Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder (1950)

16 Apr

Billy Wilder – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark…

Sunset Boulevard (also known as Sunset Blvd.) is a 1950 American film noir containing elements of drama, horror, and black comedy. Directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, it was named for the famous boulevard of the same name that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.

It stars William Holden as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, and Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a faded movie star who entraps the unsuspecting Gillis into her fantasy world in which she dreams of making a triumphant return to the screen. Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough and Jack Webb play supporting roles. Director Cecil B. DeMille and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper play themselves, and the film includes cameo appearances by leading silent film figures Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson.

Praised by many critics when first released, Sunset Boulevard was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three. It is widely accepted as a classic, often cited as one of the most noteworthy films of American cinema. Deemed “culturally significant” by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1989, Sunset Boulevard was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998 it was ranked number twelve on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century. (

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A “tale told by a dead man”…

(…) One cannot ignore the film’s autobiographical aspects. Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond, the aging silent film star, and like Norma, Swanson’s career declined shortly after the advent of sound. Also, Max, Norma’s chauffeur, had been one of her greatest directors. Erich von Stroheim plays the role and, like Max, he had been one of the more talented directors of the 1920s whose career ended abruptly during the next decade. Completing the mixture of film history and fiction, Norma watches one of her films from 30 years previous; it is Queen Kelly , one of Swanson’s movies that had been directed by von Stroheim.

Aside from holding a reflecting glass to the industry, the film itself has something of a mirror construction. After Joe, the screenwriter, meets Norma, she convinces him to work on her comeback project, a ponderous Salome screenplay. Joe agrees because times are hard, and as an added convenience he becomes Norma’s lover. During the second half of the film, Joe meets Betty, and they too begin working on a script as the conventional counterpart to Joe’s involvement with Norma. While Joe knows that Norma’s script is unfilmable, both he and Betty are excited about the script they write together, and shape it to the demands of the industry. Joe and Betty also form the normal, attractive movie couple, but Joe and Norma’s relationship stands out as anomalous, at least for films of the period. Norma is much older than Joe, who plays the role of a “kept man,” accepting money, gifts, and a place to live from a woman protector.

In the end, jealous of Betty, Norma kills Joe. However, this is known from the beginning, for Sunset Boulevard is a tale told by a dead man. After the opening credits, we see Joe lying face down in Norma’s swimming pool, with detectives trying to fish him out of the water. Joe then begins to narrate the events that led up to the murder. But neither this posthumous narration, nor its baroque film noir style, nor the bitterness with which the film examines Hollywood, made the movie unpalatable to critics of the period. At its release, it was considered a major work, and today Sunset Boulevard remains one of the most highly respected films from the post-World War II period. by Eric Smoodin (

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il Morandini:

Un giovane e disoccupato sceneggiatore di Hollywood va a vivere con una ricca e anziana attrice, già star del cinema muto, prigioniera delirante del suo passato, facendosi da lei mantenere. Il più caustico e sardonico film nero sul mondo di Hollywood. Melodramma amarissimo con risvolti da horror e sottofondi da commedia. Alcune memorabili scene tra cui la partita a carte con Keaton. Sapiente regia: una pietra miliare nell’itinerario di Wilder. Splendide interpretazioni. Su 9 nomination agli Oscar vinse quelli per la sceneggiatura e le musiche (F. Waxman). (

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Pubblicato da su 16 aprile 2011 in Cinema



Una risposta a “Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder (1950)

  1. Rod Delarue

    16 aprile 2011 at 02:36

    Billy Wilder – Sunset Boulevard (1950)
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