Sunday Matinee: Sunset Boulevard

Sunset BoulevardBilly Wilder’s black comedy/film noir/drama Sunset Boulevard turned 65 this week.

This is a brilliant film that looks at the darker side of Hollywood and fame. The movie opens with William Holden floating in a swimming pool. Holden then narrates the events leading up to his death.

Holden is a down on his luck screenwriter who is trying to sell a script to Paramount Studios. It’s turned down and while Holden is fleeing some people who want to repossess his car, he ends up at the mansion of former silent screen star Norma Desmond (brilliantly portrayed by Gloria Swanson).

Desmond is planning a career comeback and has written her own screenplay, Salome. Holden agrees to help her with the script and moves into her mansion where she continues to believe that she’s still a famous actress with thousands of adoring fans, a delusion that is created by her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim).

Meanwhile Holden has fallen in love with Nancy Olson, a script reader at Paramount, and they begin collaborating on screenplay together. When Norma finds out things get worse for everybody.

This is a brilliant movie and it really shines a black spotlight on Hollywood and the fame that goes with it. When the movie was released director Billy Wilder was insulted by MGM head Louis B. Mayer who felt that Wilder disgraced the industry that gave him his career. Still the film was a hit and garnered several award nominations and is still considered a classic masterpiece today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3P0Zpe-2og

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.