Blogathons, Tributes To Classic Stars

The Bill & Myrna New Year’s Blogathon: Why I Adore This Couple

Bill and myrna blogathon

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and Emily at The Flapper Dame are hosting this blogathon all about William Powell and Myrna Loy. Be sure to visit their sites to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.  

I’ve decided to write a piece about why William Powell and Myrna Loy are my favourite screen couple. I’m also going to write about a few of my favourite scenes which feature them together in some of the films they made. 

Elegance, effortless, funny, and warm are just a few of the words that instantly spring into my mind whenever I hear the names Myrna Loy and William Powell. 

Whether they are playing the loveable, and oh so elegant, Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man series, or whether they are playing very different characters in other films; William Powell and Myrna Loy always end up making the perfect on screen couple.

They bring life and a great deal of warmth to their characters. I think the qualities that they bring to their characters are really what makes me like them both so much.

This screen duo are my favourite classic era screen couple. Why do I love them so much? Well, sit back, and let me tell you why. 

My main reason for loving them both so much is because they had such incredible chemistry with one another. When Powell and Loy look into each others eyes, you can see the love, the affection, and the passion that their characters had going on for one another.

They make you really believe that their characters are completely in love with one another, and also that they really cared deeply about one another.  Chemistry like that can’t be faked, you either have it or you don’t, it’s that simple. These two sure had chemistry.

I also really like how they don’t outshine one another on screen. They both get their chance to shine equally in the films they made together. They are a true screen team, and they work together perfectly. I can think of no one else in the roles of Nick and Nora in The Thin Man, other than these two. They are the perfect screen duo in those films, and they play these characters in a way that I just can’t imagine other actors having been able to do. 

I also admire Powell and Loy because they had such perfect comic timing. They made everything they did on screen appear natural and effortless. They were also both very adept at both physical and verbal comedy. Their comedy skills certainly came in handy in their most famous film collaborations that of The Thin Man film series.

I also love them because seeing their double act always makes me smile. They are a film duo who I just can’t help but be cheered up by. I also consider them to be a huge source of comfort during times of illness or sadness. I say that because seeing them together in films always manages to get me to smile.

In the Thin Man films they brought their characters to life so well. They made us feel the incredibly strong bond of love and friendship that Nick and Nora had. I especially like how they convey this through their facial expressions, and also through the look in their eyes. They make us see that these two had such strong trust and belief in one another.

Powell and Loy made us realise that Nick and Nora would never cheat on one another, that they had a great deal of fun together, that they loved and desired one another, and most important of all that one could never live happily without the other.

I also like how Nick and Nora are not just lovers, but they are also soulmates and friends. They have fun together and want to be a part of the others life. If only all romantic relationships could be like theirs.

                            Here are a few of my favourite Powell and Loy film scenes.

From The Thin Man (1934)

1- Where they both look at each other and wrinkle up their faces and noses. This scene is both funny and sweet because any other woman who walked in on her husband holding another woman would most likely freak out. These two on the other hand both know it’s totally harmless, and they have a bit of a joke about it. Love the way they both do the wrinkled face look. 🙂 Adorable and so very funny.

2- The very funny and sweet scene where they discuss their Christmas presents. Powell is hysterical in the way he plays Nick in this scene. I especially love the bit where he is playing target practice with the new gun Nora brought him.

I love how the look on Loy’s face when she looks over at Powell in this scene; it’s like Nora is looking at Nick with an expression that seems as though she is thinking “oh, here we go again. The boy just has to play with the toy”. Cracks me up every time.

I also love that Nora is really loving the fur coat that Nick bought her, and she refuses to take it off, even though their apartment is really warm. I love how they are both just living in the moment, and are very happy with one another, and really admiring their new presents. 

Bill and Myrna 2

After The Thin Man (1936)

I love the scene where Nick finally realises that Nora is pregnant. I just love how Powell plays this scene. He goes from being happy and relieved that they are finally alone and together again. He says “I don’t need anything in the world except you. And a toothbrush.” Aww!

Then he sees that little baby sock that Nora is knitting. He looks up at her beaming face and finally realises what’s going on.

The way they look at each then with such love and happiness, and then how they lean in and kiss gets me every time. I love how content and happy Loy makes Nora in this scene, she is positively beaming with joy and looks radiant. This is the most adorable scene ever!  🙂 They both melt my heart in this scene.  

