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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
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…
I've seen this film over and over on tv and video. Last week I got to see it on the big screen. WOW! GO, Drive miles and miles, walk if necessary, steal a car, whatever - any chance you have to see this film as intended TAKE IT! I've always loved this film and thought it was brilliant - NOW I know it's truly a masterpiece! Gloria Swanson's performance is unbelievable - just how DID Judy Holiday win that oscar?!?!?

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.
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!)
Another Billy Wilder masterpiece
I have yet to see a Billy Wilder film that I haven't loved, and Sunset Boulevard is definitely one of those films. It's interesting to watch the film during different times in one's life – when I was a child watching this film, I thought the story was good and that Norma Desmond (Swanson) was a pretty scary lady. In my teens/college years, I appreciated it as a certified classic and for its commentary on Hollywood. Now, in my late 20's and early 30's I found it to have a different impact on me – I was saddened by Desmond's mental illness, and when she makes her final descent down her staircase and utters her famous line as the camera pans the faces of the people around her, so full of pity, and the care her butler/ex-husband takes to make sure she's happy for maybe the last time in her life made more of an impact on me than any other time in the 20-odd times I've seen this film. There are only a small handful of central characters in Sunset Boulevard and they are so richly written that this film will remain timeless. There are not a lot of `dated' themes in this film – the circle of life that is Hollywood isn't going to be much more evolved in 2050 than it was in 1950. If you haven't seen this film, watch it because there is something for just about anyone in this film.

Wonderful performances and edge of your seat story-telling...
1st watched 1/4/2003 - 8 out of 10(Dir-Billy Wilder): Wonderful performances and edge of your seat story-telling in this classic Billy Wilder film. What I think really holds this picture together is the well-down over-the-top portrayal of silent film star Norma Desmond by Gloria Swanson. William Holden also does a good job of standing his own as well in a quiet but effective performance. Basically, this is a story about a failing screenwriter's accidental encounter with Norma Desmond who still lives in the past with the household staff playing along at every beat. He then becomes entangled in her web and has to fight himself out of her grip, but struggles with this because he is being taken care of financially and socially. But once Norma gets jealous of Holden's encounter with another woman the inevitable happens(which I will not give away). Overall, this was daring filmmaking for it's time with only some minor annoyances but otherwise splashingly good.
All right, Mr. DeMille
Gloria Swanson must be commended for her bravery in taking a part which may or may not have echoed her own Hollywood career. William Holden took a role which required him to be a kept boy; and he's not the nicest guy in the world either. If this had been made with Mae West and Montgomery Clift, I would probably not be writing this and no one else would give a damn about this movie either.

Both of them got Oscar nominations and I am sorry both lost. I am also sorry that "All About Eve" won Best Picture that year. Of course "Eve" is a great movie, but its not this.

This movie is part of our collective memory and most of the dialogue continues to be quoted even today. Thank God for whatever it was that brought Billy Wilder to Hollywood. I can't think of anyone who did such a wide variety of movies so well.

And please, no remakes.
"...we didnd't need to talk, we had faces!"
Gloria Swanson was the definitive choice for the role of Nora Desmond in this classic story of an excentric aging silent screen star determined to make a come back. William Holden plays the out-of-luck young writer who sees the filthy rich Swanson as his meal ticket. Under the pretence of writing Swanson's come back script, Holden becomes the pretty boy giggolo to the psychotic older lady.

Billy Wilder pulled out all of his tricks for this eye-candy of a movie. Re-makes don't come close to this original gem, and for God's sake stay away from the awful Andrew Lloyd Webber play! There is no substitute for the real McCoy; this original movie is the winner hands down!*****
Absolute Perfection
Sunset Blvd. is a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of a washed up movie silent screen star and her quest to rekindle her popularity... and a poor writer on the run from the police who gets involved with her. The story starts backwards: you see a man floating face down in the water, and so the story begins... how it all started.

Norma Desmond is a character that you hate, love and feel sorry for all at the same time... she is very selfish, self absorbed and needy. But I felt a strong pang of sympathy when Norma talks about her script for Salome... how she has such high hopes about her comeback. She just wants to be loved again. I could not imagine anyone else playing Norma Desmond.. Gloria Swanson plays it to perfection. William Holden is great also - and I didn't realize this until someone mentioned it to me, but playing such a casual, nonchalant character such as he did against such a strong character of Norma is quite challenging. He did it wonderfully and delivered the lines with ease.

After watching it the first time, I watched the bits I wasn't sure of - I was sure if I liked the lines the way they were delivered - and it grew on me. For example, I always imagined the magnificent last line delivered more slowly than Swanson did it... but as I watched it again, I began to like it more and more. Now that I have watched it twice, I cannot really find anything wrong with this movie. It has it all: drama, romance, two fantastic actors, comedy, emotions of sympathy, hate, greed, lust... I would say this one of the top 5 movies of all time, if not the top.

After I saw this for the first time, there was a wonderful feeling as if I had just seen a special bit of movie history... and I was a part of that history. I don't know how to explain it, but it was a great feeling that cannot be described. This can appeal to all ages, from 12 and upward's I'd say! A true Hollywood masterpiece - they don't make 'em like this anymore.
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