On Mother’s Day, we rented Sunset Boulevard, the 1950 American film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. It’s a famous American film starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden. Supporting actors and actresses include Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, and even a few scenes with famed director Cecil B. DeMille. We had originally intended to watch it at a nearby theater, but we realized, on second thought, why don’t we watch it at home when we can be all comfy?
We rented it from Amazon for a few bucks!
The film begins in media res, where we find the officers from the LAPD and reporters are swarming around the body of a man floating in a swimming pool. His name was Joe Gillis, and he narrates how he ended up dead in the pool. Six months earlier, he was a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, attempting to pull in favors, looking for work. While running away from some men attempting to repossess his car, he surreptitiously ends up in the garage of a seemingly abandoned Hollywood mansion.
Except it’s not abandoned. Joe soon discovers that it’s owned and lived in by famed (and fictional) silent film star Norma Desmond. Norma has gone slightly mad in these years after her silent film career died off. She’s served by a single butler named Max, and she sits at home answering fan mail, watching her old movies in her in-home screening room, hosting the occasional small party, and attempting suicide.
Joe ends up moving into the mansion while he helps her write a script for Norma’s big comeback vehicle. She doesn’t want a small role. No no no. She wants the a epic film, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and she’s of course the star. Joe spends much of the story vacillating, torn between being comfortable living comfortably with crazy Norma, or being uncomfortable but happy writing screenplays with other young Hollywood industry folks like sweet Betty Schaefer.
It’s an interesting movie, but the kids and I found it a bit long and dragging at times. There’s plenty of character development, especially as you see how nutty Norma is in her twilight years. I’ve never seen a Gloria Swanson or Bill Holden film before — I’ve only seen Bill Holden when he had a cameo in that old I Love Lucy episode — so it was cool to see them both on screen.