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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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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.
"I Am Big. It's The Pictures That Got Small!"
For Hollywood (in its heyday) - The 1950's certainly began quite ominously with Billy Wilder's straight-faced freak-show known otherwise as "Sunset Boulevard". Without a doubt - This picture is, indeed, an oddity in itself, being a story-of-the-grotesque that is told by, none other than, a corpse.

Yes. Perhaps the most revealing movie that Hollywood ever made about its own decline - "Sunset Boulevard" was, very much, all about the movie industry's rise to great power, its fabricated imagery, as well as its total worship of youth and its own dark past.

And, of course - Irony of ironies - Only director Billy Wilder could imagine Tinseltown as a place where the dead go on speaking - Talking about their lives as if nothing had changed.
Class Act
Spoilers. Sometimes lousy movies can be redeemed through means of a plenitude of epigrams sprinkled on the script. This one has all the classic tag lines. "We had faces then." "I am still big; it's the pictures that got small." "Ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille." "The audience doesn't know that someone writes the words; they think the actors make them up as they go along." And some lousy movies have little, barely noticeable touches that redeem them. Gillis storms out of Norma Desmond's house on New Years Eve after an argument, leaving his kept existence forever, but his long watch fob gets caught on the doorknob as he exits. (He'll be beck.) Norma visits a set on the Paramount lot for the first time in twenty years and, asked to sit and watch a rehearsal, the microphone on its boom brushes against her feathery hat and she shoves it away with irritation. And that last devastating dissolve.

But this movie doesn't need that kind of redemption. The script -- the entire film -- is a classic that stands on its own two feet.

Gloria Swanson's performance is overblown, as it should be. Von Stroheim -- or, let's call a spade a spade, plain Stroheim -- brings to his role the starchy oblige that he showed in "Grand Illusion." Holden will be remembered probably for three roles: "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Picnic," and this. Brackett's script is well above average, even with its use of a voice-over, given by a dead man. Pat Olsen is mouth wateringly beautiful. She went on to make several other movies with Holden, none of them as good as this. The photography and art direction also stand out. This is one REALLY rotting mansion. Everything is out of date, from Buster Keaton to the tiny roach clip Norma Desmond wears on her finger when she smokes.

Amid the bizarre melodrama there is one quiet, simple scene I always find appealing. Holden and Olsen are on a dark, deserted city street on Paramount's back lot, and she tells him she once had her nose fixed. He playfully leans down, examines it, and kisses it lightly. Then he backs away a few inches and warns her never to let him get closer than two feet. If he does, she should hit him with her shoe. Holden never indicates more than a momentary physical attraction, combined with a realization that he'd better not push the envelope. He later tells us he's "crazy about her" but we don't believe him. But in this effective and signal scene, Olsen's expression never changes. Her smile is sweet, agreeable, alert, and curious -- without in any way welcoming more intimacy. It all sounds rudimentary but it's tough to put this kind of exchange over and both performers do it splendidly.

The story is elementary. Gillis, a failed screenwriter, is adopted by Norma Desmond, a rich but forgotten star of the silent days ("Oil wells in Bakersfield -- they keep pumping and pumping and pumping"), and he succumbs to greed, letting her buy him vicuna coats and "evening clothes" and whatever, in return for which he supplies the only thing she needs and he has to offer. But he doesn't do so without loathing himself. And when he falls for another girl, he decides to reject everything, Norma and girl friend and vicuna coat included, and go back to Dayton, Ohio. He doesn't make it. Everything about the story, Gillis's death included, is comic in a way, acerbic may be better, but very dark too. Wilder could be a phenomenally good director when the right script came his way, and this is an instance.
She Doesn't Want To Be Alone
"Sunset Blvd." is the funniest movie ever made about the saddest of human conditions, loneliness.

Struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) bounces around Hollywood like a pinball, flipped at every turn by the big wheels who ignore his attempts to latch onto their world. Only the repo men want his company. Then he finds himself in the mansion of forgotten screen legend Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), decked out as a memorial to someone not yet dead. Norma believes the world awaits her return ("I hate that word," she says of "comeback"). In her effort to elude time's heartless march, she abandons sanity and bids Joe join her.

Billy Wilder's film is a satire of Hollywood with a nod in the direction of Evelyn Waugh's "The Loved One" (Norma initially assumes Joe is here to help bury her pet chimp). As a satire it scores points, but it's as a twisted love story that it makes its mark as a cinematic masterpiece. Norma fantasizes about her comeback, but it's her love of Joe that destroys her. Everyone talks about Joe's self-loathing as a foregone conclusion of his finding himself in Norma's presence and turning himself into a gigolo, but I think he's always carrying that dislike around, his self-inflicted price for failing to achieve what he wants from life and a prison of loneliness every bit as desolate as Norma's mansion. One might wonder to what extent that, more than Norma, serves as his ruin.

It's also a marvelous black comedy, both of tone and out-and-out belly laughs, whether it's Joe getting unsolicited advice in the men's clothing shop ("As long as the lady is paying for it, why not take the Vicuna?") or his narrating how gentle people get with a person after he's dead. Holden's especially great in his voice-over work, letting every line stick with just the right amount of emphasis, and no hint of actorliness.

Swanson's all actorliness, of course, in that magnificent way of hers which provides so much of the empathy and madcap zaniness to the film. Like Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein," she draws you in with her amazing eyes and makes you laugh and cringe simultaneously at her most emotive outbursts. It's a comic showcase from one not known for comedy, or for working in sound.

