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Sunset Boulevard Explained

Sunset Boulevard Explained

Considered by many, including myself, to be the greatest noir film of all time, certainly the greatest noir ever centered around Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard is a corker from start to finish. The plot, from IMDB: A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

As this mini-doc illustrates, the film tackles a number of themes that might fly under the radar for many viewers. The star system and how it fails actors, the ageism prevalent in the industry and society as a whole, the movie making process, are all under the microscope.

Released in 1950, Sunset Boulevard revived Gloria Swanson's career, considered to be over by the 1940s. It debuted the same year as another behind-the-scenes show business classic, All About Eve.

Silent filmmaker Erich von Stroheim plays Norma’s devoted manservant Max but he was no fan, calling it, "that goddamned butler role." Footage of Norma Desmond’s silent films used in the movie came from Queen Kelly (1929), directed by von Stroheim. Queen Kelly was never shown in the U.S. and basically torpedoed both von Stroheim and Swanson’s careers.

The role of Norma Desmond was originally conceived for Mae West when the film was intended to be a straight-up comedy. West turned the project down because she would not be allowed to rewrite her dialogue. Too bad both films couldn’t have been made, the Mae West version would likely have been hilarious.

Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Academy Awards (including nominations in all four acting categories) and won three: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White); and Best Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture).

Variety wrote that, while Sunset Boulevard was, "Breaking records in major cities, it is doing below average in... the sticks."

 

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Sunset Boulevard
Directed by
Billy Wilder
Produced by
Charles Brackett
Written by
Charles Brackett
Billy Wilder
D. M. Marshman Jr.
Starring
William Holden
Gloria Swanson
Erich von Stroheim
Nancy Olson
Fred Clark
Lloyd Gough
Music by
Franz Waxman
Cinematography
John F. Seitz
Edited by
Doane Harrison
Arthur Schmidt
Production
company
Paramount Pictures

 

 

 


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