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It has been many years since I sat down and watched this movie all the way through.

 

I still sit there at the end and go, what the heck were people thinking. As much as I love Judy Holiday, who in there right mind does not look at Gloria Swanson's heartbreaking and thoroughly convincing descent into madness turn as Norma Desmond and not choose it as Best Actress.

 

Who watches Sunset Blvd and not choose Billy Wilder for Best Director? What were they thinking? Did it hit too close to home for many of the voters?

 

Still Swanson is electrifying in the role of Norma. Part mad woman, part seductress, part spider woman, she is hitting on all cylinders.

 

Fifty years later we are still dealing with lines such as "they smashed idols like Fairbanks and Valentino and for what now, nobodies".

 

That was in 1950. Here in 2006, we are still bemoaning the loss of idols and Wilder was talking about the passing of silent screen idols.

 

Perhaps the joke really is on us, that we always want the things we never knew first hand.

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" Sunset Blvd " is one of the greatest films of all times, and Gloria Swanson gave one of the greatest film performances by a woman. My personal opinion - Judy Holiday was not funny. Wilder should have won for Best Director. But remember only a couple of years later " The Greatest Show on Earth " won the AA for Best Picture. That film was DeMille at his worst, and that was very bad !

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I suspect that "Sunset Blvd." made the powers-that-be in Hollywood very uncomfortable.

 

Although I like Judy Holliday very much, and enjoyed her performance in "Born Yesterday," I agree that it was not an Oscar-winning performance in the face of Swanson's performance. You have to hand it to Swanson for being willing to play that part -- how many people at the time thought it was autobiographical? Another actress might have turned it into a self-parody, but Swanson kept it dignified, realistic, and ultimately tragic. I think the only performance that may possibly match it is Davis' Margo in "All About Eve."

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"Although I like Judy Holliday very much, and enjoyed her performance in 'Born Yesterday', I agree that it was not an Oscar-winning performance in the face of Swanson's performance. You have to hand it to Swanson for being willing to play that part -- how many people at the time thought it was autobiographical? Another actress might have turned it into a self-parody, but Swanson kept it dignified, realistic, and ultimately tragic. I think the only performance that may possibly match it is Davis' Margo in 'All About Eve'."

 

And there's the rub, Lynn and Judith. Both Bette Davis and Gloria Swanson were nominated for the Best Actress Award (along with Anne Baxter, also for All About Eve) and Eleanor Parker (for Caged). The theory that I'd always heard is that the ballots for Bette Davis and Miss Swanson split their votes, allowing Judy Holliday to come in ahead.

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Jack,

 

Your theory is probably correct. I wish that TCM would run Sunset Blvd and then show the original opening with Holden's body at the morgue. I saw clips of this opening in the German documentary on Billy Wilder that TCM ran earlier this summer. Would love to see that opening in its entirety.

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"I still sit there at the end and go, what the heck were people thinking. As much as I love Judy Holiday, who in there right mind does not look at Gloria Swanson's heartbreaking and thoroughly convincing descent into madness turn as Norma Desmond and not choose it as Best Actress."

 

I agree.

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Your theory is probably correct. I wish that TCM would run Sunset Blvd and then show the original opening with Holden's body at the morgue. I saw clips of this opening in the German documentary on Billy Wilder that TCM ran earlier this summer. Would love to see that opening in its entirety.

 

You're not likely to ever see it since, as far as can be determined, it no longer exists. Paramount went searching for it for the recent DVD, but could only locate the establishing shots of the L.A. County Morgue and ambulance driving into the building.

 

"Descent into madness" doesn't really describe Norma Desomond; as the film indicates through Joe Gillis's voice-over narration, she was probably 98% down that road by the time he met her. The whole point is that, decades earlier, the woman had made her pact with the Devil, trading her grip on reality for stardom. SUNSET BOULEVARD is, in fact, a double-Faustian tale: not only did Norma make her deal with the devil, but so did Joe by trading the dreams that brought him to Hollywood, his independence and, ultimately, his self-respect, for an aging meal ticket who played him like a violin even as he though he was the one doing the playing.