 Libeled Lady (1936)

The scene in the garden where she asks him if he has been proposed to much. I love it because it is a role reversal with the woman asking the man to marry her. I also love it because of how sweet Powell and Loy are in this scene. I love how depressed and anxious she is at first, and he notices this and asks her what’s wrong. Then the mood soon changes, and it is so sweet and uplifting when they both look at each other and see how much they love one another. Love it when he accepts her and they lean in and kiss. 

Well, they were just a few of my favourite Powell and Loy moments. What are some of your favourites? Please share them below. 

To sum up then, Powell and Loy always come across to me on screen as being a real married couple. Their affection for one another was the real thing and I think that it really shows on screen. They were pure movie magic. I for one will never get tired of watching them. 

Happy New Year all. Please raise a glass of champagne with me, not only to see in 2018, but to also toast the talents of William Powell and Myrna Loy!

Thank you both for all the joy you have brought to so many classic film fans. Thank you for your perfect timing, and thanks for your beautiful chemistry. Thanks for the laughter and for the romance.

R.I.P to you both. You are both greatly missed.  x 

 

 

 

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Book Chat

Ava: A Life In Movies by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski

Photo0190My most treasured gift this Christmas has been this beautiful book about Ava Gardner. It is a glossy book focusing on her film career. It also discusses her early years (which I found most interesting)and her private life.

Some information featured in it I already knew about, but there was much revealed here that I wasn’t aware of. I also learnt a great deal more about her early years, and how she started out as an MGM starlet. 

The book includes so many beautiful photos of Ava, many of which are new to me. The book is worth buying for the photos alone.

Ava’s personality comes through strongly in this book. I have always liked Ava because she was her own person. She was kind, fun, outgoing and she did her own thing. Ava was a free spirit and was someone who was very down to earth, despite her worldwide fame and position in life.

She treated everyone the same; be they cast or crew, adoring fans, or simply an ordinary person who she met by chance. I also like how Ava treated black and white people equally and had many black friends in a time when racism was rife. This book made me like her even more than I already did.

The book also conveys how deeply insecure and shy Ava was. She didn’t think much of her acting talents, and she was also a very private woman who didn’t like media attention. 

Kendra and Anthony have clearly done their research and it really shows. The book is not only beautiful to look at, but is also a very interesting and entertaining read. The book captures the woman behind the beautiful and glamourous screen image and helps bring her to life. I also really like how they focused more on her film performances and acting ability than on her personal life. They show us that there was more to this woman than just her good looks and highly publicised personal life. 

This would make a perfect gift  for fans of Ava, or for someone who loves classic film. The way this book has been put together means it’s ideal to read in a group. You can gather together and flick through the book, lay it out on a table and look through it.

Physically it is a very glossy and high quality book. I highly recommend this one to fans of Ava.

Oh, and be sure to go and stop by Kendra’s beautiful blog Viv and Larry.com to learn more about Vivien Leigh and her husband Laurence Olivier. 

 

Blogathons, Coming Of Age, Drama, Page To Screen

The Inspirational Hero Blogathon: To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Inspirational Heroes Blogathon 2

The Midnite Drive-In and Hamlette’s Soliloquy are hosting this blogathon all about inspirational film heroes. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

Heroes can come in many forms. They can be people who sacrifice themselves to save the lives of others. They can be people who make a stand against evil and injustice. Or they could be fantastic superheroes who make it their mission in life to help others.

I’m writing about a character who is simply an ordinary man who ends up becoming an everyday hero. Personally I think this type of hero is actually one of the greatest because they make small, day to day changes that can end up having a real lasting effect on others. This screen hero is someone who really inspires me. The character is Atticus Finch (shown in the banner image above) as played in the film by Gregory Peck.  

Atticus has shown me that it is those little day to day actions we do that can help to change the world. Those actions can also help to change the unpleasant attitudes seen around us. Be kind and decent to those you meet, help those in need, and above all else always have the courage to stay away from a mob mentality and just stay true to your moral principles every day.

Atticus is a moral man, a kind man, a gentle man, and he is also a single father just trying to raise his children right. Atticus makes a stand against the cruelty and absolute stupidity that is racism. He treats everyone as equal (no matter what the colour of their skin, or regardless of their station in life). He is someone with characteristics within him that I think we really should all aspire to have within ourselves.  

