An entertaining yet strangely sad classic from 1950, Sunset Boulevard is ranked #26 on IMDB’s Top 250. The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three others, including Best Writing. IMDB’s extremely high rating is a little surprising to me, but Sunset Boulevard is still a well-done and memorable picture about Hollywood, fading fame and ultimate murder – it’s no surprise that it was nominated for Best Picture.
Sunset Boulevard stars William Holden as a struggling screenwriter who is behind on his payments. Upon eluding some collection agents, he finds himself at the secluded mansion of silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who was the best of her era. Unfortunately, her era is past, but the hermit doesn’t realize it. Accompanied by her butler (Erich von Stroheim, who along with the other actors in the film was nominated for an Oscar), she lives as though she’s still in high demand, throwing parties for herself and driving around a classic but antique car. With the sudden presence of a newcomer – especially one who has ties to the industry – she takes profound interest in him, but will her psychological issues spell downfall?
The movie relies heavily on its writing and acting – of course, as I write this, most movies not starring Jessica Alba do – and director Billy Wilder has assembled a good troupe here. Holden delivers a solid performance, but it’s Swanson who turns in the most captivating, which is only understandable as she’s also the most eccentric. Swanson is pretty mesmerizing, and the role is downright creepy at times. Other performances are quite good as well, complemented by a well-done screenplay. There are elements of the screenplay that feel a little old now, but they also give the picture a bit of a noir feeling, which was, in fact, intended.
My only complaint with the picture is the undeveloped relationship between Holden and Nancy Olsen; regardless of whether something romantic pans out or not, the scenes with them felt a little forced. I see what was intended between the two, but felt there needed to be more between them – plutonic or otherwise – to make things worthwhile.
Nevertheless, Sunset Boulevard is a well-done movie with quality acting. Again, I wouldn’t put in the Top 30 Movies of All Time, but it’s a very good drama.
Bonus features from the Sunset Boulevard Centennial Collection DVD include:
- Commentary by Ed Sikov, author of On Sunset Blvd: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder
- Behind the Gates: The Lot
- The Noir Side of Sunset Blvd. by Joseph Wambaugh
- Two Sides of Ms. Swanson
- Mad About the Boy: A Portrait of William Holden
- Sunset Blvd.: The Beginning
- Stories of Sunset Blvd.
- Sunset Blvd. Becomes a Classic
- Recording Sunset Blvd.
- The City of Sunset Blvd.
- Original Morgue Prologue
- The Score of Sunset Blvd.
- Hollywood Location Map
- Paramount in the â€˜50s
- Photo Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer