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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Welcome to the Hotel California on Sunset Blvd.
Sunset Blvd. had to have influenced the Eagles classic hit, Hotel California. Parallels exist throughout, including the enchantment.


1) A man compelled to stop for the night, as did Joe Gillis, whose face showed his puzzlement and hesitation upon viewing Norma Desmond's estate on Sunset Blvd: "This could be Heaven, or this could be Hell."

2) "Then she lit up a candle..." Norma lit many.

3) "Her mind is definitely twisted," as was Norma's, and, "she's got the Mercedes-Benz." Only in Norma's case, the Isotta-Fraschini.

4) "She's got lots of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends." Norma had gone through three husbands and lured Joe into an intimate friendship.

5) "How they danced in the courtyard..." Joe and Norma danced in the great room.

6) "Some danced to remember" (as did Norma); "some danced to forget" (as did Joe).

7) "So I called up the captain, 'Please bring me my wine.'" Max Von Mayerling served as butler/wine captain.

8) "Pink champagne on ice." Lots of champagne consumed in the film.

9) "We are all just prisoners here of our own device." That's the theme of the movie! Every character is trapped in his and her own way.

10) "Last thing I remember, I was running for the door." Joe did also to "find the passage back to place I (he) was before."

11) Finally, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Precisely the fate of Joe.

If this fine film didn't inspire other artists, I'd be very surprised. It adroitly captured the mood and seductiveness of Hollywood and California of the early '50s.
Among the best ever made
Joe Gillis, a failed writer played with an efficient cynicism by William Holden, blows out a tire escaping the repo man, limps into the driveway of an old Sunset Blvd mansion to hide, and thus enters a decadent world that traps him like a babe in a sticky womb. In this morality-tale, a la Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, we learn that even an accidental gigolo earns his keep, and then some.

The voice-over and frame are appropriately reminiscent of a Forties' radio show, perhaps "Inner Sanctum" or "The Shadow." The images, from Gloria Swanson's greasy face and spidery fingers, to Eric Von Stroheim's wheezy organ, to the lighted pool with Joe's face down in it, ("This is where you came in") are indelible.

This is a great movie, built on character and story, well-crafted amidst the haunting atmosphere of an "undead" Hollywood. They don't make them like this anymore, truly.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Sunset Blvd: An intense and scary film
'Sunset Blvd.' criticizes the mass media society. It is not just about Hollywood.

"Sunset Blvd." is classic Billy Wilder work. He builds a story with a voice over, which creates an intense and exciting mood.

Sunset Blvd. has many qualities. This is a tragic story about a fallen star and the inability to be a "normal" and "ordinary" human after have been some kind of attraction. This is a movie that after more than 50 years still has great power. And I think it will remain. Just the fact that "Sunset Blvd." really includes Paramount Pictures, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim makes it so real and in the same time beyond reality. And who produced this picture? Paramount Pictures! Is it an impossible thing to happen today? When Norma and Joe watches a movie you can see what it is: Queen Kelly - one of the last silent movies, directed by von Stroheim and casted by Gloria Swanson ...

Billy Wilder shows that the end isn't the only important thing in a movie. It is most of all the way to the end. "Sunset Blvd." is like a journey, and there is not only the characters in 'Sunset Blvd.' who has a development - it is most of all also a development for us, the audience, if we understand it. And I think we should.

Rating: 10 of 10.
A very brave look at Hollywood when Hollywood was bullied by an absurd censorship.
Usually, Cinema is considered as the most delicate form of art because it has the biggest potential to become 'dated' one day. Once a movie thought as 'mind-blowing' can easily become a 'turkey' a decade later.

This is not the case here. Sunset Boulevard still remains as one of the most eerie film in the cinema history and still a realistic depiction because of its reflection of Hollywood. It can give you the idea of the dream land's transformation into a nightmare.

