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Year:
1950
Country:
USA
Genre:
Drama, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
Billy Wilder

 

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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
Sunset Blvd. 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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Reviews
A film packed with unforgettable moments…
Although at that time she hadn't appeared in a film for several years and wasn't to make one for several for several more, Gloria Swanson remained a presence in the Hollywood of the thirties, the only legendary silent star to sustain an image and continue to interest the film studios, which put her under contract and announced her to star in a series of projects—none of which were realized… While she wasn't to regain her former eminence until her celebrated comeback as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard," a scathing satire on Hollywood and the self-delusions of its former heroes, she maintained her silent-screen image as the personification of glamor, and as such wasn't the initial choice for the role of the faded silent star…

Like many small people who achieve greatness, Swanson was a powerhouse of energy, vitality, ambition and shrewdness, untroubled by insight humor to slow down her pace…

The key to her success, the charm of her personality, the glamor of her career and the secret of her survival was superbly captured by herself in one of the best autobiographies, Swanson on Swanson…
2007-04-15
A Billy Wilder Masterpiece and All Time Best Film Noir..
I am a big fan of Film Noir Genre and also love Billy Wilder movies especially 'Double Indemnity', 'Witness for the Prosecution' and 'Apartment'.No one can keep you more glued to the seat than him but when I watched 'Sunset Blvd', in 20 minutes I was already aware I was watching his masterpiece, The best film noir ever.

The tension created by Wilder to the mystery of Norma Desmond character acts as duel progress to show a lonely woman and also the changing trends of Hollywood and the impact on stars that fade.It also tells the story and struggle of nascent writers in Hollywood.Well throughout the movie I didn't stop saying WOW!! The lighting, the camera angles, the sets, the screenplay all add to the noir atmosphere but it is all topped by wonderful Direction which is really flawless.Also, realistic acting performances by both William Holden and Gloria Swanson are 10/10.You can't really chose which one has done his/her part better.

I never put spoilers in my reviews so I would highly recommend to watch this movie.Even if you are a Noir fan,you will love it.If you want to start watching this genre,start with the best,the crown jewel of film noir and that's undoubtedly 'Sunset Blvd' .
2009-02-21
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.
2015-02-02
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 ****
2005-08-28
The Hollywood Myth FOREVER Shattered !!!
Until 1950, American films were strictly entertainment, some deeper than others. Studio executives were very protective of image and star-making. In essence, everything seemed perfect. Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman, Jr. created a stunning work of art that splits the Hollywood sign in two and exposed a dream factory for what it really is: a struggle to both gain and keep notoriety in the limelight. "Norma Desmond" and "Joe Gillis" are at opposite ends of this warped Hollywood mindset, with Gillis, played by that most cynical of actors, William Holden trying to pay the rent and Norma (Gloria Swanson) living a lie as a silent queen whose star burned "10,000 midnights ago". How a picture with such a snide look at the industry could come out in 1950 is simply mind-boggling, considering some of the light fodder that came out of Hollywood at the time. It has inspired many modern day disciples such as Altman's THE PLAYER, and Sonnenfeld's GET SHORTY, both of which took their vicious, hilarious parodies to the jugular of the movie capital of the world. SUNSET BLVD is the father of all socially oriented pictures regarding the movies and is by far the best.

The images of this beautiful black and white powerhouse are fascinating and unforgettable: the dead writer floating in a pool, eyes wide open, looking right at us at the beginning; the eerie pipe organ that plays by the breeze in the middle of one of the most deep and dustiest sets ever; the funeral ceremony of the dead monkey in Norma's courtyard ("That must have been one important chimp. The grandson of King Kong perhaps." says Holden in a delightfully crisp and wise voice-over.) Holden pulls his car into a driveway off of the boulevard that will change his life forever. He is the emblem of the struggle to get notoriety. He has only a few B Movies to his credit. Swanson as Norma Desmond is the symbol of lost fame and has become the talk of legend. What is ironic about her character is that she may be playing herself in an odd way. She WAS an actual silent star whose career went down the tubes after the talkies came about. Her madness combined with Holden's last drop of naiveté combine to give us one of the most electrifying "give and take" between actors I've ever witnessed.

Both lead parts were passed over by several actors. Holden was eventually forced into it as a contract player. How could you pass on such a script? Even "wax figures" (as Holden calls them) Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson come to Norma's to play bridge, of course being Hollywood outcasts themselves, after the invention of sound in film. Some of the dialogue takes a swing at actual movies and people (GONE WITH THE WIND, Zanuck, Menjou). This must have brought the house down in Hollywood screening rooms throughout the town. Louis B. Mayer even condemned Billy Wilder for "ruining the industry". The film is sad and darkly humorous depicting the antics of Norma, who is quite insane, and Holden who is going along with what Norma is giving him, but has plans of his own. Another wax figure still alive and kicking in 1950 appears as himself in an important role. Cecil B. Demille, who once directed Norma/Gloria back in the silent heyday, tries to set her straight, telling her pictures have "changed". They had indeed, especially after this searing comment on celebrity status. I wonder if they knew what they were creating while making this gem.

Scenes are shot right on the lot of Paramount Studios (even the front gate), and Norma's mansion is an unforgettable piece of history and gloom with a floor that "Valentino once danced on." There is so much to discuss, but little to enlighten you on how great SUNSET BLVD is without you seeing it. Just two years later, films began to crop up with the same tainted view of Hollywood, most with varying degrees of deception. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, one of the all-time entertainments quietly had a nasty taste in its mouth regarding celebrity and the invention of sound movies. Watch these films closely and see the skeletons of the modern Hollywood bash films.