Atticus doesn’t care if he gets attacked, he also doesn’t care if he loses his reputation in his community, he only cares about doing what is right. I think that is pretty inspirational. Given the time and the place this film is set in, Atticus’s actions really are extremely brave, he could have been hurt or killed for helping someone who wasn’t white.  

In 1960, Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird was published. The novel was inspired in part by Harper’s own childhood. The character of Atticus was based upon her own father, Amasa Coleman Lee who himself was a lawyer. The character of Dill was based upon Harper’s friend Truman Capote. The novel is one of my favourites and I love the characters and the story.

The novel strongly put across its message of treating others as they should be treated, with kindness, respect and dignity. The message found within it is to treat others as you want to be treated, and while you’re at it, try and imagine what someone else is enduring in their life by putting yourself in their shoes.  

The book and its inspirational message translated very well I think onto the big screen. The film was made in 1962. Gregory Peck(or as I like to call him, the go to good guy of classic era Hollywood 🙂 ) was cast in the lead role of the morally decent Atticus. It was a perfect casting choice, as Peck was a very decent and good man in real life. Peck ended up winning an Oscar for his very memorable performance in this film.

The film is also a coming of age tale told entirely through the eyes of children. By showing everything from their point of view, I think that the lines between good and evil become glaringly obvious. We see how a cranky old man can seem like a scary old monster, how a supposed monster can be nothing of the sort, or how an ordinary father can end up being the greatest hero of all.

The six year old daughter of Aticus Finch is Scout(Mary Badham)the story is mainly told through her eyes, and those of her older brother Jem(Phillip Alford) and their neighbour Dell(John Megna).

Southern lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a single parent. He is raising his two children alone following their mothers death. He raises them both to be kind and respectful of others. He is helped in his task by the loyal Calpurnia (Estelle Evans)who treats the children as her own. She and Atticus are respectful of one another and she isn’t afraid to discipline the children if they have been rude or bad.

Atticus is asked to defend a black farmer called Tom Robinson(Brock Peters)who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell(Collin Wilcox)a white woman. Atticus stands up for Tom against the angry town residents who all immediately think that he is guilty of the crime. Atticus risks his reputation in his community by defending Tom when the case goes to trial. In doing so he teaches his children about moral courage and strength, and he shows that some things are worth risking your own life and situation in life for.

Brock Peters is nothing less than breathtaking as Tom. His face conveys the multitude of emotions that Tom is going through during the trial. We feel his fear and his anger, and we also get to see his dignity and hope too. It is comforting that for a time he had Atticus on his side.

Although (very sadly given the time and place it’s set in)the outcome of the trial is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the all white jury; never the less, the sight of Atticus making his plea to the jury is one of the most powerful, moving and unforgettable scenes in film history. 

The way Atticus delivers that famous speech never fails to get me when I watch this. He makes such an effort to get through to every person in that courtroom with his words. Peck delivers his dialogue in that scene so passionately that he makes you feel Atticus’s powerful words.

I also always find it extremely moving how all the black people in the public gallery all stand in respect for Atticus at the end of the trial. Justice may not have been done, but these people respect and appreciate him for going above and beyond what was expected of him in order to try and defend Tom.

Photo0180

Atticus Finch fights for Tom with all of his heart, and in doing so, he reminds his community (and also us)that we are all equal. In a court of law we should all be treated equally and justly regardless of our skin colour, gender, or our social situation. 

Gregory Peck is absolutely superb as the decent lawyer who always tries to do the right thing. His performance is all in the eyes and in his body language. This character screams decency and strength and Peck portrays these things so well on screen.

I especially love Peck in the scene where Mr. Ewell spits in Atticus’s face. When Ewell does this he flinches because it looks for a moment because he thinks that Atticus is about to hit him, but he doesn’t and in refraining from doing so actually gains the moral high ground over Ewell in that moment.

Peck is excellent in that scene because you can see the anger and disgust building up on his face and you can see how hard he is restraining himself from striking out at Ewell, but he simply won’t permit himself to sink to his level. This scene is witnessed by Scout and Jem and it is a moment that won’t be easily forgotten.

Mary Badham and Philip Alford are excellent as the children, they have a genuine bond and Alford does a very good job of showing us this boy is having to grow up fast. I like how Jem is protective of his sister. Badham plays Scout as a tomboy and as someone who is all curiosity, delight, and who is fearless.

I like how the film is both a look at some serious adult and moral issues, but is also a children’s story. There is adventure, fun and joy to be enjoyed alongside the more serious plot line. I also like how the children don’t have the same attitudes as the adults, they are more open and honest and they don’t understand some of the things going on around them. 

