Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Gloria Swanson was a 50 year old washed up silent film star trying to make her comeback. She plays Norma Desmond, a 50 year old washed up silent film star trying to make her comeback. One thing Gloria has over poor Norma is that her comeback film is good. Very good, in fact.

William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a hack writer down to his last straw. While escaping the men who would reposes his car, he hides in what he believes to be an abandoned mansion on the famous boulevard. The mansion is in fact occupied by the above mentioned Prima Donna and her faithfully loopy butler.

Norma wrote an enormous and ridiculous script that would be her 'return' to cinema but it needs the touches of a hack writer to clean it up. Joe needs cash and has no appointments on his social calendar. Slowly, Joe falls under the thumb of the melodramatic Norma. Every time he attempts to assert himself, she pulls him back in.

In the final analysis, everybody is a phoney. Everybody is trying to get something from somebody else. Except the hot Nancy Olson.

Here are a couple cool things: It is reveled that butler Max Von Mayerling is really Norma Desmond's first director. He is played by real life director Enrich von Stroheim. There is a scene (which I missed most of because my library DVD was, well, from the library) where he runs the projector for a screening of an old Norma Desmond film, which is in fact Queen Kelly, an old Gloria Swanson film that was directed by Stroheim! 1950 and Hollywood had turning it's critical eye onto itself!

Also, there is a scene where Joe, Norma, and a few friends play cards, which I missed most of because ... you know. Anyhow, the other card players were washed up has-been silent film stars Buster Keaton (a favorite of mine from my youth) and Anna Q. Nilsson.

There are a lot of other things to explore with this film (like, what's Jack Webb doing in the movie, and what's up with the dead monkey?) but I'll leave them to other people. I really enjoyed the movie. AMRU 4.

"She was the greatest of them all. You wouldn't know, you're too young. In one week she received 17,000 fan letters. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. There was a maharajah who came all the way from India to beg one of her silk stockings. Later he strangled himself with it!"

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