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A classic worth multiple viewings

  • Apr 17, 2011
Sunset Boulevard is set in Hollywood during the 50s. Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a screenwriter, not one that is very well known, and is loaded with debts. He plans to return to his hometown and get away from his life, but while driving one day he meets up with people he did not want to see. Joe tries to escape and gets a flat tire, then parking in a seemingly empty garage. Little did he know that it belonged to the once acclaimed actress of silent films, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Norma's career has basically been finished, and she lives alone in her mansion with only her butler, Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim) to keep her company. But once she meets up with Joe, and finds out that he is a screenwriter, she gets an idea. Norma asks Joe to read the screenplay she has been writing, and then to edit it. Since Joe is out of money and luck, he takes the offer and lives with her, but this turns out to be a not so good decision.

Wow, what an unbelievable film! Being such a big fan of movies, I am quite ashamed and embarrassed to say that I had not seen this film until now. Sunset Boulevard is fairly predictable, but it is made in such a way that it works today just as it did many years ago in 1950. The two main characters, Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis, are about as unforgettable as a character can be. As frightening as Norma Desmond was, I honestly cannot imagine what people were thinking when this came out. I mean, seriously? If "The Blob" was considered a horror film in 1958, then this must have been quite the ride for an audience of that time.

I often hear people say that Christopher Nolan's consistency as a director is equaled by none. And a name usually follows like Martin Scorsese, or Steven Spielberg. Even though that is an obviously ridiculous statement, any one who says it is no doubt not familiar with the works of Billy Wilder, or Fritz Lang for that matter. But that is another topic and another discussion. Billy Wilder is really a name people do not mention enough when talking about the best directors of all time. He truly had that vision of how to actually make a brilliant film. I know it is hard to compare older directors to newer ones, but Billy Wilder deserves to be on any best director list. His writing and direction are so perfect here, it really makes me mad to know that he did not win best director back when this came out. I was clearly not born in 1950, but if I had of been it would be a frustrating year between me and my relationship with The Academy.

The cast is absolutely incredible. Gloria Swanson takes the lead playing the crazy Norma Desmond, and how did she not win best actress? Another thing that I cannot understand. If I am even somewhat frightened by her portrayal of the character, after over 60 years, you know that it is excellent acting. She is scary, and all around amazing in playing such a disturbed character, because of her lack of fame. William Holden is not an actor that I know a whole lot about, but everytime I watch him in a film I really like his performance. Sunset Boulevard was no exception. This is actually most likely my favorite of his performances, though he was brilliant in Network. And the supporting actors were great as well. Erich von Stroheim was fantastic as the butler, and Nancy Olson was also very good. All around the acting was very good.

Overall, Sunset Boulevard is a film that will always be loved by me. It is brilliant in its approach to the real world of Hollywood. Billy Wilder has constructed an unforgettable film here, with both his writing and direction, backed up by great performances. Sunset Boulevard is the true definiton of a film masterpiece, that should be seen by any movie lover.



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April 18, 2011
Been a while since I have seen this
April 17, 2011
Fabulous review! I especially liked your commentary about the best directors! Thank you for sharing this in our Movie Hype community...featured!
More Sunset Boulevard (movie) reviews
review by . June 12, 2010
Bilyl Wilder's brilliant vision of Hollywood's dark side......
Billy Wilder was a genius when it came to creating a story, he never leaves a stone unturned or a single character with out his or her own voice. Wilder   for years has been giving  moviegoers and film lovers  movies that not only live up to  there status but also there name, he has created some of the most memorable characters  such as Sgt. Sefton(Stalag 17), Norma Desmond(Sunset Boulevard), C.C "Bud" Baxter(The Apartment) and many more. Wilder was not just …
Quick Tip by . August 23, 2010
Oh, this is one of my top 20 all time favorite movies!!! William Holden, Gloria Swanson are superb actors as well as writer/director/actor Erich Von Stroheim. I have a personal connection to this movie in that Holden's character dies on my birthday December 21st!!! It is a great dramatic piece that shows the trials and tribulations of how some of Hollywood's great silent screen stars were unsuccessful at transitioning to "talkies."
review by . January 22, 2007
"I AM big! It's the PICTURES that got small!"    So we have one of the best, most remembered lines from Billy Wilder's best film, the other well known line being "Alright, Mr de Mile. I'm ready for my closeup!"    I saw this film for the first time yesterday. It was everything I'd hoped for and then some. Though it was made in 1950 it, like all classics, most notably Wilder's "Some Like it Hot", still resonates today.    The plot to this …
review by . December 29, 2005
There were a few things which drew me to "Sunset Blvd.". For one thing, it's one of David Lynch's favorite films, and he is my favorite director. Second, it has a five-star rating on Amazon. Not even "Casablanca" has a five-star rating! And thirdly, it sounded like an interesting film.    "Sunset Blvd." forever shattered the general public's idea of what the movie business was really like. William Holden is great as Joe Gillis, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who's in debt and …
review by . May 08, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
SUNSET BOULEVARD is Billy Wilder at his scintillating-best. Gloria Swanson turns in the performance of her career as Norma Desmond, the faded silent movie star looking to make her comeback, and William Holden is the jaded Joe Gillis, the desperate writer who gets drawn into Desmond's own singular world.    The movie works on so many levels: black comedy, romance, melodrama. It is the ultimate Hollywood expose and no wonder it caused such a furore when it was originally released …
review by . July 15, 2003
Boldly, director Wilder begins this film with a shot of a man floating in a swimming pool. Who is he? What's his story? We learn from a voiceover that the dead man is Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) who provides the voiceover and eventually explains what happened. The focus of this film is on Joe's relationship with Norma Desmond, long ago one of Hollywood's greatest stars. (Comparable with Gloria Swanson, for example.) Billy Wilder suggests that she (played by Swanson) is concluding a personal …
review by . April 09, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Now this is acting, old but acting     Cons: none     The Bottom Line: A real look at how 'old' Hollywood worked.        I have a wonderful CD by Streisand, Back to Broadway, that contains several songs from the play Sunset Boulevard. I have always been so enchanted by these songs that I swore one day I would see the movie, not realizing it in no way reflected the same as the play. But I did, and here it is, Sunset Boulevard   …
About the reviewer
Matt Stewart ()
Ranked #223
Basically all anyone would need to know about me is I love movies. I watch movies, review them, and I can always enjoy a good, long talk about the art of film making.
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Billy Wilder's noir-comic classic about death and decay in Hollywood remains as pungent as ever in its power to provoke shock, laughter, and gasps of astonishment. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a broke and cynical young screenwriter, is attempting to ditch a pair of repo men late one afternoon when he pulls off L.A.'s storied Sunset Boulevard and into the driveway of a seedy mansion belonging to Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a forgotten silent movie luminary whose brilliant acting career withered with the coming of talkies.

The demented old movie queen lives in the past, assisted by her devoted (but intimidating) butler, Max (played by Erich von Stroheim, the legendary director ofGreedand Swanson's own lost epic,Queen Kelly). Norma dreams of making a comeback in a remake of Salome to be directed by her old colleague Cecil B. DeMille (as himself), and Joe becomes her literary and romantic gigolo.Sunset Blvd.

This is one of those great movies that has become a part of popular culture (the line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," has entered the language)--but it's no relic. Wow, does it ever hold up.--Jim Emerson
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Director: Billy Wilder
Genre: Classics
Release Date: 1950
DVD Release Date: November 26, 2002
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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