There is fine support from Brock Peters as the ill fated Tom. Brock makes your heart break for the injustice his character is going through and you can feel his growing anger and terror.

Collin Wilcox is excellent as the accuser of Tom Robinson, her explosive outburst in court is intense. James Anderson is also very memorable as the despicable father of Mayella. A very young Robert Duvall has a memorable appearance towards the end of the film as the gentle (and much misunderstood)Boo Radley. John Megna is funny as the curious Dill. Estelle Evans is excellent as Calpurnia, I love her in the scene where she really lays into Scout for being rude to a guest because of how he eats.

The brilliant character actor Paul Fix also appears as the judge preceding over Tom’s trial. Much like Atticus it is suggested through Fix’s performance that the judge isn’t happy with the racism, nor with the direction that the trial and verdict take, but that he is powerless to do anything about it, despite being in a position of authority and law.

The title sequence to this film is very clever and is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It shows us a child drawing, and we see a collection of objects in a box. Over this sequence we hear a child humming, and then the beautiful lullaby like score by Elmer Bernstein kicks in. It is simple and beautiful, and also very moving (and we haven’t even started the story yet!). Bernstein’s score for this film is so unlike his Western scores, and I think it was one of the best pieces of music that he ever composed.

My favourite scenes are the following. The swing scene between Atticus and Scout. All the courtroom scenes. Scout asking Jem questions about their mum and Atticus being shown to have been listening in on the conversation. The children daring one another to near the Radley porch. Calpurnia telling Scout off for making fun of the way a guest at their house eats dinner. The children saving Atticus from the mob gathering outside the jail. Atticus’s reaction to being spat at. Scout and Atticus talking about her fighting, and about why he is defending Tom. Jem sitting in the car getting scared by Mr. Ewell. The scene where Boo comes to see Scout.

This is a film that I love a great deal. I think that it more than deserves all the praise and acclaim it has received over the years. This is a beautiful film that has an important message at its heart.  I hope that the character of Atticus continues to inspire people to be morally courageous, and also to stand up to hatred and injustice as he did. 

Given the sad state our world is in today, I think that all people should read Harper Lee’s novel and watch this film. The issues and themes present in this story are still very relevant in our society today. I think that it’s a crying shame that in 2017 humanity has progressed so much, in so many areas, yet it still has so far to go when it comes to treating everyone the same and putting aside silly prejudices such as skin colour or sexual orientation. 

What do you think of the film? Any comments about Gregory Peck’s performance?

 

 

 

Personal

Merry Christmas To You All

I just want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope you have a lovely day. I hope that the jolly man with the white beard, and the bright red suit, leaves you those special gifts which you’ve longed for all year. 🙂

I hope you enjoy spending time with family and friends. However you are celebrating Christmas this year, I sincerely hope that you have a fantastic time. 

We have quite a bit of snow here in the UK right now. We haven’t had it fall this deep for some years. It really is shaping up to be a white Christmas I think. 

I want to say a big thank you to you all for sticking with both me and my blog. Your comments, support, and likes mean a great deal to me. I hope I’ve introduced you to a few classics that you were not aware of before. 

I hope that 2018 brings you all health and happiness. I’m personally hoping that next year proves to be much better than this one has. I have a chronic health condition which impacts the quality of my daily life. This year (particularly the last few months)my symptoms have increased a bit which isn’t good.  I’m hoping things get better in the New Year. 

I have had an increase in followers, site visits, and post views over the last couple of months. This is incredible to me, as I never expected so many people to actually check out my blog when I started it back in February of this year. 

The following posts are a few that I’ve really enjoyed writing this year. Please click on any of the film titles if you would like to read one of the posts.

Taking A Walk Through The Dark Alley Of Film Noir

Forbidden Games

Odds Against Tomorrow 

Mr. Skeffington 

Appreciating Silent Films

Sunset Blvd 

Grand Hotel 

The Twilight Zone 

The Big Heat 

Fahrenheit 451

Stay tuned for news of an upcoming blogathon that I am co-hosting in February!

Hopefully I’ll have some more reviews and film discussion on the way between now and Christmas.  🙂 

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all. 

Maddy x 

 

 

 

 

Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics In Need Of Watching: Part 1

Anyone who loves cinema will no doubt have their own list of films which they love, but which nobody else ever seems to have heard of.

