Billy Wilder’s 1950 film noir classic, SUNSET BOULEVARD, won three Academy Awards and has inspired countless viewers to wrap their heads in leopard-print turbans while perfecting lines like, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”
Why do people still freak out over this film? Perhaps it’s William Holden’s cleft chin, or nostalgia for the Golden Age of cinema. Could be that people enjoy experiencing the worst of Hollywood made by the best of Hollywood. Or, maybe we all just like seeing Gloria Swanson, a true silent screen goddess making the mother of all comebacks in this film, do her Charlie Chaplin routine.
Here are a few things we learned while watching the film for the umpteenth time and deciding that we are firmly #TeamNorma:
When a delusional former silent film star (Norma Desmond) falls for you (Joe Gillis) – try not to end up floating in her pool, even if you do make the most handsome corpse ever. Next time you want to leave, try sneaking out the back door while she is playing bridge with Waxworks buddies like Buster Keaton. If you happen to be a former silent film star that has not had a hit in, oh….decades, it is important to pay attention to your budget.
When hiring staff, save some coin by hiring someone like Max, who can chauffeur, be a butler and play the organ. Yes, he may have once directed you and been your husband, but—bygones!
Don’t mix work and, um, pleasure. If you accept the role of Norma Desmond’s male “companion”– be that and only that. If she wants you to work on her comeback screenplay where she will play a teenager, tell her to to hire a ghostwriter. And if you want to hone your writing skills, start a blog.
While living with a former silent film star, don’t fall in love with any sweet ingénues like Betty Schaefer. True love does not exist in film noir, and you don’t have time for it anyway because you are busy attending funerals for monkeys and driving through the hills with Norma and Max.
If YOU are the former silent film star and are losing your grip on reality, one must always remember their adoring public and make an entrance like the queen of the screen you once were. Assemble the police and the press, and descend the stairs of your mansion to deliver one of the most famous lines in film history: “All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.”
And by the way…don’t bother looking for Norma’s house on Sunset Boulevard; it was actually on WILSHIRE Boulevard, and has since been torn down.
Hear our Classic Movie Recall review of SUNSET BOULEVARD here.
This blog was co-written with Tracey LaMonica.