Why I Love “Sunset Boulevard”

What hasn’t already been said Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950)? This exploration into the dark side of desperation, fame, and fortune in Hollywood is a masterwork in all regards. It’s currently at number 16 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years…100 Movies” ranking, among its placement on other prestigious lists. And after having recently seen it again on the big screen thanks to both the TCM Classic Film Festival and the TCM Big Screen Classics series, I was reminded (as if I had forgotten…not) how much I love this film.

Here’s a little photo essay about why I love Sunset Boulevard.

I love the opening scene which perfectly sets the tone for the film.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

I love the witty and snarky narration of the Joe Gillis character, perfectly interpreted by William Holden.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

I am simultaneously creeped out and delighted by Gloria Swanson’s brilliant performance as faded silent film star Norma Desmond.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

I am haunted and fascinated by Norma Desmond’s decrepit mansion, inside and out.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

And I’m just utterly disgusted by the disingenuous and terrible relationship of Joe and Norma (and isn’t that the point?).

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

I love the perfect composition of every shot in the film.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

I love how quotable the movie is. Some of my famous favorites:

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”

“Funny, how gentle people get with you once you’re dead.”

I am heartbroken by Erich von Stroheim’s performance as Max, Norman Desmond’s butler (and ex-husband and the last, sole member of her fan club).

Image ©️Paramount Pictures

I love the intersection of fact and fiction with the real people playing themselves (Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, etc.) interspersed with the fictional characters.

Cecil B. DeMille and Gloria Swanson on the set of SUNSET BOULEVARD. Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

Nancy Olson’s performance as Betty is the perfect balance of youthful optimism and unbridled ambition.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

Norma’s full descent into madness after killing Joe is both devastating and breathtaking. Hedda Hopper’s face says it all.

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

And one final quote: “And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after Salome we’ll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark! All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

Image ©️ Paramount Pictures

Happy 40th Birthday to “Grease”

Not wanting to make anyone feel old (myself included), but can you believe that Grease has been the word for 40 years?

After making its debut in movie theaters in the summer of 1978, Grease, directed by Randal Kleiser and based on the hit Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is still one of the world’s all-time favorite Hollywood musicals. To celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary, Paramount Pictures, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), and Fathom Events are screening this raunchy and revered film across the U.S.A. this week as part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series (ticket info is here.). Paramount is also releasing a new 40th anniversary edition of the film on Blu-ray, Digital, and 4K Ultra HD on April 24.

Hot off of the 1977 mega hit film Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta was able to show off more dance moves and his great comedic timing as leading man and supposed tough guy Danny. And making her film debut was country singer Olivia Newton-John as the innocent and lovestruck Australian transfer student Sandy. The chemistry between the two stars is clearly one of the contributors of the film’s lasting appeal, not to mention the outstanding supporting cast of Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway, Eve Arden, Dody Goodman, Joan Blondell, Sid Caesar, Frankie Avalon, and others.

Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) try to keep their summer fling alive while navigating the vicissitudes of their high school cliques in GREASE. (Image ©️ Paramount Pictures)

But I think it’s the music that keeps Grease alive. The film’s soundtrack was a monster hit. From the unforgettable opening fanfare of the title track (written with a disco vibe by the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb and sung with perfection by Frankie Valli; check out this awesome YouTube clip below of Valli performing the song in 1978 on the TV dance show Soul Train), to Olivia Newton-John/Sandy crooning about her hopeless devotion to John Travolta/Danny, to the whole gang singing their hearts out about their forever friendship even after high school graduation, the soundtrack is non-stop nostalgia and fun.

Here’s the film’s original trailer from 1978.

As an added bonus, here’s the film’s original one-sheet poster, also from 1978.

Original 1978 theatrical poster. (Image ©️ Paramount Pictures)

Enjoy Grease again on the big screen and at home this month. And remember, as Eve Arden/Principal McGee says, “if you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.”