I’m going to list a few of my unsung favourites for you. I invite you all to do the same. Please share those unsung titles. Let us help to spread the word about these unsung films.

The following classic era films are all ones that are not all that well known (if they are known at all in some cases). Some of these may be known to some fans of classic era cinema, but mention them to the average moviegoer and you will get a blank look in response.

All of these are excellent films. If you love classic era cinema, then you should really check them all out.

 

 

Photo0077   Shooting Stars (1928)

A little known British Silent film. This gives us a behind the scenes look at filmmaking. We are shown how the screen magic is created. We also see plenty of off screen drama as an actress has an affair with a co-star. Her affair breaks her husbands heart. This is a funny, tragic, and fascinating film. The performances are excellent. I love the bouncy score to this one as well. Well worth a look. You can read my full review of this film here.

 

 

Photo0052  Stray Dog (1949)

One of Akira Kurosawa’s best films is also sadly now one that is among the least well known of his films today. Audiences automatically tend to think of his Samurai flicks now, instead of his terrific dramas and thrillers from the 1940’s. This film follows a detectives mission to get back his stolen service gun. As the gun is passed from one person to another it becomes linked to crimes. You can read my full review here.

 

 

The Clock (1945)

Judy Garland and Robert Walker Sr star in this beautiful romantic drama. Walker plays a soldier on leave during WW2. He meets Garland’s character by chance in New York. They fall in love and are soon in a hurry to marry before he has to go back to fight in WW2.

The performances from Garland and Walker are extraordinary in this. They have such perfect chemistry and really convince as the couple falling in love. This was Judy’s first non musical role, and she more than proves her dramatic acting talents with this film. You can read my full review here.

 

 

 

Photo0154  Mandy (1952)

A powerful British drama about a young deaf girl. This film helps raise awareness of deafness and also about what living with someone with the condition can be like. The main performance by Mandy Miller is one of the best child performances I have ever seen. A moving and uplifting film. You can read my full review here.

 

 

 

Photo0071  The Edge Of The World (1937)

This early film from director Michael Powell focuses on life on a small island in the Hebrides. Strong performances, and being filmed on a real island add a great deal of authenticity to this film. John Laurie steals the show. You can read my full review here.

 

 

Photo0045  The Passionate Friends (1949)

This David Lean film could almost be viewed as a sequel to Brief Encounter. There are many similarities between the two films, and this shows what could have happened had there been a sequel with Alec and Laura meeting years later. Claude Rains plays the loving but distant older husband to Ann Todd’s lonely younger woman. When she meets Trevor Howard (whose character she used to love)an affair begins that changes everything. You can read my full review here.

 

What are some of your unsung classics? Share them with us on your own sites.

 

 

 

 

Drama, Films I Love, Noir

Sunset Blvd (1950)

“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small!” These words are spoken by Norma Desmond, a former screen queen who longs to be back in the era of Silent films.

Norma thinks longingly of a time when actors used their faces and emotions to convey the plot and the directors intent for a scene, and also of a time when dialogue and effects were not needed or relied upon on screen.

Silent films were big in every way, from how they looked, to the scope of the stories they showed. Once sound came in however, there were still many superb films made, but films had lost that epic and mesmerising look and style that the Silent films had. There were also so many films being made, and so many stories being recycled, that you could argue that films no longer became special events, they actually became very run of the mill. 

Sunset Blvd is one of my favourite classic era films. It was one of the first classics that I ever saw and it made quite an impression on me. I love the blend of drama and Noir, the stunning photography by John F. Seitz, and for the sad and tragic tale it depicts.

This is the film that made me aware of Silent films. I was quite young when I first saw this film ,and before seeing this I didn’t even know that there had once been Silent films, I’m well aware that sounds pretty dumb LOL. Before this I had no reason to imagine there had ever been a time when films were Silent.  I also love this film because it brought to my attention people like De Mille, Swanson, Wilder and Keaton.

Superbly directed by Billy Wilder, Sunset Blvd is a warts and all portrait of Hollywood.  Wilder wrote the screenplay along with Charles Brackett(regular collaborator on so many of Wilder’s films)and D.M Marshman Jr.

The films depiction of the darker and sadder side to the glamourous perceived image of the American film industry wasn’t very well received by Hollywood upon release. I guess some people didn’t like, or simply flat out refused to see the truth that Billy so boldly served up to them with this film.

