Phase9 Movies 2000-12

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Year: 1950
UK: BFI Collections
Cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Franklyn Farnum, Larry J Blake, Charles Dayton, Cecil B DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q Nilsson, H B Warner, Ray Evans, Jay Livingston
Director: Billy Wilder
Country: USA
UK: 111 mins
UK Certificate: PG
UK Release Date: 14 March 2003 (Limited Re-release - London only)


Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is back in a beautiful restored print of Hollywood's timeless Sunset Boulevard. Premiered in New York in December 2002, the film looks marvellous, with stunning visuals and superb sound.

Eyes flashing behind huge sunglasses, gleaming silk suits, leopard skin wraps, swishing chiffon negligees and killer heels, Norma Desmond is a spider woman, voracious and compelling. Smoking Arabian cigarettes from a unique holder, her wrists sparkle with rock crystal and diamond bracelets by Cartier. Edith Head designed a wardrobe of deliciously dramatic costumes for Gloria Swanson, the diva actress who was "every inch and every moment a star". Arching an arrogant brow or slinking down a staircase, every sinuous move is fascinating. No-one can strike a pose like Swanson.

When a handsome but broke screenwriter (William Holden) turns up at the home of a faded screen star, she sees her chance to return to the silver screen while he thinks the gravy train has arrived at last. But their relationship is increasingly twisted as her monstrous ego defies rejection from her lover and her fans.

SUNSET BOULEVARD is a magnificent combination. Holden's voice-over is a worldly mix of cynicism and poetic nostalgia. Winner of three Academy Awards in 1950, with fabulous costumes, snappy dialogue, Oscar-winning set design and a score by Franz Waxman. There is a supporting cast of Hollywood legends. Cecil B de Mille plays himself, Hedda Hopper and Buster Keaton are the "waxworks" who play cards in the crumbling mansion and Erich von Stroheim is masterly as Norma's faithful butler.

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