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.