Wilder’s film showed the Hollywood community the unpleasant truth about itself; the sad truth that once great stars get tossed aside like rubbish. That people think only of themselves at the expense of others. That people use others in order to further their careers and get to the top. That fame and stardom rarely lasts all that long (no matter how much you believe otherwise when you are enjoying it).

Wilder’s film is a sad film and is difficult to watch at times. His film is spot on though and that is what makes it so worth watching; the film deals with ruined lives, damaged people and also looks at mental illness.

This film is also a very good Noir film. Holden’s character is mistaken for someone else, this then brings him into contact with Norma, and he then gets sucked deeper and deeper into her world that he reaches a point where he is a doomed man incapable of getting out of this situation. Holden also narrates the film, I’m not a big fan of voiceover work but it fits this film and doesn’t occur too often.

The film features Gloria Swanson and William Holden delivering two of the finest performances in film history. I really like that their performances also highlight the different acting styles of both the Silent and Sound eras. 

Gloria Swanson steals the show as the damaged and deranged Norma. She cannot accept that her fame has gone, that she is all but forgotten about, and that everything she once held so dear has now vanished. Swanson was one of the biggest and most talented stars of the Silent era, she had one of the most expressive faces and uses that face to its full effect in this film.

The irony of her playing this role can not have been lost on Swanson. Gloria had once been one of the biggest stars in American Silent films. Gloria’s career was over at this point, and she certainly no longer enjoyed the fame of her glory days. Unlike Norma though, Swanson (thankfully)found her change of situation easier to cope with. She was able to very successfully bring a blend of Silent and Sound acting techniques to her performance in this film. Gloria is phenomenal in this role and I consider it to be the best performance she ever gave.  Her performance is all in the eyes. Watch those eyes of hers because they speak volumes. She manages to be creepy, pathetic, pitiful, strong and fun.

Holden is both likeable and not so likeable as the down on his luck Joe Gillis, a man who seizes on an opportunity with Norma and uses her to get it. He starts out eager, outgoing, and also with some control over his life. As the film goes on Holden shows us Joe becoming desperate, on edge, depressed, a man with no control and no power. He is being used by Norma to bring her soul back to life (watch how she brightens up once he comes into her life)and even if he is unhappy he now can’t be allowed to leave this woman.

The film begins with a dead man floating in a swimming pool. The Police are gathered round the body trying to figure out what has happened. This opening shot is one of the most impressive and memorable in film history. We see the body from under the water looking up at it. The dead man is Joe Gillis, and the film that we are about to watch will show us how he came to meet his watery death.  Originally the film was to have opened in a morgue, with Gillis’s soul talking to other dead bodies, this was scrapped in favour of the opening we have now.

 

Photo0187

Joe Gillis(William Holden) is a film scriptwriter who needs some money fast. By accident he meets former silent film star, Norma Desmond(Gloria Swanson). She has written the screenplay of a version of Salome, she wishes it to be directed by Cecil B. DeMille and to be her glorious return to the screen. Joe gets himself hired (to get some money)to work on her script for her. He works on it at Norma’s home(a fading luxury mansion, that I see as representing the luxury and excess of the 1920’s.)

As he spends more time with Norma, Joe soon realises that she is falling in love with him and also that she is completely detached from reality. Things get complicated when Joe falls in love with Betty(Nancy Olsen)an outgoing young studio writer. Betty offers Joe an escape from the possessive nature of Norma. Betty offers Joe love, fun, friendship, and above all some happiness. Joe’s desperation for a career opportunity and for money, means that he leaves Betty and returns to the wealth, glamour and supposed opportunity that Norma can offer him. He becomes her kept man, no different than the beloved monkey she once had as a pet. Norma dotes on him, splashes out money on him, and he can’t stand it.

Norma becomes suspicious of Joe and Betty and her anger and distress begins to steadily build up within her leading to one of the most tragic and unforgettable finales in film history.

The scenes between Norma and Joe play out like some sort of  horror film. Norma appears almost vampire like in certain scenes, and many of her hand gestures appear claw like and grotesque. Norma sucks Joe in with promises of fame and fortune, he gets caught up in her delusions and he can’t escape her, no matter how much he might try to do so.

Joe’s relationship with Norma becomes all consuming and it changes who he is as a person. He becomes bound to her and cannot escape her, he may try to, but when he does he cannot find any peace or happiness because her shadow looms large over any joy he may find.

