Sunday, March 27, 2011

I am big! It's the pictures that got small....

As per the boyfriend's request, I think it is time to write about one of the best films ever made, at least in my mind, "Sunset Blvd." I could probably write a book about how much I love this movie. It has everything: superb acting, writing, music, lighting, sets... Gloria Swanson is at her peak and she wasn't even the first choice for the part (fourth actually, Mary Pickford turned it down because she wanted to re-write the script, a big no-no according to Mr. Wilder, Mae West and Pola Negri said hell no because they didn't want to be seen as an old, washed up star).



For those who haven't seen this picture, I wouldn't dare spoil it by giving you all the details. But a small teaser if you will...    I must say the opening scene to this film is so wonderful. The crime seen, the cops, the reporters, the dead body in the pool. I actually have the dialogue memorized. (Yes, reason #32 I am an old movie nerd.) The film introduces William Holden is a screenwriter, and strapped for cash. His intro begins in his apartment, which is the Alto Nido Apartments, located on the top of North Ivar, 1851. It is still there today.



This is also the location where the Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) lived before her murder. Any how, William is in a pinch and while trying to escape the heat, he stumbles upon an old mansion with an empty garage. This location was actually on Wilshire and is now a parking lot (tear). There he meets the strange Norma Desmond played by Gloria Swanson, and the adventure begins.







William ends up doing a side job for her and meets her butler, who is played wonderfully by Erich Von Stroheim, an old time silent era director who once directed Gloria when she was first starting out. They once got in a fight and were enemies until reuniting many years later for this film. Norma takes William under her wing and you soon learn what a loony Norma Desmond is, but you LOVE her. William gets antsy and escapes a few times from the mansion and meets a gal who is getting hitched to his friend. They start working on a screenplay together and fall in love. But what will he do about Norma?



There is a neat scene where William and his gal pal (Nancy Olsen) are walking though the real lot of Paramount at night. Wilder asked them to have a long kiss at the end, because he wanted to fade out. When William and Nancy kissed, William's wife, Ardis, didn't like this and yelled out "cut!". Norma loves herself and they watch movies of her in the screening room. The film that they watch in the infamous scene is one that Erich directed back in the day.



At one point, Norma wants to visit her old buddy Cecil B. DeMille on stage 18, which was really the sound stage Cecil used at Paramount. He feels bad for Norma and lets her sit in on a film he is making.  Cecil demanded a ton of cash and a new car for acting in this film and Wilder obliged. Later on, Wilder needed some pick up shots of Cecil and he told Wilder he wanted $10,000 more  for one close up. Diva.


How much do I want a leopard printed lined car?!



At the end, William is dead and floating in the pool. The scene where they show William face down in the pool and the camera is looking up was filmed by using a mirror at the bottom of the pool and filming upwards. Clever.





Norma then does her infamous staircase walk and everyone watches her madness as she prepares for her "close-up". She was so nervous to walk down the stairs in heels that she ended up doing the scene barefoot. Everyone knew how powerful this scene was going to be for the film, and actors who were not called on set that day came anyways to watch Gloria do her magic. After Wilder called "cut", Gloria started crying. 







 Oh, how I love this film. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 3. Louie B. Mayer hated the film because it showed Hollywood in a true bad light. He told Wilder what he thought and Wilder responded by telling him f*@# you!



I disagree with you Louie, I think it is wonderful! A great book to read about the behind the scenes is titled Close Up On Sunset Boulevard by Sam Staggs.


4 comments:

*BURN MY CANDLE* said...

yesssssssssssssss! WHAT AN EXCELLENT POST! I LOVE THIS MOVIE! THAT GLORIA SWANSON IS BUTTER! ESSENTIAL TO THE MOVIE FOOD I EAT! SHE PLAYED THIS VERY VERY WELL. AND I ALSO BELIEVE THE CHARACTER TO EXIST IN MANY AGING STARS TODAY!

IT WORKED SO WELL BECAUSE SHE REALLY WAS AN AGING STARLET WHOSE REAL GLORY WAS OF THE 1920S PICTURES, SO SHE HAS LIVED SOME OF THE THINGS SHE WAS ACTING OUT.



SORT OF LIKE IN THE LATE 50s WHEN A GOOD FRIEND OF MAE WEST ASKED HER WHAT SHE THOUGHT OF MARILYN MONROE. MAE SHUFFLED IN HER DIAMOND LIL' WAY OVER TO THE MIRROR, POOFED HER HAIR WITH HER HAND AND SAID, "WELL I GUESS, IF YOU LIKE CARBON COPIES!"

WORK IT MAE WEST!

monty said...

I agree with Burn My Candle, excellent post Emily. Sunset Boulevard is a masterpiece. I thought Swanson gave the performance of her life and William Holden was top notch as well.

wacky tacky said...

I love this movie. It is definitely one of my favorites and one that I could watch - and have watched - over and over and over again. My dad introduced me to this movie when I was probably about 10. My two favorite scenes (probably because they are the creepiest) are when Holden comes "home" from the New Year's Eve party when Norma tries to kill herself and they kiss/fade to black and "Turn around darling, let me dry you." I also LOVE Nancy Olson. Apparently the studio did too as she and Holden made three more pictures together (none of which I have seen). Great movie for "those wonderful people out there in the dark."

Emily said...

There are so many fantastic quotes from this movie, so well written! I love the outfit Norma is wearing when William is swimming in the pool. Did you know that the price the mansion wanted for letting them film was to install a pool? I am so sad they demolished it!