An all-time film classic from 1950, Billy Wilder's very dark comedy SUNSET BOULEVARD still delivers a punch.
Real life silent film star Gloria Swanson stars as former silent film legend Norma Desmond. Living in a decrepit old Hollywood mansion that's bordering on "Grey Gardens" status, Norma lives in the past, seems unaware of her crumbling surroundings and relies on her butler Max (Erich Von Stroheim) for everything.
When broke screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden-excellent) stumbles onto her property trying to avoid the guys chasing him to repossess his car, Joe enters another world.
Norma is working on a new screenplay about the life of 18 year old Salome, who she plans on playing. Joe agrees to work on the screenplay for her, leaving behind all his Hollywood friends thanks to Norma's generous pay.
As Norma begins to see Joe in a very different light, complications abound.
There are genuine laughs here, along with real tragedy.
Swanson is excellent as Norma. Her portrayal's been satirized over the years, but she's terrific. Holden matches her as Joe and Nancy Olson is good as Betty Schaeffer, a fellow screenwriter.
Cecil B. DeMille appears as himself on set when Norma returns to the Paramount lot seeking glory in one of the film's most interesting moments.
Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, Sabrina) knocks it out of the park with one of his best films.
My bride and I had the good fortune of seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of the film a couple decades ago, on Betty Buckley's opening night on Broadway. It's still one of our favorites (of course we were falling in love at the time too, so there you go!) and its amazing how much of Wilder's Oscar winning dialogue found its way into the songs.
This is a classic story, perfectly executed by some of Hollywood's all time legends. SUNSET BOULEVARD is still ready for its closeup and gets an A.
(Watch for Dragnet's Joe Friday, Jack Webb as Holden's best friend. You've never seen him in this kind of role!)