, they were more accessible to the fans that flocked to see the new technique in the movies that came out. One of those movies stars, Norma Desmond, lives in the past as she never adapted to the new reality, which is evident in the way she stays out of the scene dwelling in her antiquated castle on Sunset Boulevard.

Enter Joe Gillis, the man who never made it into the industry. As a writer, all his screen plays were rejected by the studio machinery because they were not what the heads of the production departments wanted to produce, or just were plain, not interested. Joe Gillis comes into the Desmond mansion by accident and it's an accident he encounters on his way out of it! Tbe egotistical Norma Desmond lives in the her palatial home with Max Von Mayerberg, the loyal servant, who was himself, somebody in the silent era. Norma falls for the young Gillis in ways she never expected, but as a desperate woman she wants to possess what she can't otherwise buy, even a man going through financial bad times the way Joe Gillis is.

Billy Wilder got magnificent performances out of the three principals. William Holden had one of the best opportunities of his film career with Joe Gillis, a character he wasn't even scheduled to play, but which Montgomery Cliff handed to him in a silver platter when he refused to appear in the picture! Gloria Swanson, having experienced that old Hollywood, was a natural choice to play Norma, which was perhaps, the crowning role in her distinguished career. Erich Von Stroheim, the great director, himself, is absolutely wonderful as Von Mayerling.

We see some of the silent era stars such as Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anne C. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, as well as Cecil B. DeMille, the director of Hollywood epics par excellence.

The great musical score of Franz Waxman enhances the film. John Seitz black and white photography brings us back to that time. Ultimately, it's the genius of Billy Wilder that keeps things in balance showing a man who understood movies as perhaps the only one that could have directed the classic "Sunset Boulevard".
In My Top Ten US Films of All Time; and Holden Was Robbed
For me this is Billy Wilder's [and likely Holden's] finest work, which is saying something on both counts. And Bill was robbed of the Oscar for this remarkable performance.

The only flaw in the entire film is one which echoes "Citizen Kane's" sole error ~

Sunset: How can a dead man narrate a film?

Kane: How can a dying man utter a word ["Rosebud"] in an empty room, and yet have the entire film revolve around friend and fellow newsman Cotten's search for the word's meaning? I mean, no one actually could have heard him say the word. Don't believe me? Watch the beginning again ~ the nurse walks in after Kane falls down he stairs.


Read everyone else's review of this film, because it's all been said here.

It's a tour de force on every level, and not just for the [now cliched] line: "I'm ready for my close~up, Mr. DeMille," nor for the fact that the past~her~prime Gloria Swanson agreed to play a has~been [unheard of at the time. even though Swanson was never really an extraordinary Hollywood figure].

The kicker for me is that the extremely important early German expressionist filmmaker Erich Von Stroheim actually lowered himself to play Swanson's [Garbo~based?] character's butler/assistant, helping to keep her legend alive.

This is akin to Martin Scorsese playing butler to average actress Kelly Preston 20 years from now.

Holden, as the penultimate gold~digger/gigolo [albeit unwittingly at first], is simply brilliant. As is the forever underrated Nancy Olson as his wannabe screenwriter mentee. Despite her first~rate work here, she never appeared in another masterpiece again.

Our loss.

William Holden did, of course, and a case can be made for his performances in "Bridge On The River Kwai," "Stalag 17" [Wilder again], "Picnic," "Network" etc.

But for me this was his career's defining role.

10 of 10 [and #6 in my US Top Ten Films]
Welcome to the Hotel California on Sunset Blvd.
Sunset Blvd. had to have influenced the Eagles classic hit, Hotel California. Parallels exist throughout, including the enchantment.


1) A man compelled to stop for the night, as did Joe Gillis, whose face showed his puzzlement and hesitation upon viewing Norma Desmond's estate on Sunset Blvd: "This could be Heaven, or this could be Hell."

2) "Then she lit up a candle..." Norma lit many.

3) "Her mind is definitely twisted," as was Norma's, and, "she's got the Mercedes-Benz." Only in Norma's case, the Isotta-Fraschini.