The film is about a troubled script writer 'Joe Gillis and a forgotten silent film star Norma Desmond's weird relationship and the madness that surrounds them and the people around them. Don't wanna give much of the plot, on account the fact that it is a pure gem that should be invented without knowing nothing. But I can talk about the cinematic aspects of this movie.

This movie has some very eerie moments because of using a great cinematography. The moments of burying the dead monkey and watching the old film of Norma Desmond are exquisitely presented. The movie has some one of the most innovative scripts of cinema and that is certainly justified by the unforgetable and memorable lines captured from the film. The directing is top-notch but who are we kidding it is Billy 'the great' Wilder. The end of the movie is one of the most chilling part of the movie and it can truly give you some nightmares about insanity. The narration of the movie by the head character was probably done by this movie at the first place and this influenced so many movies afterwards.

One of the reasons that this movie is still not dated is because of its courage. The Hayes code was at its peak at the beginning of fifties which manipulates the producers to limit their bad thoughts on one subject, especially on Hollywood. The movie got 11 oscar nomination but only got 3 of them. Apparently, the reason was its harsh criticism on Hollywood.

There are some arguements about Sunset Boulevard's genre. It is considered as the greatest film-noir of all time. I don't think it is a film-noir at all. For some aspects, the movie has some noirish elements such as the black and white German-expressionist cinematography and an 'on the edge of insanity', femme-fatale but these two are not enough to make a film-noir. I think this is a psyhcological drama with some horror(the end is horrifying for me) and with some very very dark comedy.

Overall, This is truly a classic and one of the best movies of cinema history that will never lose its effects on cinema. Heavily influences American Beauty and Mulholland Drive, also making those movies a must see. 10/10
Says Holden: "I sure drove into an interesting driveway..."
WILLIAM HOLDEN really hits his stride in the role of Joe Gillis, the down-on-his-heels writer who just happens to be drowning in debt before he comes upon a secluded and decaying mansion that is about to change his life. Wilder's script gives him plenty of opportunity to shine. His typically witty quip to servant Erich Von Stroheim is: "I sure drove into an interesting driveway" (after realizing Swanson intends to hold a funeral for her pet monkey). It's the kind of remark that stays with you through the entire story.

Holden inhabits the role so perfectly that we can be thankful Montgomery Clift turned down the role at the last moment. And the screenplay by Billy Wilder provides plenty of other cynical and observant wise cracks that give his character of Joe Gillis such depth, conviction and truth.

And, of course, GLORIA SWANSON, as Norma Desmond, in what has to be regarded as her film swansong (she did very little thereafter), is every inch the faded silent screen star who lives inside her rich imagination, inflating her ego with self-important phrases like: "It's the pictures that got small." With her cat-like eyes and claw-like hand gestures, she gets every nuance out of a role that is theatrical and larger than life, right up to the fantastic ending. One can almost sense why Andrew Lloyd Webber would fashion this into a terrific Broadway musical.

Her meeting with Cecil B. DeMille on the set of a Paramount costume epic is priceless for the way it is written and played. When, at the conclusion of the film, she says: "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille", it's a truly poignant moment.

All of the supporting players are excellent, including NANCY OLSON, as the writer girlfriend that Holden shields from the truth until that final scene where he invites her to come over to the Sunset Blvd. mansion and exposes the sordid truth of his relationship with Swanson.

As the man servant who is Swanson's loyal protector and was once Swanson's first husband and director of her early films, ERICH VON STROHEIM easily matches Holden and Swanson with a fine characterization of the patiently devoted butler.

Swanson plays the demented star like a more glamorous version of Miss Havisham in GREAT EXPECTATIONS, the woman who lived among the cobwebs because of a bitter disappointment when a lover jilted her on her wedding day. And like Miss Havisham, she refuses to deal with the reality of her situation when the going gets rough--as it does when it turns out nobody wants her at the studios any more, they were only interested in her antique auto.

Some old time Hollywoodians get some cameos (Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner) which give the film added interest and even Hedda Hopper is on the scene as a brusque Hollywood reporter. All of the technical details are perfect. Franz Waxman's score has a Salome-like flavor, especially toward the end when Swanson is in the full throes of her delusions.