 

As for Judy Holiday, she's brilliant in BORN YESTERDAY, though she wouldn't have won if Davis, Baxter and Swanson hadn't divided the Academy vote for Best Actress (deserving or not, I think that Davis would have beaten Swanson if Baxter had instead been a nominee for Best Supporting Actress, the category in which she really belonged).

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Cinesage,

 

Thanks for the update on the original open and the fact that Paramount did look for it. I remember in the German documentary that TCM ran earlier this summer on Billy Wilder that they showed the interior of the morgue with the bodies on the slab. Wonder where that footage came from? A foreign archive? Wilder's personal collection? Wish I had taped the documentary now.

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Years ago I dressed up as Norma Desmond for a party even found this beautiful long gown at a thrift store and did my make up just like her in the movie ,We were on a boat cruise and the captain wouldn't leave me alone the whole night he even asked me to dance . I loved SunsetBlvd . I really liked William Holden in it as well as Gloria Swanson

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Add my vote to the growing consensus on Ms. Swanson. . .and while I'm at it, I'd like to suggest that Mr. Wilder should have won two or three more Best Director Oscars (in addition to those he won for The Lost Weekend and The Apartment) for any number of his other brilliant films.

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Yup! I agree that Judy shouldn'thave won-much as I adore her performance. In fact, I adored her in every performance she ever gave. I saw her as a kid in the Broadway production of " Bells are Ringing." She was a knock-out and deservedly won the Tony that season.

I think Bette or Gloria should have won. I don't know whom I would have picked Both are brilliant. So is Anne Baxter and if she'd allowed herself to be nominated in the supporting category, I think she'd have won over Josephine Hull. Hull, of course, is ALSO wonderful. Does anyone have any thoughts who would have gotten Baxter's slot had she elected to be nominated in the supporting category? Betty Hutton , perhaps for "Annie..."? Just a thought.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm in total agreement with ken on this. Sunset Boulevard is magic on film. Might be my favorite Wilder film.

 

Everything from the script to the shooting of this film was magnificent.

 

Just once I'd like to write one like this.

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  • 5 weeks later...

chemistry wise there are few acting tandems as great as Gloria Swanson and William Holden.The musical with Glenn Close and George Hearn as max and Alan Campbell or Kevin Anderson had charm as Joe Gillis.Glenn Close actress wise couldn't come close to Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond but George Hearn as he stole the play from close.The play is beautifull crafted is provides some in depth insight into why Gillis would fall for this crazed women Through the music.I thought the Carol Burnett Show parody of Sunset was dead on so much so Gloria Swanson went on the show because she was such a fan.To me its Billy Wilders master piece over some like it hot but thats just me.

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I saw "For Your Consideration," the new Christopher Guest comedy yesterday. It was disappointing. However, I mention it here because it ends with Catherine O'Hara doing a monologue that is meant to remind us of "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille." So "Sunset Boulevard" is still influencing filmmakers today.

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I thought Holden was sooooo sexy in this film his narrating gave me thrills...He owned this role. Now I've done my Holden watching from older to younger. I saw him in The Towering Inferno and then in Network and he was sexy then, then of course Stalag 17 and then I finally watched Sunset Boulevard-DAMN he was ozzing raw sex appeal and humanity...interesting about the morgue scenes WOW just when you think you've seen the whole movie.......

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One of the film's greatest strengths (and something no one ever seems to discuss) is that it manages to tell its story from two different points of view -- though of the same character -- at the same time: the omniscient view of the dead Joe Gillis, and the Gillis onscreen who's living his life (and deepening nightmare) unaware of what the "other" Gillis already knows. It was a wonderful, ingenious approach by Brackett & Wilder, one that makes the film as timeless and indelible as it is.

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