Norma is also grotesque in as much as she is getting old, but she won’t accept it and still dresses and makes herself up to be young. Norma and her home(and it could also be said her acting style)are starting to fade away and crumble into non existence and relevance.

It’s also a look at two different acting styles the silent era(telling the story through expressions, emotion and gestures)and the sound era. Holden and Swanson both give great performances showing us these opposite acting styles and techniques.

Swanson and Holden get strong support from film director Eric Von Stronheim, who appears as Norma’s loyal butler Max.

Max was once married to Norma and he now works for her and cares for her. He fakes thousands of fan letters which he delivers to Norma so that she actually feels like she is still remembered and valued by fans. Stroheim is excellent as a proud man brought low, he too cannot have missed the irony of his casting. He was once a man of power and influence and was now playing a former director, turned servant/carer working for one of his former stars.

Von Stronheim was once of the greatest Silent era directors and famously made a film called Greed, which originally ran for nine or ten hours! His directorial career ended soon after he directed Gloria Swanson in Queen Kelly. That film is the film that Norma watches on her private cinema screen with Joe at her side.

Nancy Olsen is terrific as keen, pure, passionate and gentle Betty. She offers Joe an escape from Norma. Nancy’s character is a lifeline for Joe, and she lets us see that Betty is falling for Joe and that they would be good together. She isn’t on screen all that much, but when she is she sure makes a strong impression.

There are some terrific cameos from other famous Silent film figures: Buster Keaton, Cecil. B DeMille, H.B.Warner and Anna Q Nilsson. This film is an inside look at the glamour, pain, excess and madness of Hollywood and it also gives us glimpses of the different people involved in the film making process the writers, directors, actors, designers etc. 

I also like how real people and films are mentioned and shown throughout the film. Greta Garbo is mentioned by Norma as being a current actress (Garbo had been retired for about a decade by this time, so this shows how out of touch Norma is with current events)who had the same face and acting style of the Silent era. Interestingly Garbo was one of the few Silent stars who successfully made the transition to the sound era and retained the same level of fame from one era to the next. Director Cecil B. DeMille (who appears as himself) is another who successfully transitioned and retained fame and influence.

The scene with DeMille is one that I’m not ashamed to admit always makes me tear up a bit. Norma is warmly welcomed back by former colleagues, crew and studio staff. She sees that there are some who still hold her in affection and high regard.

This scene is also important because De Mille could easily have ignored Norma but he greets her with such tenderness and affection. He respects her and treats her as she deserves to be treated. De Mille also utters a line of dialogue that I think is quite interesting. When asked by an assistant if it was true that Norma was difficult to work with, he replies “only towards the end. A dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit”.

To me those words indicate that something in Norma’s life had been seized on by the press and stories were being run. Press intrusion is another dark aspect of Hollywood, with careers and reputations being ruined and lost due to scandals and rumours being splashed over front pages. Maybe this intrusion is what began her descent into madness?

My favourite scenes are the following. Norma’s charades performance for Joe. The New Year’s Eve party with Joe and Norma being the only guests. Joe discovering what Norma has done to herself in her despair. The “I’m ready for my close up” scene. Joe at the crowded party in the apartment. Joe and Norma’s first meeting. Norma returning to the film studios and being warmly welcomed and getting to sit on the set of De Mille’s latest film.

Thanks to this film we hopefully come to understand how brutal Hollywood can be to its own, and how awful it must be when a big star falls from their pedestal and becomes yesterdays news.

The final shot is one that stays in the mind long after the film has finished. In this scene Norma gets the fame and attention she has been so long starved of. The trouble is it is the wrong kind of attention. We know that she only has an institution to look forward to (unless Max can pull some strings and keep her at home being looked after there)and that she will never be able to act again.

For one brief moment though, Norma shines again and the cameras roll to capture her emotions and every move. Her name will never be forgotten once this story makes the headlines. Is that a blessing or a curse? She will get her fame back, but her illness and despair will be milked to sell papers, and she will most likely be ridiculed too. A sad end and one that really makes you think. In the end this is a film all about victims, and about how they are used and how they suffer.

The film could almost be viewed as a warning about getting into the film industry. If you do you may get fame and fortune, but at what cost will these be achieved? Can you stand what happens once your star starts to fade?

I think this is one of Wilder’s best films and it’s certainly the best film about Hollywood I’ve ever seen.

What are your thoughts on Sunset Blvd?