Ready for Close-Up – Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Absolutely brilliant.  This is about a hack screenwriter who is all out of money (William Holden).  When trying to duck some collection agents attempting to repossess his vehicle, he pulls into a worn down mansion of an aging actress, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).  She strikes a deal for him to adapt her opus screenplay that she has been composing for years, and they enter into to an interesting relationship.  This is one of my very favorite classic movies; the performances are standout, the story is terrific, and everything about this is just dripping with vintage Hollywood.  In a sense, this movie is to Tinseltown as All About Eve is to the stage, which makes it even more fitting that these two films had a showdown during the Oscars, because they were released the same year.

1Talk about a opening scene that just grabs you with intrigue.

Everything about this is executed to perfection.  Even the title is apropos, being a double entendre on the famous Hollywood street and a woman in the sunset of her career.  It’s such an intriguing introduction to this woman’s life; you first see this skeleton of a mansion that was clearly a Gatsby party mansion back in the day, and then you immediately get to witness a funeral for a monkey within.  It gives you a great frame of mind to place yourself in as you really get to know this aging actress as a relic of yesteryear.  She is delusional, and when you see her refusal to accept that times have changed and that she may not be the biggest name in Hollywood anymore, it makes for a fascinating character study.  Holden deftly plays the avatar for the audience, and as you watch this man get wrapped up in discovering what this woman’s life is all about, that’s where Sunset Blvd. shines the brightest.

gloria swanson & william holden 1950 - sunset boulevardYou can’t fix crazy.

This is outstandingly written.  It reaches the point of being akin to a classic Greek tragedy in watching this story play out for this woman to continually lie to herself.  I personally got an extra layer out of this, because so much about this is about the transition from silent films to the talkies (Singin’ in the Rain is also a personal favorite of mine), and I love that they actually managed to get Buster Keaton for a brief speaking (!) cameo.  They don’t make movies like this anymore, and this truly is mandatory viewing.

Sunset Blvd. (1950) *****

– Critic for Hire


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