Billy Wilder's noir-comic classic about death and decay in Hollywood
remains as pungent as ever in its power to provoke shock, laughter,
and gasps of astonishment. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a broke
and cynical young screenwriter, is attempting to ditch a pair of
repo men late one afternoon when he pulls off L.A.'s storied Sunset
Boulevard and into the driveway of a seedy mansion belonging to
Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a forgotten silent movie luminary
whose brilliant acting career withered with the coming of talkies.
The demented old movie queen lives in the past, assisted by her
devoted (but intimidating) butler, Max (played by Erich von Stroheim,
the legendary director of Greed and Swanson's own lost epic, Queen
Kelly). Norma dreams of making a comeback in a remake of Salome
to be directed by her old colleague Cecil B. DeMille (as himself),
and Joe becomes her literary and romantic gigolo. Sunset Blvd. is
one of those great movies that has become a part of popular culture
(the line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," has
entered the language)--but it's no relic. Wow, does it ever hold
Here is the film that the Catholic church tried to stop - and which
was financed by Joseph Kennedy for his then mistress Gloria Swanson.
This is a very well made, well acted drama about a prostitute, a
cleric, and an army sargent (played by the director Raul Walsh).
Not to be missed. AN excellent rpint, also, without any scratches.
Affairs of Anatol
THE AFFAIRS OF ANATOL is one of the great but elusive silents from
the early 1920s that turn up only as tantalizing photos in film
books. So it is a real joy to discover a tinted and toned print
on DVD with a serviceable new music score. The film also provides
an opportunity to view the sophisticated work of Cecil B. DeMille
when he was still very much of a creative film-maker and before
he settled into the "cotton candy" purveyor of comic book-type films
of the sound era. Perhaps the spendid visual quality of some recent
DVD silent film releases has spoiled me, but as all silent film
buffs know, the flesh tones in silents are crucial. When the actors
all look as though their make-up is white flour, you know you're
watching a print a few generations removed from a good original.
Since the liner notes claim that ANATOL was taken from a 35 mm.
original - hence the elaborate stenciling, tinting and toning -
I was shocked at the rather muddy pictorial quality and dead white
faces of the actors. It's still a wonderful film but the disapponting
visual quality will limit its appeal to established silent film
buffs. It's tough sledding for others.
Financed by Joseph Kennedy, Stroheim was hired by his old friend
Gloria Swanson, but when talkies came in and it was apparant there
would never be a market for a silent Swanson vehicle, production
stopped and the film was unreleased for decades. Almost completed,
and later restored with stills replacing lost footage, the film
has a unique power like all of Von's work. This was Von's swan-song
(no pun intended.) He would never complete another film, but go
on to immortality as a great actor, ignored in the U.S. but worshipped
in Europe. This film is proof that there was a brief period in which
American films could be held up against the films of the world as
great works of sophisticated filmatic art. Von's films make even
the best products of the "studio System" look like bad soap operas.
It is impossible to fully appreciate Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard"
without seeing this film (Von referred to his performance in Wilder's
film with contempt as "that butler role." The world of course knows
better. As Elenor Roosevelt said, Von was the greatest director
in the world.
for Bedroom C
Sadly uneven comedy of romance between movie star and scientist
aboard transcontinental train heading to L. A. A derailment for
Swanson after her triumph in SUNSET BLVD.
endition of two DeSylva-Brown-Henderson songs, aren't compensation
enough for sitting through this one. Original running time 92m.
Click here for DVD