SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SunsetBlvd

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) A PARAMOUNT PICTURE. DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. STARRING GLORIA SWANSON, WILLIAM HOLDEN, ERICH VON STROHEIM AND NANCY OLSON. ALSO FEATURING CECIL B. DEMILLE, HEDDA HOPPER AND BUSTER KEATON AS THEMSELVES. COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Say, don’t I know you from someplace? Aren’t you Norma Desmond, the silent movie star? Didn’t you used to be big?’

Joseph Gillis.

‘I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.’

Norma Desmond.

‘They (the silent movie stars) had the eyes of the world back then. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted the ears as well. So they opened their mouths, and what came out? Talk, talk, talk…!’

Norma Desmond.

‘We didn’t need words back then. We had faces!’

Norma Desmond.

This magnificent film lost out on the Best Picture Oscar for that year to ALL ABOUT EVE, another excellent film. SUNSET BOULEVARD should have won, but some of the bigwigs in Hollywood weren’t exactly thrilled at the way their precious industry was portrayed as being so cynically soul-destroying and merciless towards the stars it routinely chewed up and spat out, and also ruthlessly dismissive of its older, washed-up stars. If you were hot, you were hot, and if you were not, well then, goodbye for ever and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Still, we know SUNSET BOULEVARD should’ve won the Best Picture Oscar and that’s what matters.

Beefcake William Holden does a stellar job as Joe McGillis, the hack writer who keeps trying to write that bestselling Hollywood film script that’ll make his name and keep him in clover for the rest of his days. At the moment, however, all his ideas are dull and derivative and he’s up to his cojones in debt, because Hollywood doesn’t pay you for rubbish script ideas, only for good solid polished script ideas, see?

Joe has just about decided to throw in the towel and return home to Dayton, Ohio, where he’ll go back to working for the local rag and live out his working life reporting on Bonnie Baby beauty contests and charity bring and buy sales, when a strange thing happens.

Whilst fleeing from a pair of heavies who want to re-possess his jalopy, he accidentally finds himself in the grounds of a fabulous but decaying old Hollywood mansion from the ‘Twenties, the kind of house that was built by the super-rich silent movie stars of bygone years for them to enjoy their wonderfully privileged lifestyles in.

Swimming pool, deserted now, ruined tennis court, unswept deserted courtyard. Joe is inclined to think that the queer but fascinating place has actually been abandoned when a strange female figure appears from behind a curtain and imperiously bids him to hurry up and get his arse inside. He’s just been mistaken for a monkey-undertaker (that’s right, you heard me, lol!), and he’s also just had his first experience of Norma Desmond, star of the golden era of the silent screen…

Norma Desmond is rude, haughty, selfish and self-obsessed. She lives in her crumbling mansion surrounded by framed photographs of herself in her hey-day and the memorabilia of her long-lost film career, including a home cinema on which she never tires of playing her old movies. Talk about narcissism.

She’s all alone but for a solemn little foreign man called Max who carries out her every wish and whim, no matter how ludicrous. Max has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide from ‘Madame’ the fact that her legions of fans have not only deserted her, but forgotten her as well. He’s an enabler to Norma’s sick visions of herself as still a huge star.

It would have been kinder altogether to let her know the real truth about her washed-up career twenty years ago, but Norma’s so used to thinking of herself as Queen of the Cinema Screen that maybe Max feels that the shock of a good hard dose of reality might actually kill her. Well, he should know. After all, he’s her butler, ex-husband and the film director who discovered her, all rolled into one obliging package, lol.

This is the bizarre household in which Joe finds himself suddenly embroiled. Madame takes an enormous liking to Joe, the prime slice of ‘Fifties beefcake, and immediately hires him to live in her house and edit a long messy screenplay she’s written, with herself in the starring role of Salome.

She has every intention of presenting it to her old director, Cecil B. DeMille, when it’s finished. It’ll be her comeback film, even though she hates that word, lol (she prefers ‘return’), and it will be humongous. The notion of a comeback is entirely in her own head, by the way, and everyone but Norma knows it, even the mysterious little Max.