4) "She's got lots of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends." Norma had gone through three husbands and lured Joe into an intimate friendship.

5) "How they danced in the courtyard..." Joe and Norma danced in the great room.

6) "Some danced to remember" (as did Norma); "some danced to forget" (as did Joe).

7) "So I called up the captain, 'Please bring me my wine.'" Max Von Mayerling served as butler/wine captain.

8) "Pink champagne on ice." Lots of champagne consumed in the film.

9) "We are all just prisoners here of our own device." That's the theme of the movie! Every character is trapped in his and her own way.

10) "Last thing I remember, I was running for the door." Joe did also to "find the passage back to place I (he) was before."

11) Finally, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Precisely the fate of Joe.

If this fine film didn't inspire other artists, I'd be very surprised. It adroitly captured the mood and seductiveness of Hollywood and California of the early '50s.
arguably Wilder at his very best; Swanson, Holden, and von Stroheim are about perfect
I was a little speechless after I first finished watching Sunset Blvd. I had an idea of what to expect, but I didn't expect that a film made over half a century ago would be so sharp, so artistically compelling, and so tragic while still containing a blistering sense of humor. In some ways it was ahead of its time with its satire, ironically in a film that looks to the past with a sense of sad, but honest nostalgia. Gloria Swanson, the star of the film, plays a woman who is a star still in her old mind, Norma Desmond. There are a handful (how big the hand is depends on the particular viewer) of films where you have a character or characters that are not only unforgettable, but become so trenched in the public consciousness its hard to think of mistaking it for anything else. Even as a kid and knew that line "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille" was a basic, but dead-on swipe at ego, or at least stardom. That it was in this context makes it all the more comic/tragic. That Sunset Boulevard also has the distinction of being in the film-noir tradition along with having some satirical grounding solidifies it one of the really unique films of the Golden Age of post World War 2 America.

The story starts with our protagonist and past-tense narrator, Joe Gillis, who is a struggling B movie screenwriter in Hollywood. Fate, or maybe just odd luck, pits him into the driveway of a big, almost archaic estate that almost looks haunted to him on first sight. He meets Norma Desmond, whom he doesn't recognize as once being a big silent movie star. "I am big," she says in one of her trademark lines, "it's the pictures that have gotten small." She confides in Gillis, after he tells her who he is and why he's there (hiding out as it were), that she has a screenplay she wants DeMille to direct as her 'comeback'. He very reluctantly agrees to do it, and very soon gets sucked up into her world, becoming disconnected to his small circle of Hollywood friends. But he still has one, as a kind of secret almost, Betty Schaefer (the beautiful Nancy Olson), who is an aspiring screenwriter. One can maybe guess what might happen as this goes on, but like with Wilder's other great films, the unexpected moments and keen revelations/coincidences are the best parts; Erich von Stroheim as Max, Norma's 'butler', is surprisingly good.

I've seen Sunset Blvd. several times now, but I can't forget how much I laughed the first time around; I wondered why it was even considered in the 'film-noir' tradition (not that it didn't have its stylistic or character bearings, but compared to Double Indemnity it didn't seem as pumped up). I really took it as a kind of pioneering black comedy, with Norma Desmond as the delusional, self-fulfilling has-been. For example, when Gillis first arrives and Max and Norma bury her pet monkey- it's not just the image of the dead monkey and the reverence paid to it, but also as they bury it Gillis' wry narration. The narration in this film is another great trademark, with that kind of snappy later 40's/early 50's wit that helped move from the kind of wit that was in earlier Hollywood films. And of course there are some other absurdities that bring out a few good laughs, in particular when Norma visits DeMille in the studio, and gets suddenly by some surreal miracle all the attention she's been having in her head.

In repeated viewings, the film does show itself as darker, with a lot more thought put into the themes and real problems in the characters. Not just Norma, but also Joe, who little by little becomes more like the sneaky son of an overbearing mother than a real collaborator. The final scenes, which link up to the "end scene at the beginning", and then the sort of crazy, classic epilogue of Norma on the staircase, more of the film-noir elements come through. The 'average Joe', so to speak, in over his head; the sinister elements that are around him (more so here psychological than criminal); and of course the 'black widow' in Norma Desmong. Swanson, in what should've been her Oscar winning role, never misses a beat. Through her delusions of grandeur and overwhelming nostalgia for the old days (another great scene is when she makes him watch all her old silent films), there is also a vulnerability that doesn't make her a totally hateful character.

