I had the great pleasure Friday night of seeing Sunest Blvd, one of the best crime noir movies, on a big screen in a theater with almost 200 other people.
It was all part of a local film festival. Last week’s movie was Double Indemnity and next week’s is Chinatown. Billy Wilder directed the first two and greatly influenced the third.
The discussions dwarf in size the paltry 10 or less participants I get for discussions I do at my church on movies like The Motorcycle Diaries, today’s movie, or Crash, (next month’s movie).
I first saw Sunset Blvd last year while doing a project I’d assigned myself. I wanted to become more knowledgeable about film so I bought a copy
of The A List: The National Society of Film Critics’ 100 Essential Films.
With the exception of a few films no longer available, I watched each movie and read at least one essay explaining the movie’s significance.
I was struck then and — even more amazed watching it again Friday — by the incredible acting performance of Gloria Swanson. She not only gave the performance of her lifetime, but played one of the best cinematic female tragic heroes of all time.
She was the original “drama queen.” Next time you see someone acting so high and mighty about themselves, thinking nobody but them matters, have them watch this movie, which, incidentally, came out in 1950.
During the discussion I learned two interesting tidbits. First, since the movie was an indictment of sorts of the movie industry, it was made under a fake name — A Can of Beans.
Second, the movie was originally supposed to star the busty, beautiful Mae West. West later said if she had starred in the movie, William Holden’s character would never have left her bed.
And yet Holden was given the gig only after Fred MacMurray and Montgomery Clift passed on the role.
The story itself is about an aging actress, a star of silent film, who seems unable to accept her time in the limelight is not only over, but that she is no longer the young beauty she once was.
But it’s the acting, by Swanson, Holden, and others that really make this the wonderful movie that it is. Critic Roger Ebert calls this the best film ever made about the movie industry.
Movie trivia: The final line of the movie, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” was voted the #7 movie quote of all time by the American Film Institute. And the movie’s line “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” was voted as #24.
If you have never seen this movie, you need to — there is so much in this film that influenced future stories, acting styles, and characters.