Sunday, June 2, 2013
"Sunset Boulevard" (1950) is a classic film noir drama starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim.
Joe Gillis (Holden) is a struggling screenwriter that can't seem to write anything that the studios want to buy. He can't afford his rent and he's behind on his car payments and men have arrived to repossess his car. While trying to get away from the repo-men, he hides his car in the driveway of a rundown Sunset Boulevard Hollywood mansion. As he gets out to survey the house and estate, he is called inside by the butler Max, who says they have been expecting him!
Joe is sent upstairs to meet Norma Desmond (Swanson) who thinks he is the undertaker there to bring the coffin for her dead chimpanzee. We soon discover that Norma is a washed up movie star from the silent film days. She excelled in the silent pictures and worked with directors such as Cecil B. DeMille. Norma had a hard time making the adjustment to the films with sound and dialog and shortly thereafter faded into obscurity and became a recluse in her mansion with only her butler to keep her company. Speaking to Norma though, Joe discovers that she doesn't think of herself as washed up, she actually believes she just needs to make a return to the screen that everyone has been waiting for.
Long story short, Joe comes to live with Norma and helps her edit the script she wrote for her comeback movie. Norma showers him with fancy clothes and attention - much to his dismay. She also readies herself for her return to film.
Gloria Swanson is masterful as the wonderfully over the top Norma Desmond. Her facial expressions are grand and exaggerated, honed from years of having only her face and body to express her emotions on the silent screen. She still has a grand sense of style and keeps the inside of her mansion extravagant as opposed to the decrepitude on the outside. But Norma has a rather obsessive personality and how does that go over with the very independently minded Joe? Plus add into the mix some jealousy when Joe tries to strike out on his own and you'll see the result in this masterpiece of the film noir genre.