2017 Blind Spot: Sunset Boulevard

What I knew going in: I knew of the iconic line "Alright Mr. DeVille, I'm ready for my close up" but that's it. Another I put in based on title alone.

Joe Gillis (William Holden) is a struggling screenwriter who has ran into recent money troubles as no one is taking his work. One day he gets a flat tire while driving, and parks his car in what he thinks is an abandoned garage. He ends up on the sprawling property of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) a former silent film actress who still believes she has legions of fans waiting for her glorious return. She decides to keep Joe on her property to re-write a script that she has been working on. 

This is the 3rd Billy Wilder movie I've had in my Blind Spot lists. I have yet to be disappointed. I like that he included narration. Joe being a screenwriter, it's only fair that he also tells the story of his own life as if he were writing it down. 

The acting is excellent, particularly from Swanson. Norma was so over the top and theatrical. I was completely convinced she used to be in silent films with how expressive she was. She steals the entire show, though Holden and other supporting actors Erich von Stroheim - playing Norma's Butler, Max and Nancy Olson - playing a Paramount "reader" named Betty and semi-love interest to Joe all turn in excellent work as well. I wish there had been more of Betty. I loved her from the minute she appears on screen telling her boss that the script she just read was crap.

Sunset Blvd was the perfect film to kick off my 2017 list. I hope the rest are equally as enjoyable.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A+

Memorable Quote: "Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be." - Joe Gillis (William Holden)



    You saw my unabashed love for this when I posted my 1950 Fisti Awards. UGH, so brilliant. YES, Billy Wilder is THE MAN and was one of the greatest directors of all time. Such range, and he rarely disappoints. I can't wait for you to dig in more.

    1. I loved this so much! I'll definitely purchase it if I ever run across the DVD.

  2. I love this film so much and Billy Wilder created much ire among the studio execs. A silent film screen star, Mae Murray said, "None of us floozies was ever that nuts." I love that quote. Swanson was a huge silent star back in her day and was in many Cecil B DeMille films...he really did call her little fella and she always called him MR. DeMille. Erich Von Stroheim was her director once in the film Queen Kelly which was never finished. Parts are shown in this movie. Since Wilder used so much from old Hollywood is the reason why Louis B Mayer said he should be horsewhipped.

  3. I fucking love this film. The ending is perfect. This isn't my favorite Billy Wilder film (which is The Apartment) but it is such a classic.

    1. I liked this a lot more than The Apartment but you're right. The ending is perfect.

  4. I don't think I've ever watched Sunset Blvd all the way through, though my mom has played it dozens of times. lol Glad you enjoyed the movie! Good luck with your 2017 blindspot!

  5. Such a great film but so sad and cryptic as well. Swanson, with Wilder's input, knew just how close to the line she could take Norma and retain sympathy without making her a cartoon.

    She wasn't first choice, that was Mae West who was highly insulted when offered the role, then Mary Pickford and Pola Negri both had been equally as big stars as Gloria in their day refused but it worked out for the best. Having read Gloria's fascinating autobiography "Swanson on Swanson" it was clear that she understood Norma Desmond without being anything like her. Swanson lived very much in the NOW throughout her long life.

    I have read a book which dealt with an silent screen actress who ended up very much like Norma, Mary Miles Minter, called "A Cast of Killers" which dealt with the murder of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 that destroyed both her career as well as Mabel Normand's. A fascinating read if you are so inclined.

    Back to the film. Holden is perfect, again not first choice but his masculinity works better in the role than Montgomery Clift, who accepted then withdrew, with his more introspective sensitivity would have. Holden bristles at his increasing reliance on Norma where it wouldn't have seemed so odd for the placid Monty to be drawn in so completely.

    Nancy Olsen is good as Betty and does the most she can with the role but it's the weakest of the four roles. von Stromheim on the other hand is brilliant as the cowed Max revealing layer upon layer of his damaged psyche as the film progresses. His face at the end is a study in repressed sadness and agony.

    But it's Swanson's film and though she didn't care that it led to few other film offers it's a shame that she made few movies afterwards.

    Wilder rarely disappoints though like all great directors he had his misses, Kiss Me Stupid is awful, and aside from The Apartment not sure what else you've seen but his follow up to Sunset-Ace in the Hole is another winner. Diamond hard and dark but excellent.

    It will be interesting if you do decide to include All About Eve this year where you come down on who should have won the actress Oscar since the big debate is always between Bette and Gloria as to who should have won even though Judy Holliday ultimately took the prize.

    1. That's kind of why I made All About Eve an alternate. I was curious about these two films going up against each other at the Oscars. I'd like to compare them.

  6. I'm a sucker to classic films, but your post made me want to check it. Even your favorite quote got me!


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