Was Norma always this affected? A glimpse of her in one of her old movies (Swanson again, in her unreleased "Queen Kelly") shows a retrained, luminous presence not at all like the Norma we meet in the story. If this Norma played anyone on the silent screen, it would have more likely been Nosferatu. Just watch those hands of hers twist and pull, especially when she's drawing Joe deeper in her web.

Norma doesn't mean to harm Joe. She just has no idea how real relationships work. To her, like mad Max her butler (Erich von Stroheim, a curiously shifting centerpiece whose true nature drives the point home), keeping people around is all that keeps her from a chasm of despair. When she talks to Joe, or addresses her imagined audience, it's not with the coldness of a user but real heart and soul. Unlike Garbo, she most emphatically does not want to be alone, and we can't help but like her for it.

"Sunset Blvd." makes a subtle, brilliant case that staving off loneliness to such a degree makes for a sickness all its own. I'm not sure whether or not that's the most depressing thing about the film, but it certainly adds to the power of its singular sting.
A Bitter and Tragic Masterpiece
In Hollywood of the 50's, the obscure screenplay writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) is not able to sell his work to the studios, is full of debts and is thinking in returning to his hometown to work in an office. While trying to escape from his creditors, he has a flat tire and parks his car in a decadent mansion in Sunset Boulevard. He meets the owner and former silent-movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who lives alone wit her butler and driver Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). Norma is demented and believes she will return to the cinema industry, and is protected and isolated from the world by Max, who was his director and husband in the past and still loves her. Norma proposes Joe to move to the mansion and help her in writing a screenplay for her comeback to the cinema, and the small-time writer becomes her lover and gigolo. When Joe falls in love for the young aspirant writer Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), Norma becomes jealous and completely insane and her madness leads to a tragic end.

"Sunset Boulevard" is a bitter and tragic masterpiece of the genius Billy Wilder that exposes how Hollywood uses people and forgets them when they get old and are considered decadent by the industry. Further, it also shows the consequences of the lack of adaptation of a former star to the end of a successful career, being forgotten by fans and the industry, and the price that some persons accept to pay to join this business. The last time I saw this film was on 22 September 2002 and even having watched "Sunset Boulevard" for maybe five or six times, I still get excited with most of the scenes and I dare to say that it is in my Top 10 movies ever. The DVD has an interesting documentary called "Sunset Blvd.: A Look Back" (a.k.a. "The Making of Sunset Boulevard" with the presence of a still impressively beautiful Nancy Olson telling peculiarities about this awesome feature. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Crepúsculo dos Deuses" ("Dusk of the Gods")
Classic Film Noir of epic proportions...
Joe Gillis(William Holden)is a Hollywood writer who gets himself caught up revising a script for the comeback of a silent film star named Norma Desmond(Gloria Swanson), who is obsessed with her past and suicidal.

Forget the chemistry in Casablanca, this movie has the best on screen chemistry of all time! I have always enjoyed film noir, but never really respected it as much as I would have for other movie genres, but Sunset Blvd. changed my mind. I could not find a single thing wrong with this movie. The acting, writing, and plot were all wonderful. The writing, of course, was the snazzy film noir type dialog that can be easily noticeable. The movie included famous lines such as: "I'm still big, it's the picture that got smaller" and "Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up" The movie was still scary, even now, 55 years later! Overall, this is one of the greatest movies of all time and the best movie of the 50s.

I highly recommend this movie.
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 .
Swanson Levitates.....In A Perfect Performance
Yet another magnificent motion picture directed by the great Billy Wilder. The magical performance by Gloria Swanson will be analyzed and deeply appreciated for ever. William Holden as the young novice writer also is great here. The play between the two "stars" is tactful and completely convincing. The movie is full of memorable lines (the writing is flawless) ...its such a great pity movie writers to-day simply CANT do it. I wonder why that is...but its true. Swanson gambles everything on her ability to go for broke....without looking fake. She does it with an amazing piece of breathtaking acting. Watching her is almost like watching a tight rope walker....without the net. This can be viewed multiple times...a real Classic. Gets an automatic 10 / 10.
Reel Life Gothic
Every time I go to L.A., which isn't too often, I look at these palm-bemused, once smart stucco facades, and wonder if a Norma Desmond from a later era might be hiding from the world inside them, buttressed by cable TV (AMC or TCM, no doubt), a poodle named FiFi or Sir Francis, walk-in closets full of leopard-print Capri pants that haven't fit in decades, and a world class liquor cabinet that has seen heads of state under the table on a good night. It is because of Sunset Blvd., for certain, that my mind could ever go there. It is one of the most indelible films you will ever see.

This film is great for many reasons, not the least of which is because it is Hollywood's first look back at itself. In the milieu of this film, the silent era is only 22 years behind us. The people left behind by the rush to sound can still palpably TASTE the fame, the accolade, that particular past being not so very dim and distant. The sadness of their lives was real, and at that point in history, all around, if hidden. Way more has been made of the supposed "savagery" of this film vis a vis the faded star than I think exists now, or ever did. The often cynical Wilder is deeply in touch with the tragic here, as much as the grotesque.
You won't be able to get the closing line out of your head for weeks.
The last twitch of the silent film industry. Certainly Erich von Stroheim knew he wouldn't ever be able to make 20-hour epics any more, and the parallels of his character and that of "Norma Desmond" make this film doubly poignant. Even Cecil B. de Mille manages to put in a passable performance as himself (has any other director managed to do this?).
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