A failing screenwriter enters into a toxic relationship
with a silent movie star who's faded into obscurity.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.
Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim,
Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction,
Best Original Score (Franz Waxman)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (William Holden),
Best Actress (Gloria Swanson), Best Supporting Actor (Erich von Stroheim), Best Supporting Actress (Nancy Olson), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing
There is no film that better shows the implied madness of Hollywood than Sunset Boulevard. It's remained one of the greatest film noirs ever made and basically set the template for the modern crime thriller. There's nothing I can say about this film that hasn't already been said over the past 66 years, but suffice it to say I enjoyed the film and now understand why its listed among the most influential films of all time. It's a thorough character study into the behavior of people who are essentially sociopaths vying for the attention of the public, be it in front of the camera or behind it.
Sunset Boulevard thrives on the strength of its unbelievable cast, led by legendary actor William Holden as hack screenwriter Joe Gillis, who enters into a dangerous relationship with former silent movie star Norma Desmond. Gloria Swanson's performance of psychologically disturbed actress Norma Desmond is nothing short of brilliant, so much so that it's remained powerful and unforgettable after six decades. The movie's ultimate star is its screenplay, which flaunted convention of the time and delivered a film that both celebrated Hollywood and condemned it. Sunset Boulevard shows what happens when a movie star loses her audience. She creates one in her own head, one that will never leave her. The more you think about it, the more disturbing it becomes.
I knew I was going to like this film. I just don't know why it took me so long to finally watch it. There's a reason films like this are labeled "classics." Sunset Boulevard is a powerful, suspenseful drama that's equal parts love story and psychological thriller. In the first scene, you are introduced to a body floating in the pool. The film shows you how it happened. You know who it is, but you don't know why it happened. As the film progresses, you know who did it. Ultimately, when it happens, you're still shocked. I can't explain why. It's the beauty of classic cinema.