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Purchase Sunset Blvd. (1950) Movie Online and Download - Billy Wilder 🎥
Drama, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Billy Wilder
William Holden as Joseph C. 'Joe' Gillis
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling
Nancy Olson as Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark as Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough as Morino
Jack Webb as Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum as Undertaker - Chimp's Funeral
Larry J. Blake as First Finance Man (as Larry Blake)
Charles Dayton as Second Finance Man
Hedda Hopper as Herself
Buster Keaton as Himself - Bridge Player
Anna Q. Nilsson as Herself - Bridge Player
H.B. Warner as Himself - Bridge Player
Storyline: The story, set in '50s Hollywood, focuses on Norma Desmond, a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max who was once her director and husband has become her self-contained world. Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis, a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness.
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Reel Life Gothic
Every time I go to L.A., which isn't too often, I look at these palm-bemused, once smart stucco facades, and wonder if a Norma Desmond from a later era might be hiding from the world inside them, buttressed by cable TV (AMC or TCM, no doubt), a poodle named FiFi or Sir Francis, walk-in closets full of leopard-print Capri pants that haven't fit in decades, and a world class liquor cabinet that has seen heads of state under the table on a good night. It is because of Sunset Blvd., for certain, that my mind could ever go there. It is one of the most indelible films you will ever see.

This film is great for many reasons, not the least of which is because it is Hollywood's first look back at itself. In the milieu of this film, the silent era is only 22 years behind us. The people left behind by the rush to sound can still palpably TASTE the fame, the accolade, that particular past being not so very dim and distant. The sadness of their lives was real, and at that point in history, all around, if hidden. Way more has been made of the supposed "savagery" of this film vis a vis the faded star than I think exists now, or ever did. The often cynical Wilder is deeply in touch with the tragic here, as much as the grotesque.
True Genius
This movie is true genius. The fantastic and intriguing opening scene, the deep story line, and even the similarities between the characters and the real life people who play them make for one of the greatest movies of all time.

This is a must see! Gloria Swanson is fantastic; William Holden is as well.

"I still am big. It's the movies that got small" -- Norma Desmond
They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore
This is such a great film on so many levels I can't really settle on where to begin. It is so beautifully shot (in that stark black/white that only nitrate negative could achieve), has a witty, clever and extremely well-written script, features some of the best acting in film's history, acrobatically balances the main plot/subplots with expert precision, contains some of the best characters on celluloid, has many true-to-life parallels (Swanson's career/real life cameos/DeMille's involvement/etc) and is peppered with such great dialogue/narration that today's film writers should take note. If that weren't enough, there's even a cameo by silent film great Buster Keaton (among others).

One of the most appealing aspects of this film is how, in the story, an aging, forgotten star is trying to recapture a bygone era (the silent film era). What's interesting is that now, so many years later, we're looking back at her looking back. To present day viewers, Gloria Swanson of the 1950's is a long forgotten lost gem and to experience her own longing for the 1920's is especially captivating (and a little chilling, I might add). I don't think this film could have had that same effect when it debuted and maybe this added dimension holds so much more appeal for today's audiences. We all know that nothing lasts forever, but we don't often consider the abandoned participants; much like the veterans of a past war.

In response to the famous Swanson line (while watching one of her silent films): "...we didn't need dialogue; we had faces", I'd like to also add that they "didn't need movies; they had films."

They truly don't make them like this anymore. 10/10
A film that I would put in my Top 10 Best list.
I love this film and can't believe I never got around to reviewing it until now, as I've seen it many times. I think I just assumed that I'd written a review for it or neglected to do one since it already has so many good reviews. Regardless, it's one of the best films ever--and possibly the best film Hollywood has to offer--it's THAT good.

I think part of the reason I love this film so much is because it has perhaps the best opening scene in movie history. I adored the film's style and originality here. You hear William Holden narrating--narrating in a wonderfully cynical manner. And, as the camera pans down, you see a corpse floating in a pool. Suddenly, the camera is under water--and you see that the dead man is the narrator himself!! What an amazingly daring scene! And, to seemingly top it off, Norma Desmond's entrance is just sublime. But then you see that the film then works BACKWARD to explain how all this came to be--a truly wonderful style of storytelling! I could talk more about the film, but to me the beginning was THE film. Sure, Holden, Swanson and Von Stroheim were wonderful as well as Jack Webb in an interesting supporting role...but all you will probably remember is the introduction. And the directing and writing is wonderful...but you still keep coming back to the wonderful scene.

The bottom line is that all would-be film makers should be forced to watch this film and learn from it. And, if such a thing COULD be done, let's also force them to watch "12 Angry Men", De Sica's "Children Are Watching Us", Majidi's "The Color of Paradise", and.......
One of my all time favorite film noir
This movie opened my eyes to the genius of Billy Wilder compelling me to dig all his other movies. I watched his other movies one after the other and I was never disappointed. He really made some great movies on great themes without ever losing his focus on the entertainment value of the movie. 'Stalag 17', 'double indemnity', 'the apartment' all are such great movies.

