1950 | 110m | BW | USA | Showbiz Drama, Satire | TSPDT #31
A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.
Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman, Jr
Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, D.M. Marshman, Jr (screenplay)
Hans Dreier, John Meehan, Sam Comer, Ray Moyer (art direction)
Franz Waxman (music)
Charles Brackett (producer)
Billy Wilder (director)
William Holden (actor)
Gloria Swanson (actress)
Erich von Stoheim (actor is supporting role)
Nancy Olson (actress in supporting role)
John F. Seitz (photography)
Doane Harrison, Arthur P. Schmidt (editing)
William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich Von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Franklin Farnum, Larry Blake, Charles Dayton, Cecil B. DeMille
Full of truly ostentatious visual, rather unusual for Wilder, and compositions that evoked the air of Phantom of the Opera, and Kane’s Xanadu.
I love the huge close up of the white gloved hands as they play Beethoven on the wheezy pipe organ as the trapped gigolo flutters in the background. Wilder’s acidic, yet nostalgic, traipse through the film industry’s haunted house could certainly be re-watched endlessly.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Norma (Gloria Swanson), the megalomanic silent movie queen, whose attempts to stay youthful into her fifties paradoxically make her seem a thousand years old. Norma lives in a decaying mansion on Sunset Boulevard, holding a midnight funeral for her pet monkey, scrawling an unproducable script, and dreaming of an impossible comeback (“I hate that word! This will be a return!”).
Even Wilder gives strange affection to the has-been Norma, and the never-was Joe, with a somewhat sadistic use of such ravaged and frozen silent era faces as Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q Nilsson. I love Norma’s line: “I’m big, it’s the pictures that got small!”
The dialogue is beautiful and often poetic, especially Joe’s narration of the story. There are some great one liners too, and I almost feel that this film in some ways will be just an enjoyable to read.NO. 1 Sure we believe you, only now we want you to believe us. That car better be back here by noon tomorrow, or there’s going to be fireworks. GILLIS You say the cutest things.
As a side note to remember, for myself: I like the narration at the beginning “you’ve come to the right party” – another alternative would be an off screen monologue as the narrator tells another character – although this wasn’t the case in this film.
Come to think of it, the whole place seemed
to have been stricken with a kind of
creeping paralysis, out of beat with the
rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow
Thank you, Jonesy. And teach
your friend some manners. Tell
him without me he wouldn’t have
any job, because without me there
wouldn’t be any Paramount Studio.
Of course you didn’t. You didn’t
know Norma Desmond as a plucky
little girl of seventeen, with
more courage and wit and heart
than ever came together in one
I hear she was a terror to
She got to be. A dozen press
agents working overtime can
do terrible things to the human
(to the set)
That’s the trouble with you
readers. You know all the plots.
May I say you smell real special.
It must be my new shampoo.
That’s no shampoo. It’smore like
a pile of freehly laundred hand-
kerchiefs, like a brand new auto-
mobile. How old are you anyway?
That’s it — there’s nothing like
being twenty-two. Now may I suggest
that if we’re ever to finish this
story you keep at least two feet
away from me … Now back to the