Joe soon finds himself rapidly becoming more than just an editor to the delusional Norma. He’s her gigolo now too, her toyboy, her plaything, and with every gift of cufflinks, gold cigarette cases and vicuna coats she buys him, he feels worse about himself. (What’s a vicuna, by the way? Does anyone know? Is it an animal or summat?) Norma has bought him lock, stock and barrel, and they both know it, and their card-playing friends (the waxworks) know it too.

Worst of all, he gives up writing altogether and just gives in to this meaningless lifestyle of indolence and luxury. Just look at the most uncomfortable New Years’ Eve party ever at Norma’s house! This is his life now, and how sad it is too.

In case you guys think all this indolence and luxury sounds terrific, and nice work if you can get it, etc, hear ye this. Anyone with a gift for writing, or indeed painting, playing music or running very, very fast, can’t just squash this gift into an old biscuit tin and slam a lid on it. It will out, like a plague of zombies under the stairs.

Joe’s real gift for writing ‘outs’ when a pretty young reader of scripts for Paramount Pictures, Betty Schaefer, encourages him to re-write a tired old script of his into something new and vibrantly exciting. He enters into this project with Betty with great enthusiasm, but their writing sessions have of necessity to be a secret from the jealous and possessive Norma.

Norma, you see, has a disturbing habit of harming herself, or even just threatening to, every time Joe’s five minutes late coming back from ‘t’ privy. Max and now Joe have got to watch her pretty closely because of it, just like Norma is watching Joe. What a strange, uncomfortably paranoid household it is!

It’s not like Norma wouldn’t have any reason to be jealous, either. Pretty soon, the sparks flying between Joe and Betty are enough to ignite a fire on the Paramount lot where they meet in secret, in Betty’s little office.

But there are two things standing in the way of their happiness. One thing is Joe’s own hatred of himself for submitting to being Norma’s kept man. After all, he could have said no, couldn’t he, if he wasn’t so morally weak and detestable in his own eyes? The other thing, of course, is Norma Desmond herself…

There are so many iconic scenes to single out for praise. I adore the monkey burial ceremony, carried out in the dead of night ‘with all the solemnity of a state funeral.’ Also, Buster Keaton and two other stars of the silent era, Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner, playing cards (bridge?) with Norma while Joe looks on, bored, emptying the ashtray when Norma tells him to like a good, obedient little stud. (H.B. Warner, by the way, plays Mr. Gower who clouts George Bailey over the ear in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!)

Then there’s Cecil B. DeMille, resplendent in his riding boots, playing himself when Norma makes her first visit to Paramount Studios since her career as a silent film star ended, and the uncomfortable scenes where poor Norma undergoes a series of gruelling ‘beauty treatments’ in order to look young and beautiful for her big ‘comeback.’

The poor, poor woman. It’s all an illusion, a big rip-off. Being boiled, squeezed into bandages and made to look like a gimp-slash-mummy will not lead to her appearing one iota younger or feeling a jot happier.

(Joan Crawford goes through the same ridiculous tortures in the film MOMMIE DEAREST). It’s hard for women to look at these scenes when we’re fully aware that Norma’s only fooling herself. How out of pocket would she have been as well?

Her final scenes- ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille’- are pretty damned near heart-breaking to witness. Oh Norma, poor poor Norma. Has she cracked under the strain of it all? And will Joe find the courage to walk away from all that lovely money for ever, to live as an impoverished script-writer with the real love of his life, Betty Schaefer? You’ll have to watch this legendary movie for yourselves to find out, folks. Enjoy your stroll down Sunset Boulevard…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

WHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white christmas movieWHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) A PARAMOUNT VISTAVISION MOVIE. MUSIC BY IRVING BERLIN. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL CURTIZ. STARRING BING CROSBY, DANNY KAYE, ROSEMARY CLOONEY, VERA-ELLEN, DEAN JAGGER AND MARY WICKES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I once passed up the chance to buy Picasso’s GUERNICA for a song. Luckily that song was WHITE CHRISTMAS and I made billions…!’

