Sunset Boulevard

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(1950, directed by Billy Wilder)

- inducted 2015 –

"There were only a few decades of accumulated Hollywood history when Billy Wilder made Sunset Boulevard in 1950, but the film industry's capacity to mythologize itself was already strong, and Wilder expertly balances cynicism and nostalgia in his darkly funny noir about an aging silent-era star and the hack screenwriter she hires, seduces and ultimately destroys. William Holden's Joe Gillis happens upon Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond as she's preparing to bury her pet monkey, and he essentially becomes a replacement, letting Norma dress him, feed him and parade him around, as he ostensibly works on editing the screenplay for her comeback vehicle.

"As self-aware and jaded as Sunset Boulevard is about the movie business, it's also a celebration of cinematic grandeur, both the operatic silent films that made Norma a star and the dialogue-driven contemporary films that Joe (and Wilder himself) carefully craft. Norma famously laments that in her era, the stars 'had faces,' and Swanson's face is easily the movie's top attraction, her expressive eyebrows doing more acting than some performers manage with their entire bodies. Holden's performance is built around words, both his ever-present voiceover narration and his verbal sparring with his pals. When Joe and aspiring writer Betty Schaefer exchange self-consciously melodramatic dialogue, they're both mocking the cliches of the movies they work on and using them to enact a genuine courtship.

"That balance between self-awareness and sincerity runs through the entire movie, with Wilder's references to real-life film history (the cameos from silent stars and other classic Hollywood celebrities, Swanson and Erich von Stroheim's roles that echo their real lives) serving both as winks to the audience and tributes to the medium's pioneers. Sunset Boulevard is entertaining as a murder mystery, a tragic romance and a showbiz comedy, but its resonance comes from combining those elements with a brilliant encapsulation of Hollywood history to date."

~ Josh Bell

Principal cast: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Franklyn Farnum, Larry Blake, Charles Dayton, and featuring Cecil B. De Mille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, Ray Evans, and Jay Livingston as themselves
Screenplay by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder & D.M. Marshman
Produced by Charles Backett
Director of photography: John F. Seitz
Art direction by Hans Dreier, John Meehan
Set decoration by Sam Comer, Ray Moyer
Costume design by Edith Head
Film editing by Arthur Schmidt
Original music by Franz Waxman
Makeup by Wally Westmore (makeup supervisor), Karl Silvera (uncredited), Frank Thayer (uncredited)
Sound recordists: John Cope, Harry Lindgren
Process photography by Farciot Edouart
Special photographic effects by Gordon Jennings
Hair stylist: Nellie Manley (uncredited), Vera Tomei (uncredited)

USA
Duration: 110 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in black and white
Sound mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

Produced and released in USA by Paramount Pictures
Premiered in New York City, NY on 10 August 1950

Awards and honors:
- National Film Registry selection, 1989
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” 27 June 1999
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black and White (won)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Motion Picture – Drama (won)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Motion Picture Director, Billy Wilder (won)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama, Gloria Swanson (won)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Motion Picture Score (won)
- WGA Awards, Writers Guild of America, 1950: Best Written American Drama (won)
- National Board of Review, 1950: Best Film (won)
- National Board of Review, 1950: Best Actress, Gloria Swanson (won)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Picture (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Director, Billy Wilder (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Actress in a Leading Role, Gloria Swanson (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Actor in a Leading Role, William Holden (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Erich von Stroheim (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Nancy Olson (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Cinematography, Black and White (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1950: Best Film Editing (nominated)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Supporting Actor, Erich von Stroheim (nominated)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Screenplay (nominated)
- Golden Globes, 1950: Best Cinematography, Black and White (nominated)
- DGA Awards, Directors Guild of America, 1950: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Billy Wilder (nominated)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1950: Best Film (2nd place)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1950: Best Director, Billy Wilder (3rd place)
- NYFCC Award, New York Film Critics Circle, 1950: Best Actress, Gloria Swanson (3rd place)
- National Board of Review, 1950: One of the Top Ten Films of 1950