Most of the movie is narrated in first person and you see what the protagonist sees, a technique which has been used in so many movies after this. The narration is flawless and drama so intense that I watched the whole movie without batting an eyelid. The characters are real with shades of grey that you empathize and dislike at the same time. The whole thing is dark and a film noir in true sense.

One of my all time favorites and I cannot over-recommend this movie to anyone.
I had a boss who was a dead ringer for Norma Desmond.

She was as old as the hills, you could see her time has come and gone but you couldn't tell her that. She married a man who was 40 years younger than she was. She was rich. She took 'care' of him. She also lived in a house with her ex. And back in the day, she was very pretty. And one day, she snapped.

I'm talking about my ex-boss. Really.

Now about the movie.

I saw this on the wonderful Los Angeles based "Z" channel in the 1980's. This film was too much!!! It was fantastic. The music, the theme, the actors: Gloria Swanson and William Holden. It told a story and the story kept me going. Everybody kicked butt in this film...everybody -- (including a young "Joe Friday"!)

This is what DRAMA is in a film. This is what a DIVA QUEEN is in film. This is a look inside Hollywood no one wants to admit.

RUN!!! Don't walk and get this film. Buy it, don't rent it, because you'll want to own it and watch it again and again.

Drama!!! A Masterpiece!!

Dead in street...
SUNSET BOULEVARD will always be inextricably linked to ALL ABOUT EVE. They both came out the same year; they both star legendary actresses playing legendary actresses; they both are cynical, sometimes savage in their estimation of show business. And, of course, they are both great films.

But they are very different stylistically and philosophically. A primary difference is that EVE is about a survivor. Bette Davis' Margo Channing in EVE accepts, perhaps grudgingly, that change is inevitable. Either she adapts to reality, or she loses all. That is what makes Margo more than just "a great star, a true star." Margo's rival, Eve Harrington, may someday end up like BOULEVARD's Norma Desmond, but Margo Channing never will.

But if EVE is about life, SUNSET BOULEVARD is about death. Even their titles suggest this: "Eve" being the first bearer of life and "sunset" being the approaching night. In BOULEVARD, Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond is to some extent already dead by the time the film starts, locked away in a haunted house, coming out only for the funeral of her pet monkey. She is bound by reputation and profession to a type of film-making that is long dead and nearly forgotten. Her life, like her career, is based on illusions of life.

The prevailing interpretation of SUNSET BOULEVARD assumes that Norma is one of Hollywood's victims; that the town and the industry turned its back on her when she was no longer a star, her career sabotaged by the coming of sound in motion pictures. I don't buy that. The film clearly shows us that at age 50 Norma is still vibrant, still beautiful, still energetic and eager to make movies. Plus, she is filthy rich. This is not a woman who would walk away from movie making because she is afraid of her own voice. Indeed, her voice is magnificent; sultry, insinuating and theatrical. I don't think Norma went mad because Hollywood turned its back on her, rather Hollywood turned its back on her because she went mad.

I don't think we are getting the full story here. Something may have drove Norma mad, but it wasn't talking pictures. Indeed, she may have been unstable all along, but I think there is something in her past that destroyed her, and I suspect that involves Max (Erich von Stroheim). In his "Great Movies" essay, Roger Ebert suggests that the love between Norma and Max, her ex-husband/ex-director/butler, is the heart of the story; that it's Max's love of Norma that validates her continued existence. I don't see that. I suspect that Max is less a servant than a caretaker or even a jailer. Max (like Joe Gillis, Norma's erstwhile boytoy) may be trapped in Norma's web, but it is a web of his own making. He appears subservient, but he is the one in control, he perpetuates her delusions and enables her madness. I even suspect that he only allows Joe into the situation because he knows that Joe is weak and no real threat to his power; and that he suspects that it will help placate Norma by feeding her fantasy of a comeback. There is more than adoration that cements the relationship between Max and Norma; perhaps guilt, jealousy, desperation -- who knows? All I know is that it is best kept as a subtext, a part of the film's impenetrable mystery. The less we understand Norma, the more intriguing she is.

However, if I were to be so bold as to make one major change in SUNSET BOULEVARD, it would be to replace William Holden as Joe Gillis. I respect Holden as an actor, but his screen persona has always been one of strength and -- if not integrity -- confidence; he is not one who plays vulnerable with any conviction. Plus, he doesn't play the part of Gillis with any gentle shadings. The "romance" between Norma and Joe is the least convincing aspect of the film. Joe treats her with barely concealed contempt and a bit of occasional pity, which makes it hard to believe that a self-absorbed diva would even tolerate him, let alone make him the house pet. The role of Joe was originally intended for Montgomery Clift, an actor with a proven ability to appear passive, even as he plays sinister. His work in THE HEIRESS and A PLACE IN THE SUN illustrate this point. I see Joe Gillis, not as a bored hanger-on, but as sycophant who is in awe of Norma, even as he exploits her, and therefore he doesn't realize that he actually is the one who is being used (sort of a younger version of Max). I think Joe should be someone who is cunning, but naive about his own limits, not someone who is already bitter, corrupt and cynical as the story begins.

Maybe I am wrong, but I get the feeling that Holden was very uncomfortable playing the part of, well, a mistress, and especially one kept by such an older woman. Perhaps his manhood was threatened and that uneasiness shows. Clift, or an equally rakish young actor like, say, Farley Granger or Robert Wagner, would enliven the story and make the romance with the perpetually needy Norma more credible. I don't think it is enough that the film shows that Norma enjoys manipulating Joe, I think it has to also be implied that to a certain extent Joe loves being manipulated. The relationship is after all a romance and to be credible as long-term there has to be the spark that it is mutually enjoyable. Holden's interpretation that Joe is just doing it for the money just doesn't ring true. While a pairing of the aging diva with an ambitious -- and yes, probably gay -- younger man is practically a show business institution.

Yet, even with these reservations, it is undeniable that SUNSET BOULEVARD is quite a film. A little bit Hollywood satire, a little bit moralistic fable and whole lot of Gothic melodrama. And Swanson's just-not-quite over the top performance is mesmerizing. It was assumed that BOULEVARD would revitalize Swanson's career. It didn't. But apparently, it didn't matter to her: she dabbled in acting now and again, when the part amused her, but she had better things to do with her life. Swanson played Norma Desmond, but she lived life as Margo Channing.
"Who wants real? Who wants moving?"
With a medium like cinema, which had such a distinct and holistic culture all of its own, it is bound sooner or later to lose itself in nostalgia. Either that or cynical self-parody. Sunset Boulevard is not about the way motion pictures were – it is about the way motion picture people were, and continued to be.

Indeed, the style of Sunset Boulevard was the very epitome of modern film-making – voice-over narration, fluid camera-work, crisp cinematography. These contemporary trappings really serve to deepen the contrast and sharpen the disrespectful onslaught upon the olden days. Take the protagonist voice-over, something writers Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett really made an art of. It may often be functional, cutting corners in the narrative or elucidating on screen events, but more often than not it is superfluous to the story, and acts as a kind of enjoyably wry commentary on proceedings. It's a stylistic layer as much as the overstuffed set design and chiaroscuro lighting.

Director Billy Wilder is often said (by Ed Sikov for example) to be someone who "does not call attention to the shot". On the contrary, he actually constantly grabs us with the images. While he was never fond of obvious trickery, Wilder loves the weirdness of natural effects – such as Swanson's face skull-like in her sunglasses, or the close-up on her spinning parasol which begins the bathing beauties routine. He is great at filling the shot with "clues" and reminders, bringing them to our attention at the right moment – such as those holes in the doors where the locks should be, which a line in the dialogue has made us associate with suicide attempts.

But this is really a movie about stars, and central to Sunset Boulevard is the performance by Gloria Swanson. It was incredibly brave of Swanson to play such a brazen caricature of the kind of woman she could have become. But she brings all her long-standing talent and the knowledge of experience into the role. Norma Desmond is as much a creation of Swanson as she is of Wilder and Brackett. She has the kind of sleek, animalistic movement of a silent-era vamp, but tinges it with a frank depiction of middle-aged indignity. Her acting may be exaggerated and far from realistic, but remember she is playing a woman for whom life has become an act. Swanson is hammy because hamminess is real for that character. She clearly knew exactly what she was doing and what the pictures was about. Compare that to DeMille, who really had no sense of irony, and it's amazing he agreed to appear here. His performance is assuredly naturalistic (and ironically far better than most of what passes for acting in his own pictures), although that is also perfect for the part he plays here – being himself! Whether or not he had agreed to appear, DeMille would have been a central figure to this story. He was really the sole survivor of the silent era; the only individual – star, producer or director – from that time who was still a top dog. And although Sunset Boulevard sets its sights on the Hollywood of yesteryear, it was really the Hollywood of 1950 that Wilder and Brackett were gunning for. Like Norma Desmond, the post-war industry had passed its heyday and was really living off the receipts of its past glories. The studio system was crumbling, and TV was encroaching on its territory just as sound had encroached on Norma's thirty years earlier. It was now the more modest productions by younger, free-spirited filmmakers – productions like Sunset Boulevard itself – that were beginning to rise to the surface.
Class Act
Spoilers. Sometimes lousy movies can be redeemed through means of a plenitude of epigrams sprinkled on the script. This one has all the classic tag lines. "We had faces then." "I am still big; it's the pictures that got small." "Ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille." "The audience doesn't know that someone writes the words; they think the actors make them up as they go along." And some lousy movies have little, barely noticeable touches that redeem them. Gillis storms out of Norma Desmond's house on New Years Eve after an argument, leaving his kept existence forever, but his long watch fob gets caught on the doorknob as he exits. (He'll be beck.) Norma visits a set on the Paramount lot for the first time in twenty years and, asked to sit and watch a rehearsal, the microphone on its boom brushes against her feathery hat and she shoves it away with irritation. And that last devastating dissolve.

