Sunday, March 1, 2015


(Post 1 of 50)

Sunset Boulevard
Norma descends the stairs

I've watched (and re-watched) a lot of the classics from Hollywood's Golden Age (The period I generously define as starting during the early days of talkies and running until the early 60's) since I've started this blog. However, I find that there are a lot of films from this era that I still haven't gotten around to watching (or re-watching) in that time. So, I'm just going to bite the bullet and try to watch fifty of them in a row. Some will be from the 1001 lists and some won't. And since this was such a golden era for supporting players, I will give my Elisha Cook Jr. award for supporting players for each movie mostly because I enjoy doing it. 

And what better movie to start this these posts than with than the Billy Wilder classic  
Sunset Boulevard?

The story of the over-the-hill movie the star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her kept young man (William Holden) is part film noir, part Hollywood tell-all, part horror movie sprinkled with just a dash of camp. Wilder and Charles Brackett's screenplay is smart and sharp and the casting of the three leads (Erich Von Stoehim being the third) is perfect.

I admit that this film does make me think of the Carol Burnett skits that featured Burnett (as Norma) and Harvey Korman (as Max). Some may also think of Glenn Close's turn as Norma on Broadway in the musical version of the story. Or might make you think of a drag queen performing as Norma Desmond at a club near you. 

Regardless, Sunset Boulevard in its original form is a must see for any movie buff.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Erich Von Stroheim. I'm going with the obvious choice for the award on this one. Erich's career follows an interesting trajectory with the fictional Max. Erich was a great silent film director (like Max), even directing Gloria Swanson in a couple of films. Erich's career bottomed out after talkies (also like Max's). Though Erich was relegated to B-films instead of becoming a servant. But Sunset Boulevard was a great role for him and his absolute devotion to Norman Desmond is a chilling yet sad testament to misguided loyalty.

"Madame is the greatest star of them all"


  1. Von Stroheim was a great supporting actor in general. Far better than a director. La Grande Illusion is another good example. Did you ever watch "Greed"? In full length or as close at it is possible? It makes you really question the man's judgement.

  2. I haven't seen Greed yet, but am familiar with the story of how it was edited down from a long epic to a film that didn't make much sense. I was planning to read the source book McTeague before I tackled the movie.

  3. As a director, one might sum up that Von Stroheim had an attention to detail :) But yes, as an actor, he was one of early cinema's greats.

  4. Looking forward to your »50 shades of gold«!