Mr. Burns from THE SIMPSONS.

If you don’t cry when Bing Crosby sings WHITE CHRISTMAS in this beloved holiday favourite, then you’re a cold unfeeling monster. Either that, or you’ve had your tear ducts surgically removed for some reason, if there ever is a valid reason to have that particular procedure done, haha.

WHITE CHRISTMAS was the biggest-selling film of 1954 by miles and miles and miles and it was the first film to ever be released in VistaVision, a special kind of widescreen format developed by Paramount. Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s beautiful song, WHITE CHRISTMAS, is still to this day the best-selling song of all time. Whaddya mean, what about AGADOO…? To hell with AGADOO…!

The plot is simple enough. It’s the songs that are magic. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two old army buddies who, after serving their time together in World War Two, become famous song-and-dance entertainers and big-shot producers.

When they hear that their old wartime General, a chap called Thomas F. Waverly, is having difficulties making his post-retirement career of hotel owner work out due to lack of holiday snow and guests, Bing as Captain Bob Wallace and Danny as Private Phil Davis come up with a cunning plan.

Aiming to both fill the hotel with guests and prove to the ageing General that he hasn’t been forgotten about by all the men who cheerfully served under him, they bring their own show to the old guy’s hotel for Christmas. A nationwide appeal on the Ed Harrison television show is all the free advertising they need.

Stunning blonde sisters Betty and Judy, aka the Haynes sisters, form a very important part of the lads’ show with their own song-and-dance act. The two sisters fall, wholly expectedly(!), in love with the lads and vice versa. You can see it coming a mile off, lol. There’d be something badly wrong if they didn’t fall for each other, like Irish Guards and teachers on a boozy night out in Copperface Jack’s. (Local joke, you guys won’t get it…!)

But the path of true love never does run smooth, and it certainly doesn’t in this case. Will Cupid’s arrow strike the right people at the right time and in the right places, or will the love affairs between the lads and the perky-bosomed, wasp-waisted ladettes go the same way as the General’s snow-free holiday lodge? You’ll have to watch the movie to find that out, folks…!

Magic moments, for me, are all musical ones. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen doing SISTERS with those fabulous blue dresses and huge fans. Bing and Danny doing a send-up of this exact song in their own personalised costumes.

Bing singing WHITE CHRISTMAS, and Rosemary Clooney crooning LOVE, YOU DIDN’T DO RIGHT BY ME in that dress! It’s a little black number, designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head, one of the earliest true fashionistas.

There’s a sassy little silver brooch or clip on the tushy that draws attention to Ms. Clooney’s fabulous hourglass figure, as if it needed it(!), and the sultry smokiness in her voice is sexier than anything Marilyn Monroe could have come up with. The whole number is sheer sizzling dynamite. Or, as Craig Revel-Horwood from STRICTLY COME DANCING would put it… ‘One word, darling. A-MAZ-ING…!’

Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen doing THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE DANCING is fantastic fun too. Vera-Ellen was a tremendously good dancer. Other memorable songs include COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS INSTEAD OF SHEEP, SNOW, GEE I WISH I WAS BACK IN THE ARMY and the rousing (WE’LL FOLLOW) THE OLD MAN (WHEREVER HE WANTS TO GO), a genuinely touching tribute to how much the army lads love their Old Man Waverly.

Of course, no-one ever spares a thought for the poor wives, children, parents, friends and other assorted relatives who are abandoned willy-nilly on Christmas Eve by the soldiers of the 151st Division, who are all hot-footing it to Vermont to help out their old gaffer on Bing Crosby’s say-so. To those sad, lonely people, I have only this to say. Suck it up, saddos! Do it for Bing and the Old Man…

white christmas moviewhite christmas movie

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor