Sunset Blvd

18 Dec

2nd. article in our series on Film Noir.

In 1950, director and screenwriter, Billy Wilder, brought an iconic film noir classic to the big screen.  The film: Sunset Blvd.  The synopsis is of a faded Hollywood silent film starlet, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) who is trying to make a comeback.  A hack of a screenwriter is hired to write the screenplay that will bring Norma back to her fans.  Unfortunately her great belief in her own ego is her downfall and has cast her as a recluse.  Romance and death ensue.   Sunset Blvd won 3 Oscars: Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Music.[1]

 While in production, the film was called “A Can of Beans”.  This was because the writers feared Hollywood would not be in favor of how the industry was being portrayed.  Three of the “100 Greatest Lines” was from SB:

All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.”

We didn’t need dialogue, we had faces.”

I am big.  It’s the pictures that got small.”[2]

In 1994, Andrew Lloyd Weber composed the music for the musical of the same film name.  Glenn Close starred as Norma Desmond (I did see this production and it blew me out of my seat).  It went on to win 7 Tony Awards in 1995, including Best Musical, Best Actress, and Best Original Score.[3]

Lastly, a true compliment and homage to Sunset Blvd was Carol Burnett’s parody on her television show.

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8 Responses to “Sunset Blvd”

  1. littlebells December 18, 2013 at 7:01 PM #

    Hi everyone!

    I don’t know if I will be available during our regular discussion time, so please comment and ask any questions at any time. I plan on being here tomorrow, but just in case…

    • Open Book December 19, 2013 at 1:05 PM #

      I love it LB! Excellent choice to discuss Film Noir. 🙂 Some of my favorite themes of SB are the complex film narrative, use of flashbacks and first person narration. Love the clips u selected especially the last one.

      • littlebells December 19, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

        I’m glad they played for you. For whatever reason, my Mac is not playing videos from Youtube.

        What did you think of the lighting? Especially on Desmonds strained facial expressions?

        I also love that Swanson was the actress chosen since she made a career in silent films. Mary Pickford was up for the role but she thought it would ruin her image. So many actors and actresses lost careers once the talkies came out. I think Singin’ in the Rain does a great job (in a comical sense) showing this. And yet I know there was a much darker side to being cast from the industry because of voice or acting issues.

        • Open Book December 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM #

          What did you think of the lighting? Especially on Desmonds strained facial expressions?

          It’s funny u should ask. 🙂 The lighting and costumes are my favorite in this film and why I love Film Noir style. The dark costumes frames Norma as the Femme Fetale well and the high contrast lighting does it’s job of making u feel uneasy. And the close up scene. Come on! U think what is she smoking? I love that scene. Can I say more?

    • comicrelief2 December 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM #

      Hope this isn’t showing up too late –but great article. When I first saw that you we’re talking about “Sunset Boulevard” as Film Noir, I thought she’s crazy because that certainly isn’t Film Noir!!!!!!! Well, I finally saw the entire “Sunset Boulevard” and you are absolutely right. In fact it may be a film noir classic, yet I think, as you have so graciously demonstrated — one may have to make a genre-based argument for the film.

      Though others may foolishly and mistakenly overlook this movie as Film Noir too, I want to congratulate you on your exquisite perceptiveness.

      Please accept my sad child cliché’ as a token of my sincere apology.

  2. Open Book December 19, 2013 at 3:48 PM #

    LB U Said: “I also love that Swanson was the actress chosen since she made a career in silent films.”

    Me too it really made her performance more authentic and sincere. I also, believe her taking the role did the opposite. It made her look bold, unafraid, like she was thumbing her nose at the negative connotations that might result from doing the film.

    • Open Book December 19, 2013 at 3:51 PM #

      I wanted to add it made Swanson look like she didn’t take the press and Hollywood seriously. Like she was mocking the idea of her career being over. Love it!

    • comicrelief2 December 21, 2013 at 1:37 PM #

      Hope this isn’t inappropriate terminology.

      One of the benefits of being 21 century viewer is being able to say the popular hunger for “MILF’s” make some of the horror of the film seem less terrifying. As someone who has had a lot to say about female representation on film and someone who is a horror fan — how do you think this film tempers what used to be a far more repulsive romantic scenario.

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