Sunset Boulevard (1950) Gloria Swanson & 10 Awesome Things I Loved!

Sunset Boulevard (1950) movie poster billy wilder drama film noir

Well I got there in the end, the mighty Sunset Boulevard from director Billy Wilder is now in the bag. I sure was late to the party but wasn’t it just worth the wait. Gloria Swanson smashed it right out into the stratosphere.  No point doing a rough plot rundown on this one so here’s 10 Awesome Things I Loved!

  • Norma Desmond and those eyes! Gloria Swanson’s Norma is magnificently flamboyant and freaky at times, hilarious at others and just perfect throughout. The tantrums, the mood swings, those moments of nostalgic grandeur and those glimmers of fear, all add to the emotions displayed upon her face. With all those expressions the main focus was always those eyes, staring wide eyes burning right through you.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) Norma Desmond All right Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

  • Writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) quick wit and knowledge of his place in the business and out running the repo men was fun. Narrating his thoughts and speaking it as it is. His run ins with the butler were just sublime. And all the interactions with Norma are just priceless and how he struggled with dealing with the relationship, no matter how doomed they would become.

Joe Gillis – on reading Norma’s script “Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad – bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.”

  • The Butler Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim) had a wonderfully eerie nature to him, like he’s stumbled in lost from the set of an old horror movie. I took delight in every scene he was in, whether he was watching attentively from the sidelines or suddenly appearing, having already organised something ahead of time. Loved him driving the old vintage car too.

Joe Gillis –  “I pegged him as slightly cuckoo, too. A stroke maybe?”

Sunset Boulevard (1950) Erich von Stroheim butler writer William Holden

  • That opening swimming pool shot surrounded by cops with flashing camera bulbs. To get such a camera shot without getting the camera wet, I read a mirror was placed on the bottom of the pool and they filmed the reflection from above.
  • The magnificent run down house and that spectacular cluttered living room with all her price photos and knick-knacks. Not only that, it had it’s very own cinema projector. What a perfect meta place that would of been to watch Sunset Boulevard as Norma does the commentary and Max brings you champagne and caviar?

Sunset Boulevard (1950) Joe Gillis (William Holden) Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson cinema room

  • The film noir cinema experience wouldn’t of been so amazing if it wasn’t for the excellence of director Billy Wilder and his cinematographer, the director of photography John F Seitz. The set pieces and the beautiful use of dark, shadows and light making those gorgeous images, especially so inside the old house, just divine.
  • Norma’s strange cigarette holder!

Joe Gillis – “I felt caught like the cigarette in that contraption on her finger.”

Sunset Boulevard (1950) Joe Gillis (William Holden) Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson

  • The card playing trio of guests, the Waxworks. Three real life big stars from the silent era. I admit to only knowing Buster Keaton but there is Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner.
  • The behind the scenes nods, digs and titbits of inside the movie industry that are dotted throughout the picture are truly delightful. I caught a fair few but I’m sure there were many move. From the real life actors like the above waxworks to the real Cecil B DeMille actually directing his movie Samson and Delilah. These a Charlie Chaplin impression, a reference to Alan LaddGreta Garbo and the novel “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer. Sure there were tons more. Let me know if you wish.
  • The dialogue was always popping and buzzing. Whether it was Norma and her ego or Joe with his sarcastic tone and dry humour. Here’s a few choice lines to see us out with the classic last line left, well for last.

Joe – “You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”
Norma – “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
Joe – “I knew there was something wrong with them.”

Norma – “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

Norma – “The stars are ageless, aren’t they?”

Joe – “How could she breathe in that house full of Norma Desmonds? Around every corner, Norma Desmonds… more Norma Desmonds… and still more Norma Desmonds.”

Norma – “You heard him. I’m a star.”
Joe – “Norma, you’re a woman of 50, now grow up. There’s nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25.”
Norma – “The greatest star of them all.”

Norma – “All right Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”

Sunset Boulevard (1950) bulwar zachodzacego słońca wonderful expressive Polish Poster

A wonderful expressive Polish film poster

PS Actually what am I saying!!! There is another!

  • MONKEY BURIAL!

13 thoughts on “Sunset Boulevard (1950) Gloria Swanson & 10 Awesome Things I Loved!

  1. This is one of my all time favorite movies. I have seen it many times and it never gets old to me. Swanson is terrific. She is basically playing herself–what a brave performance. Holden is suave, handsome and thoroughly compromised. He’s selling himself out for some nice clothes and pocket money. His mostly forlorn face shows it. And Max…What a sad, noble enabler. Glad you loved it Mikey.

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  2. So glad to hear how much you enjoyed this one Mikey. It’s a brilliant film, and one that remains powerful and relevant today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post 🙂 What else can be said of Sunset Boulevard that has already been said. Ever since it’s original theatrical release in 1950, Sunset Boulevard has been hailed as an all-around classic. I totally agree with that even though it is not my number one favorite Billy Wilder film. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

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  4. What I find extraordinary is that the butler should have once been married to her! What a perfect example of castration-cum-sado-masochism. The organ, I think, is a reference to: ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’. As a lover of classic cars, I think the Isotta-Fraschini grand – but how vulgar the leopard seat-cover! What irony then that, sitting on the leopard-covered seat, Norma should ask Gillis not to chew gum.

    Have you noticed how mature Bill Holden was at thirty-two? Compare him against to-day’s thirty-two-year-old infants. He was also in another film that year, the overrated: ‘Born Yesterday’. It is indeed a pity that the Oscar should have gone to its repellent star, Judy Holliday, rather than to Miss Swanson. Even Bette Davis’s performance in: ‘All About Eve’ could not compare.

    ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is – amongst other things – a consummate portrait of a delusional has-been.

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    • “castration-cum-sado-masochism” LOL haha yes so true. Wasn’t he like her first husband and couldn’t bear being without her so he groveled as her butler to be near her. So very sad! I wonder if the car came with the leopard covered seats or they put them in for the film? They are so very grandiose.
      I always notice how much older actors look in films of yesterday. It’s surprises me every time to learn their young ages. I haven’t seen Born Yesterday and I don’t know really know Judy Holliday. I’m yet to see All About Eve also. Reckon I will enjoy that one a lot.
      Always enjoy your big knowledge Carl. Thank you

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  5. How did I miss this write up? One of my all time faves. I joke that my top ten movies consists of 100 picks but this one probably make it. I still quote this film when given the chance. Just when you think you’ve seen Wilder’s best film along comes another. An unbelievable talent. It’s a Noir, it’s creepy and it scared the heck out of me seeing it as a kid cause I didn’t know what to make of Swanson. I really need to feature this one at Mike’s Take. Just that I never know what to add to some of these all time classics. But then I see you put your own stamp on it. Well done. And I’ll second Holden’s opinion, Alan Ladd would make a great “short” stop.

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    • You’re so right, it does have a horror look to it. It’s her freaky silent movie face and the quiet butler in the shadows of the creepy house that gives that scary vibe. Yeah I’m the same on those BIG films that you know everyone has done essays and dissected the whole film. So I thought a “what I liked” post would be easier. I’m sure you can come up with some brilliant observations and MTOTM knowledge if you do get round to doing a post Mike. Hehe on the Ladd gag LOL.

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