And through all of this is one of the best screenplays that's ever come out of the Golden Age of Hollywood. As I mentioned the narration is sharp and observant, as in a sort of Pulp-noir novel, and the dialog for the time isn't very unconvincing. The relationships, like the one between Joe and Betty, is handled gently, so that the punch that's given to the viewer at the end has more of an impact. Max, as well, is maybe even more a complex character than Norma; why stay as a butler for a woman who is almost in a time warp? Perhaps he is too. Maybe that's one, perhaps subtle, message to the film- as much as it is fascinating to look to the past, to get locked into it is something very detrimental. But the film may not have a very clear-cut message, as it is a dense film with different appeals to different people (like a Kubrick film)- it's funny, it's romantic, it's sly, and at times very weird. I can't wait to see it again.
A hack writer in search of refuge from creditors hides into a crumbling mansion inhabited by a faded silent movie star
This excellent movie with bitter-sweet style deal with a hack , bankrupt screenwriter who writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity . It starts in the surprising opening scene by having the flick related by a body floating face-down in a swimming pool . What follows in long flashback is pulls into an ancient mansion in which a writer in search of refuge from his creditors , as he shelters and becomes entangled in the web woven by a known but now forgotten star of the silent cinema , being submitted to humiliation and exploitation . The star named Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is high on hopes of a comeback and living in the past with her servant (Erich Von Stroheim).

One of Wilder's finest and certainly the blackest and memorably sour of all Hollywood accounts of itself . Splendidly paced , the movie contains melodrama , acidity , bitterness , relentless indictment against Hollywood excesses , suitable sordid interpretations and precise direction . It's an over-the-top picture , though hampered by silly sub-plot related to sentimental triangle between William Holden, Nancy Olson and Jack Webb . Magnificent performances from William Holden as out-of-work gigolo-screenwriter who inextricably attaches himself to a faded possessive screen star ; Swanson is brilliant as the tragically deluded actress and realizes a real tour-de-force and of course superb Erich Von Stroheim as Norma Desmond's devotedly watchable butler . Likable appearing in brief card-game scenes from silent stars as H.B. Warner and Buster Keaton , furthermore Hedda Hooper and extraordinary intervention by Cecil B DeMille while filming some scenes of ¨Ten Commandments¨ with Henry Wilconson . This prestigious film deservedly won three Oscars , including best musical score by Franz Waxman , and best screenplay by Wilder and Charles Brackett . Awesome camera-work appropriately ¨Noir¨ by John Seitz .

The picture is stunningly directed by Billy Wilder at his best . It belongs his first and better period during the 40s and 50s when realized sensational films as ¨Double indemnity¨, ¨Ace in the hole¨ , ¨Sabrina¨, ¨Stalag 17¨ and ¨Seven year itch¨ ; subsequently in the 60s and 70s he realized nice though unsuccessful movies as ¨Buddy buddy¨,¨Fedora¨ , ¨Front page¨and ¨Secret life of Sherlock Holmes¨. Rating : Above average , essential and indispensable watching ; harshly funny and riveting film and completely entertaining . It justly deserves its place among the best movies ever made .
One of my all time favorite film noir
This movie opened my eyes to the genius of Billy Wilder compelling me to dig all his other movies. I watched his other movies one after the other and I was never disappointed. He really made some great movies on great themes without ever losing his focus on the entertainment value of the movie. 'Stalag 17', 'double indemnity', 'the apartment' all are such great movies.

Most of the movie is narrated in first person and you see what the protagonist sees, a technique which has been used in so many movies after this. The narration is flawless and drama so intense that I watched the whole movie without batting an eyelid. The characters are real with shades of grey that you empathize and dislike at the same time. The whole thing is dark and a film noir in true sense.

One of my all time favorites and I cannot over-recommend this movie to anyone.
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