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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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Way ahead of its time! pure madness!
This movie is so prophetic that it amazes me. It showed how much Hollywood has turned into a monster by chewing up people and spitting them out like yesterdays newspaper. It seems little has changed.

Gloria Swanson as the star who has been, is flawless in her role. At times you hate her for her arrogance, then Wilder makes you feel pity for her when you find out that all the doors in her 60+ room mansion have the locks removed so that she can't lock herself in a room and take her life.

The butler also does well as he atempts to shield her from the reality of her cruel world, by writing letters that she thinks is fan mail.

Wilder did such an impressive job with this film, even including actual actors in the 50's at the time (even including director Cecil B Demille as HIMSELF) to play roles. The scene where she returns to the studio and an old stage hand shines a light on her but then only for a fleeting moment. We all remain in the spotlight in the centre of attention, for only a short time.

Brilliant film

Rating 9 out of 10
The stuff nightmares are made of.
A wonderful,marvelous, out-of-this-world picture. It is crude with Hollywood, but it is also a declaration of love to the movies, and all that they represent. Gloria Swanson is at the top of her career as one of the most bigger-than-life characters of the movies. And William Holden delivers his best performance as the gigolo-to-be Gillis. But the movie belongs, ultimately, to Erich Von Stroheim, the master of his art that was the influence on Wilder here. Wilder said he had ideas of himself for the movie, such as a scene in which he would wash Norma Desmond's underwear with romantic frenzy. Talk about screen rebels...
Living In The Past
The advent of the talkies created possibly the biggest-ever upheaval in the history of Hollywood and the impact it had on the careers of a large number of the industry's popular stars at that time was enormous. Many whose voices seemed unacceptable because they were incompatible with their image or because of a heavy foreign accent, found themselves out of work as did others who were simply unable to adapt to the demands of the new era. Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" provides a fascinating insight into some of the more ruthless and unpleasant facets of the Hollywood system in a style that's witty, cynical and realistic and also features a number of actors whose careers were profoundly affected by the arrival of the talkies.

Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling Hollywood screenwriter with more debts than he can handle becomes involved in a high-speed chase when he tries to avoid the attentions of a couple of guys who are intent on repossessing his car. When one of his tyres blows out, he swiftly turns into the driveway of a run down mansion and successfully evades his pursuers. After parking his vehicle in the garage, he's surprised that the occupants of the mansion seem to be expecting him. It soon transpires that they'd assumed that he was the mortician who was due to deliver a coffin in which the lady of the house's dead chimpanzee was to be buried. Joe recognises the lady as Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) a former silent movie star.

When Norma discovers that Joe's a writer, she seeks his opinion of a script she'd written for her comeback movie ("Salome") and then hires him to edit her work. In his financial circumstances the offer of this lucrative job is too good to refuse and at her request, he agrees to stay at her mansion to complete the task. Joe recognises that Norma is a delusional has-been who lives in the past and discovers that the fan mail she receives every week is actually written by her devoted butler, Max (Erich von Stroheim). The very wealthy Norma buys Joe expensive new suits and coats and together they watch her old movies a few times each week. Even more bizarrely, on New Year's Eve, she holds a party at which there's an orchestra but no other guests! Joe feels he needs to escape from Norma who's obviously fallen in love with him and so goes to a friend's party instead.

Artie Green (Jack Webb) agrees for Joe to stay over at his place and Joe soon gets into conversation with Artie's girlfriend, Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olsen). Joe already knew Betty who worked as a script reader for Paramount and the two of them subsequently start to work together on one of Joe's unfinished scripts. When Norma discovers what's going on, she becomes incensed and determined to bring their association to an end.

The most striking feature of "Sunset Boulevard" is its sharp dialogue and numerous quotable lines which vary from the purely witty to the deeply sardonic. The fact that these lines are delivered by a screenwriter and a particularly flamboyant retired actress makes their exchanges seem perfectly credible as both characters would naturally have developed a way with words during their careers.

The film's opening scene in which Joe is seen dead and face down in Norma's swimming pool is brilliantly shot and the off-beat device of having a dead man narrating the story is typical of the cynicism and dark humour that runs through everything that follows. At this point, when objectively talking about himself, Joe in typical style remarks "the poor dope. He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool".

The casting of Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim who both had careers in silent movies, invests the events depicted with a great deal of realism as do the cameos in which Cecil B DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton and others are featured. Shots of Paramount studios and Schwab's Drugstore and the inclusion of an excerpt from "Queen Kelly" (1929) in which Swanson starred and von Stroheim directed also blur the lines between fiction and reality and add greater authenticity to the whole production.

"Sunset Boulevard" focuses on some of the more unglamourous aspects of Hollywood and must've made uncomfortable viewing for some people in the industry at that time. Its blend of biting humour and tragedy is very effective and the performances of its exceptional cast are consistently good from start to finish.
Like Traveling To a Strange & Memorable World
Watching this memorable classic is like traveling to a strange and fascinating world. It succeeds as few movies do at drawing you in and setting an atmosphere that is both convincing and interesting. The trio of Holden, Swanson, and von Stroheim make a fine combination, and bring their characters to life most effectively. Aside from a couple of relatively slow stretches, it is crafted with great skill, and it's a film-noir worth watching and re-watching.

Holden's restrained, gently cynical performance is an ideal way to look at the unusual world where Swanson's character, an aging former silent movie star, lives. Swanson succeeds very well at being weird but yet believable, sometimes even sympathetic, and von Stroheim rounds out the picture pretty well as a character with his own quirks. The physical atmosphere of the decaying mansion and its grounds, done with many well-conceived details, is also an effective and important part of the setup. It all works so well because it comes across as true-to-life not just as a portrayal of Hollywood but as a generalized picture of living in a bygone era.

