Week Thirteen: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Title: Sunset Boulevard

Tone: Film-Noir-Horror or Oh how the mighty have fallen

Who:

Director-Billy Wilder

Cast- William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olsen

When: 1950

What: Joseph Gillis, a struggling screenwriter, happens upon faded silent-film star Nora Desmond and becomes entangled in her delusions of returning to the big screen.

Why:

  • Wrapping up a month of films-about-film with what is essentially a horror film about Hollywood, Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard.
  • Ranked by AFI as one of the greatest films of all time, selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, and often remembered for the quote “All right, Mr.Demille, I’m ready for my close up.” Sunset Boulevard is a powerhouse film helmed by a powerhouse cast and crew including cinematography by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend) and costume design by the incomparable Edith Head (Vertigo, Sullivan’s Travels)
  • Much of the cast in Sunset Boulevard play roles that mirror their real life. Gloria Swanson (Desmond) was in fact a former silent-film star. Director Cecil B. DeMille plays himself. Actor/Director Erich von Stroheim plays the butler/former director Max Von Mayerling. There are also cameos by former silent film stars Hedda Hopper, H.B Warner, Anna Q. Nilsson, and Buster Keaton.
  • One of the most memorable aspects of Sunset Boulevard is its ominous and ghostly atmosphere. In the film, Joeseph Gillis’ introduction to Norma Desmond is marvelously unsettling. To set-up the clip below, Gillis’ is mistaken as someone else by Desmond. Enjoy!

Note: Paramount took down the clip, sorry folks

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~ by cinematte on March 27, 2011.

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