Gloria’s Swansong

/ Movies /

I opened this post to say something about Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, 1950: with William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

Sunset Boulevard
thanx eskimo

i hate what I’ve scribbled so far, will restart

I wanted to make a complex point real quick. I thought I’d make it comparing my reaction to the film in 1950 or ’51, again in my adulthood, and again now in my old age: but now I see I don’t have to: Roger Ebert’s review lays much of my foundation for me. Now I can relax, make my point, scrapbook stye, at my leisure.

Point one: a corpse in a pool, Holden’s Joe Gillis, is our narrator. Broke, fleeing repo men he limps the car he doesn’t own into a mansion’s garage. He, an abject failure, dismisses the inhabitants of the mansion and their wealth. We learn that part of his devaluation is earned, part is jealousy, ignorance, stupidity, inexperience. Age twelve I accepted the Gillis narrator’s view as adequate, ditto as a young adult, age thirty or so; but no longer. Now I’m in rebellion against its glibness. This is going to take time after all.

The Gloria Swanson character, Norma Desmond, is presented as washed up, not as a great star retired. Max, the servant, is presented as a stiff kraut fool; not as one of the great movie legends. Von Stroheim couldn’t have been better as Max.

Norma Desmond looked good in silents? Gloria Swanson looks great in this film! Old?? She’s fifty-something, looks fabulous: which doesn’t mean she’s suitable for a cheerleader movie, a surf film; no, she’s an adult, appreciate it. Narrating through William Holden is like replacing MIT with a cage of gerbils. If you think fifty is old, you can’t follow this.

The movie does though show Norma Desmond as washed up when she visits Paramont, interrupts deMille, hasn’t a clue about the interest in her car … That still doesn’t make Joe Gillis anything but a fool.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is a great movie. Betty Davis’s Baby Jane is washed up, is entirely delusional. Norma Desmond is partly delusional.

Unimportant points:
Pools were rare in 1950, very swank: pools are how my father’s best friend made his second and third several millions: the new post-war luxury. But Hollywood stars already had them: and this is Sunset Blvd.

Now I can’t wait to show more von Stroheim to Jan: Grand Illusion! And then we’ll have to seek movies he directed, was the auteur. Be sure to read his bio, linked above.

Grand Illusion
thanx filmposters

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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