Expertly photographed, written, directed and acted, this is a film that has to be watched closely to fully appreciate every detail. With its superior script, it mixes film noir, black comedy and dark melodrama with a nice blend of shadowy noir B&W photography, that has that Paramount sheen. A viewer is immediately drawn into the story which gets off to a brilliant start with Holden's brittle narration, the kind that strips all the phoniness away from any Hollywood pretension of glamor.

Summing up: Highly recommended for mature adults. Holden's corpse floating face downward, eyes open in the water of the lighted swimming pool, is the stylish stuff that film noir addicts dream of.

And Swanson's brief moment mimicking Charlie Chaplin is priceless.

Trivia note: Holden's performance is right on target--the perfect degree of cynicism, disdain and self-loathing. He should have won an Oscar here.
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
Billy Wilder and Charles Bracket got the definite ghost story about Hollywood broken dreams. There's something vicious about the place and, on the other hand, this movie means the end of an era: Hollywood up to 1950. That year means, in my opinion, the last curtain for the so-called dream factory. And in that dream Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis become crazy. She becomes a fiend and he a pimp. The horror is that after 1950 Hollywood would never be the same and we can say that it's the end of the modern era and the beginning of postmodernism -what with the idiocy of the 50's era-? ABEL POSADAS
"Mr. Wilder, I'm ready for my close-up"
Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were about the best writing team in Hollywood for more than three decades. "Sunset Boulevard" shows the men at the pinnacle of their profession. Billy Wilder directed the film with his usual panache at this nostalgic look at a Hollywood that had faded almost a quarter of a century before. If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.

With the advent of the "talkies" a lot of film stars of the silent era lost their privileged positions as the most admired people in movies. When the new generation appeared in the scene, they were more accessible to the fans that flocked to see the new technique in the movies that came out. One of those movies stars, Norma Desmond, lives in the past as she never adapted to the new reality, which is evident in the way she stays out of the scene dwelling in her antiquated castle on Sunset Boulevard.

Enter Joe Gillis, the man who never made it into the industry. As a writer, all his screen plays were rejected by the studio machinery because they were not what the heads of the production departments wanted to produce, or just were plain, not interested. Joe Gillis comes into the Desmond mansion by accident and it's an accident he encounters on his way out of it! Tbe egotistical Norma Desmond lives in the her palatial home with Max Von Mayerberg, the loyal servant, who was himself, somebody in the silent era. Norma falls for the young Gillis in ways she never expected, but as a desperate woman she wants to possess what she can't otherwise buy, even a man going through financial bad times the way Joe Gillis is.

Billy Wilder got magnificent performances out of the three principals. William Holden had one of the best opportunities of his film career with Joe Gillis, a character he wasn't even scheduled to play, but which Montgomery Cliff handed to him in a silver platter when he refused to appear in the picture! Gloria Swanson, having experienced that old Hollywood, was a natural choice to play Norma, which was perhaps, the crowning role in her distinguished career. Erich Von Stroheim, the great director, himself, is absolutely wonderful as Von Mayerling.

We see some of the silent era stars such as Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anne C. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, as well as Cecil B. DeMille, the director of Hollywood epics par excellence.

The great musical score of Franz Waxman enhances the film. John Seitz black and white photography brings us back to that time. Ultimately, it's the genius of Billy Wilder that keeps things in balance showing a man who understood movies as perhaps the only one that could have directed the classic "Sunset Boulevard".
"I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille"
Rumor has it that Gloria Swanson was absolutely devastated that she didn't win the Oscar for Sunset Boulevard. 1950 was an unusually tough year for competitors, with the statuette eventually going to Judy Holiday for Born Yesterday.

Admittedly, Gloria is fantastic in this film - she's able to send up herself, while also scandalizing the business she was product of - but the acting chops must really go to William Holden, who provides the willful self-loathing thread that ties much of this noirish and twisted tale together.