RATING: 10 of 10
1999-04-22
I had a boss who was a dead ringer for Norma Desmond.
(Spoilers...)

She was as old as the hills, you could see her time has come and gone but you couldn't tell her that. She married a man who was 40 years younger than she was. She was rich. She took 'care' of him. She also lived in a house with her ex. And back in the day, she was very pretty. And one day, she snapped.

I'm talking about my ex-boss. Really.

Now about the movie.

I saw this on the wonderful Los Angeles based "Z" channel in the 1980's. This film was too much!!! It was fantastic. The music, the theme, the actors: Gloria Swanson and William Holden. It told a story and the story kept me going. Everybody kicked butt in this film...everybody -- (including a young "Joe Friday"!)

This is what DRAMA is in a film. This is what a DIVA QUEEN is in film. This is a look inside Hollywood no one wants to admit.

RUN!!! Don't walk and get this film. Buy it, don't rent it, because you'll want to own it and watch it again and again.

Drama!!! A Masterpiece!!

2003-07-13
Classic character drama.
Sunset Boulevard is a real classic I first learned about from parodies on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s. I didn't see the film until some 20 years later, when I found it fascinating. William Holden (Rachel And The Sranger, The Earthling) plays Joe Gillis, a bankrupt B-movie writer who drives his car into the garage of an apparently abandoned mansion on Sunset Boulevard to dodge the repo men. But the dilapidated place is occupied by two fascinating but weird characters, former silent screen star Norma Desmond (Goria Swanson) and her butler, balding, German-accented Max (Erich von Stroheim). Norma hires Joe to ghost-write a screenplay for her come-back, but he soon finds he's as much a kept-man as a writer, enabling more than one of the has-been starlet's delusions. The characters of both Norma and Max are fascinating enough to keep the movie going, and their relationship turns out to be more than it seems. The cast includes a very young Jack Webb, actually speaking like a human being, and appearances by Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, and Cecil B. DeMille as themselves. Carol Burnett made great fun of the role with Harvey Korman in the Max role 2 decades later, but the movie (directed and co-written by Billy Wilder) remains a grand drama, character study, and serious comment on the Hollywood star system.
2005-09-24
THE film that speaks Old Hollywood!
The film industry obviously did not know what had hit it when Billy Wilder's masterpiece was released in 1950. Fifty years later, such mastery in craftmanship still shows by still being fresh and alive, evident from the first of the unforgettable reels when William Holden's character, an unknown writer, is lying face down and dead in the pool of an extremely possessive star of the silent screen.

Although not my favourite of Billy Wilder's works, ("Witness for the Prosecution" is my own special favourite), this was not actually the first time he had stirred Hollywood. "The Lost Weekend", a film more scarce in its circulation but just as brilliant, had five years before almost lost a release because the type of slap-in-the-face reality was something audiences were unused to. And it eventually went on to be the best picture of 1945. However, by casting light on an industry still even seen today as the perfection of life, the Paramount studios caused an uproar from coast to coast.

One of the more interesting contenders at the Oscars "Sunset" had that year was "All About Eve". The Bette Davis/Anne Baxter film did eventually take the coveted prize best picture prize, but it is obvious that "Eve" too runs along pretty similar lines, but instead of shattering the myth about the golden days of the silver screen which went for the throat, the 20th Century Fox executives gave it a gentler shape by provocatively going after the theatre.

Haunting music and even the black and white cinematography made me feel I was in for a special ride as the opening credits rolled. William Holden was in one of his best roles. This movie unfortunately made Gloria Swanson be better remembered by us as the tragic aging movie queen of the silent era, who was one of the many actors and actresses who phased out as the sound picture experiments became a sensation. Featured also are Erich von Stroheim as the first husband turned servant and Nancy Olsen as the young girl writing collaborator. All four received Academy Award nominations, though none won. Cecil B. De Mille, one of the great directors of the silent era puts in an appearance on the featured Paramount lot as himself.

The screen play, as in all great Billy Wilder movies, is gripping and fiercely brilliant. Just some of the emotions captured on film, and some of the darker imagery has made it one of the best films of the 1950s, and one of the best movies in Hollywood history. "Singin' In the Rain" may have made it better known to us with the use of colour, dance and song, but it did not even go anywhere near "Sunset" despite the bitter sweet sensation the musical gem leaves.

Deservedly so, this cinematic genius is first rate.

Rating: 10/10
2000-01-13
The stars are always ageless
Recently I decided to rent all of the AFI's top 100 movies that I'd never seen. To my surprise, only three were missing. Birth of a Nation, Some Like it Hot and Sunset Blvd. Of the three, I found that two were still great and this is one of them. (BoaN was the clunker, in my opinion). As timely today as it ever was, all of the archetypes presented ring true and could be cut from today's cloth as well as the vintage vicuna of Gigolo Joe's overcoat. The dialogue sparkles, the acting impresses, the direction stands out (some tracking shots are among the best ever committed to celluloid). Often imitated, never surpassed, it's as good as its hype. Don't miss.
2004-03-04
Glad to have found this gem!
Caught this earlier this month and what a great piece of classic cinema! A down-on-his-luck screenwriter, desperate for cash, is taken in by an aging film star who has a deal he couldn't refuse. Thus, begins this complex tale of love and desperation, courtesy of Billy Wilder and Co. Swanson is eerie and sympathetic in her portrayal of Norma Desmond. Everyone else is great, but it is Swanson who "grabs" the attention. Strongly recommened!
2001-12-26
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