Sunset Boulevard

(USA 1950)

Stars are ageless, aren’t they? I’ve known about Sunset Boulevard my whole life– who hasn’t? I can’t believe it took me so long to see it. Delightfully campy, everything about it is ridiculous: the soap opera story, the narration, the sets– that crazy Addams Family mansion and tacky leopard-lined car, oh my!– the overacting, the facial expressions, and the diction. So off the charts. And of course the cast of crackpot characters– not just Joan Crawford, I mean Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) but Joe Gillis (William Holden), Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson), Max (Erich Von Stroheim), even the repo men who take their job way too seriously (Larry J. Blake and Charles Dayton). I didn’t know Cecil B. DeMille played himself. The drama of it all!

Hearing famous lines that have become part of everyday vernacular– “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small” and “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup” in particular– made me giddy. Nonetheless, I doubt I could sit through Sunset Boulevard again; it’s just not that great a film. But it was perfect for a flight to L.A.

In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed Sunset Boulevard “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).

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