When you have interesting characters, an unusual situation, a good cast, and a director like Billy Wilder to tell you the story, you have rather high expectations. "Sunset Boulevard" does not disappoint.
All is not as it seems in Hollywood
March 7, 2004

**** Excellent!

"Sunset Boulevard" ranks with "All About Eve" as one of the best written and best acted films of the 1950's. To me, 1950, ranks as high as the golden year of 1939 for Hollywood.

I have just seen "Sunset Boulevard" for the very first time. I was very favorably impressed. "Sunset Boulevard" is the inspiration for all other Hollywood inside story films that came after.

Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond who is a lonely insecure once famous silent film star living in isolation with her servant in a lavish, but neglected Hollywood mansion from the 1920's. William Holden plays the role of Joe Gillis, a down on his luck B film Hollywood writer who accidentally discovers her mansion. Erich Von Stroheim plays the loyal house servant Max Von Mayerling to Norma Desmond.

A combination film noir, satire with dark, cynical humor, "Sunset Boulevard" excels. Being narrated by a dead man is a nice dark touch. There are cameos of several famous silent film stars including Buster Keaton, who play themselves in the film. Most notably, Cecile B. DeMile plays himself, who directed Gloria Swanson (in real life) in some of her silent films.

The film has a romance substory that is done well. I believe this substory really serves as a distraction from the film's dark cynical tone.

Both "Sunset Boulevard" and "All About Eve" are two excellent films of the same year (1950). Both were nominated for Academy Awards in many categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Both films had similiar stories. To decide which film was the best film of 1950 was truly difficult and shows the folly of the Academy Awards. Both are excellent films (in different ways): most notably for writing and acting. "Sunset Boulevard" has the advantage of better cinematography for it's film noir, moody look and feel. "All About Eve" does have a "stagey" look and feel to it, using basic and simple cinematography. Both films excel with similiar stories, done with different tone and mood.

"Sunset Boulevard" stands the test of time as a classic film, perhaps better understood and appreciated by film buffs, nonetheless, one of Hollywood's best films.
"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.
Brilliant ,Brilliant
The basic plot: A hack writer lands in a huge,decrepit Hollywood palace when some people are after his car , where he meets an incredibly delusional silent actress , Norma Desmond ,and her creepy butler Max , living in a huge mansion alone. She enlists him as a ghostwriter for her terrible comeback script, but she traps him in the house and he becomes her kept man....(nararrated by Joe(the writer)from a pool,dead)

The praise: Brilliant,Brilliant.The way it depicts a woman clinging to her past stardom and narcissistic illusions of fame , in a grotesquely eerie castle of herself , with her dead chimpanzee , and her provocatively weird butler , Max . Everything is cuckoo, as Joe Gillis would say, even her Butler, Max, with the way he idolizes Norma and tries to preserve her glory with lies and deception. The simmering way it depicts Hollywood decorative luxuries is equally hot. Gloria Swanson

gives a truly brilliant performance as the obsessive silent queen, and so does Erich von Stroheim as the equally obsessed butler Max. William Holden also is great, and so is Nancy Olson as the honest Betty Schaefer. A must-see. The ending is one of the greats. I saw this parodied on "Tiny Toons" before I saw this movie!

True Genius
This movie is true genius. The fantastic and intriguing opening scene, the deep story line, and even the similarities between the characters and the real life people who play them make for one of the greatest movies of all time.

This is a must see! Gloria Swanson is fantastic; William Holden is as well.

"I still am big. It's the movies that got small" -- Norma Desmond
Usually, when I watch classics from the early part of the century, I can usually appreciate the historical values and innovations in those movies, but they don't usually blow me away like Sunset Boulevard did. I was speechless for most of the movie and the ending, although I knew about it, still amazed me.

Everything is perfect in this movie: direction, script, scenario, photography and the acting. That movie and Double Indemnity really made me appreciate the genius of Billy Wilder.

One of my top ten movies of all time.

very special look at Hollywood
Not a romanticised view of Tinseltown at all, this Billy Wilder movie was more or less ignored on release - the year that All About Eve took all the awards and the kudos. It is a bitter pill to swallow since it takes a kick at Hollywood's guts and has one of the bleakest endings in the whole of cinema.

Joe Gillis, a struggling writer, finds himself in the drive of a Hollywood palazzo when he wants somewhere to hide his car. The house belongs to Norma Desmond, who 'used to be big' in pictures, and Joe gets drawn to Norma and drawn into her weird world of flickering shadows.

The acting honours in this movie go squarely to Gloria Swanson, herself a 'star of yesteryear' as Norma, who is superb as the actress living in the past. Not that she plays Norma as exclusively tragic(the scene where she impersonates Chaplin is priceless) but perhaps no one could get to grips with the demands of this part better. William Holden plays Joe, his breakthrough role, and he does the part very well, while Erich von Stroheim plays faded Hollywood director Max von Mayerling (naturally a reflection of himself), and newcomer Nancy Olson plays Betty, a girl too nice to become submerged just yet in dreamland's poison.

The script is its moments of OTT-ness, but it is never less than interesting and draws in the viewer to the point when you are with Norma when she visits her old studio and talks of the joy of coming home; you are with Joe and Nancy as they fall in love among the cardboard settings of movie sets; and you are in the hall with Hedda Hopper watching Norma's last descent into madness.

The musical version which appeared in the 1990s had the heart and soul of this movie in mind, and was an excellent tribute to it.
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