But this movie doesn't need that kind of redemption. The script -- the entire film -- is a classic that stands on its own two feet.

Gloria Swanson's performance is overblown, as it should be. Von Stroheim -- or, let's call a spade a spade, plain Stroheim -- brings to his role the starchy oblige that he showed in "Grand Illusion." Holden will be remembered probably for three roles: "The Bridge on the River Kwai," "Picnic," and this. Brackett's script is well above average, even with its use of a voice-over, given by a dead man. Pat Olsen is mouth wateringly beautiful. She went on to make several other movies with Holden, none of them as good as this. The photography and art direction also stand out. This is one REALLY rotting mansion. Everything is out of date, from Buster Keaton to the tiny roach clip Norma Desmond wears on her finger when she smokes.

Amid the bizarre melodrama there is one quiet, simple scene I always find appealing. Holden and Olsen are on a dark, deserted city street on Paramount's back lot, and she tells him she once had her nose fixed. He playfully leans down, examines it, and kisses it lightly. Then he backs away a few inches and warns her never to let him get closer than two feet. If he does, she should hit him with her shoe. Holden never indicates more than a momentary physical attraction, combined with a realization that he'd better not push the envelope. He later tells us he's "crazy about her" but we don't believe him. But in this effective and signal scene, Olsen's expression never changes. Her smile is sweet, agreeable, alert, and curious -- without in any way welcoming more intimacy. It all sounds rudimentary but it's tough to put this kind of exchange over and both performers do it splendidly.

The story is elementary. Gillis, a failed screenwriter, is adopted by Norma Desmond, a rich but forgotten star of the silent days ("Oil wells in Bakersfield -- they keep pumping and pumping and pumping"), and he succumbs to greed, letting her buy him vicuna coats and "evening clothes" and whatever, in return for which he supplies the only thing she needs and he has to offer. But he doesn't do so without loathing himself. And when he falls for another girl, he decides to reject everything, Norma and girl friend and vicuna coat included, and go back to Dayton, Ohio. He doesn't make it. Everything about the story, Gillis's death included, is comic in a way, acerbic may be better, but very dark too. Wilder could be a phenomenally good director when the right script came his way, and this is an instance.
All is not as it seems in Hollywood
March 7, 2004

**** Excellent!

"Sunset Boulevard" ranks with "All About Eve" as one of the best written and best acted films of the 1950's. To me, 1950, ranks as high as the golden year of 1939 for Hollywood.

I have just seen "Sunset Boulevard" for the very first time. I was very favorably impressed. "Sunset Boulevard" is the inspiration for all other Hollywood inside story films that came after.

Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond who is a lonely insecure once famous silent film star living in isolation with her servant in a lavish, but neglected Hollywood mansion from the 1920's. William Holden plays the role of Joe Gillis, a down on his luck B film Hollywood writer who accidentally discovers her mansion. Erich Von Stroheim plays the loyal house servant Max Von Mayerling to Norma Desmond.

A combination film noir, satire with dark, cynical humor, "Sunset Boulevard" excels. Being narrated by a dead man is a nice dark touch. There are cameos of several famous silent film stars including Buster Keaton, who play themselves in the film. Most notably, Cecile B. DeMile plays himself, who directed Gloria Swanson (in real life) in some of her silent films.

The film has a romance substory that is done well. I believe this substory really serves as a distraction from the film's dark cynical tone.

Both "Sunset Boulevard" and "All About Eve" are two excellent films of the same year (1950). Both were nominated for Academy Awards in many categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Both films had similiar stories. To decide which film was the best film of 1950 was truly difficult and shows the folly of the Academy Awards. Both are excellent films (in different ways): most notably for writing and acting. "Sunset Boulevard" has the advantage of better cinematography for it's film noir, moody look and feel. "All About Eve" does have a "stagey" look and feel to it, using basic and simple cinematography. Both films excel with similiar stories, done with different tone and mood.

"Sunset Boulevard" stands the test of time as a classic film, perhaps better understood and appreciated by film buffs, nonetheless, one of Hollywood's best films.
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