Sunset Boulevard (1950)
I have always wanted to see #31 Movie of All Time on IMDb, Sunset Blvd. The dialogue from the movie has been in the American lexicon ever since it premiered in 1950. It is the seminal movie that every gay man should see before they die. It has Gloria Swanson and fabulous Edith Head costumes. The movie won three Oscars including Best Original Screenplay. What more could you ever want? Apparently, this gay man needed a lot more from this movie.
A screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is in dire straits when he cannot afford the lifestyle that he is accustomed to. He is three months behind in his rent and the repo men are knocking on his door to take his car away. desperate to find a way out of his situation, Joe goes to Paramount Studios to talk to Sheldrake (Fred Clark) about an idea that he wants greenlit.
A plucky upstart reader, Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) takes that his idea “Bases Loaded” is not good. They want to change the idea to make it unique. Joe is in need of a job when he is dropped by his agent.
Driving down the boulevard in his car, Joe notices the repo men in the intersection. They give chase. During the pursuit, Joe blows out one of his back tires and he has to pull off the road. He finds the driveway to a delapdated mansion belonging to a has-been silent film star named Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). When Joe is ushered in by her butler, Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), Norma thought that he was a funeral director to help her bury a pet chimp.
The eccentric Norma Desmond intrigues Joe. During their conversation, she catches wind that he is a screenwriter. She wants to hire him to transform her magnum opus into a screenplay. This is the opportunity that Joe needs to get away from his financial problems and possibly have a way to get back on his feet. He takes the job, but he realizes that Ms. Desmond is craving a lot more than limelight.
I was fully expecting to love this movie from beginning to end, but I might have had high expectations for it. There is something about the movie that is uncomfortable to watch. It might be because it paints the dark side of Hollywood, the price of fame and any means to get it back. The obsession, the affluence, the sheer loneliness of being famous. Parts of movie had me bored out of my mind.
Looking at the extras on the DVD made me appreciate the film more when I got finished looking at the last frame. Gloria Swanson mirrored her life with the over-the-top, theatrical Norma Desmond. She was a forgotten silent film star that got her chance again. William Holden’s fame was all but extinguished when he was cast. He was washed up at that point. His last big hit was Golden Boy over a decade earlier. Erich von Stroheim directed Gloria is the maligned movie, Queen Kelly that ruined both of their careers. It was fascinating to watch art imitating life.
Judgment: Who knew that a movie about obsession, madness and fame would bore you.
Posted on April 28, 2011, in 1950, Academy Award Winner, Best Original Screenplay, Crime, Drama, Film Noir, Running Feature, Top 250 of All Time on IMDB and tagged Billy Wilder, Erich von Stroheim, Fred Clark, Gloria Swanson, Joe Gillis, Nancy Olson, Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard, William Holden. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.