Director by Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard represents classic movie making at its peak. Set in Los Angeles, it's a dark, twisted, cynical tale of love, deceit, and opportunism. The film is all about Hollywood behind the scenes and how screenwriters, directors, and actors will sell themselves out for fame and fortune at a moments notice.

Spiritual and emotional emptiness, and the price of fame, greed, narcissism, and ambition is at the heart of this devilishly stylistic film, with the somber mood beginning almost immediately when a dead man is found floating facedown in a swimming pool.

The man is hack screenwriter Joe Gillis (a very sexy William Holden). All we know is that Joe was at the run-down mansion of deluded former silent-film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Through Joe's voice over narrative it soon becomes clear that he was somehow involved with the wealthy Norma.

Down on his luck, three months behind on his rent, and with his car about to be repossessed, Joe accidentally stumbles upon Norma's faded mansion while trying to escape the police. Norma initially mistakes Joe for a coffin-maker for her deceased pet monkey, but once she figures out that he's a screenwriter, she gets him to read one of the scripts she's been working on.

Norma is an insane and faded silent-film star, who is hoping against hope to make a comeback. She's bitterly resentful of the price the "talkies" have taken on her career, so now she soaks in her own misguided and imagined greatness, in profile with the flickering projector lighting her outline in the dark.

Joe is initially hesitant to help the glamorous woman, and then asks $500 a week for his writing services. But slowly we come to realize the contract is actually the other way around. In preparing for her return comeback, Norma quickly turns Joe into a pawn - or more to the point, a slave.

Joe becomes a virtual prisoner in her rundown mansion; the moment he leaves, she slits her wrists, forcing him to come back. With minimal resistance, Joe allows himself to settle into the life of a kept man, as Norma desperately showers him with gifts and fine clothing. The house butler, Max von Meyerling (Erich von Stroheim), grimly looks on, tending to Norma's demanding whims and tolerating Joe's disruptive presence.

Joe wobbles back and forth between heedless acceptance of his strange companionship with Norma and his half-hearted pursuit of a career. He sneaks away to collaborate on a project with Betty (Nancy Olson), a Paramount script reader who is engaged to Joe's best friend. Betty is gradually falling in love with Joe, but when Norma finds out, that he's been sneaking out to meet wit her, all hell breaks loose.

The self-loathing motif is rampant throughout Sunset Boulevard. Max completely does away with his self-respect, Joe hates himself for his unwillingness to commit to a career or love, and seems to sell himself out for money and clothes almost immediately, and Betty despises herself for falling in love with Joe while she's engaged to another.

Norma, despite her haughtiness, is the most blatant case of self-disgust. When she isn't raving about her greatness, she comes across as a frightened and tortured soul – a sad and lonely woman, who is not only remarkably self-delusional, but is also trying to grasp one last chance at happiness. She thinks so little of her current 50-year-old self that she no longer acknowledges the present.

Sunset Boulevard is a must see movie for cinema buffs. There are lots of treasures to be had here, including Nancy Olson's strangely under appreciated performance as Betty, whose misguided love for Joe spirals the film to its grisly conclusion. There's also the hilarious appearance of a skinny and madly grinning Jack Webb as a happy-go-lucky assistant director, and viewers will get a kick out of the excessive exuberance that Norma displays when she towels down a hunky and hairy-chested Joe at poolside.

The funniest scene in the movie is when Norma rolls on top of Joe while he is reclining on a couch, and then does an imitation of Charlie Chaplin in order to cheer him up; the scene is an uproarious mixture of the sad, the funny, and the pathetic.

Billy Wilder's accomplished direction is full of wide shots that capture the depressing set and brave close-ups of our anti-heroes. But in the end, Sunset Boulevard stands out, as one of the finest examples of the frenzied circus of obsession, fixation, and greed that is oftentimes symbolizes Hollywood. Mike Leonard September 05.
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
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