Billy Wilder's noir-comic classic about death and decay in Hollywood remains as pungent as ever in its power to provoke shock, laughter, and gasps of astonishment. Joe Gillis (William Holden), a broke and cynical young screenwriter, is attempting to ditch a pair of repo men late one afternoon when he pulls off L.A.'s storied Sunset Boulevard and into the driveway of a seedy mansion belonging to Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a forgotten silent movie luminary whose brilliant acting career withered with the coming of talkies. The demented old movie queen lives in the past, assisted by her devoted (but intimidating) butler, Max (played by Erich von Stroheim, the legendary director of Greed and Swanson's own lost epic, Queen Kelly). Norma dreams of making a comeback in a remake of Salome to be directed by her old colleague Cecil B. DeMille (as himself), and Joe becomes her literary and romantic gigolo. Sunset Blvd. is one of those great movies that has become a part of popular culture (the line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," has entered the language)--but it's no relic. Wow, does it ever hold up.


Here is the film that the Catholic church tried to stop - and which was financed by Joseph Kennedy for his then mistress Gloria Swanson. This is a very well made, well acted drama about a prostitute, a cleric, and an army sargent (played by the director Raul Walsh). Not to be missed. AN excellent rpint, also, without any scratches.

The Affairs of Anatol

THE AFFAIRS OF ANATOL is one of the great but elusive silents from the early 1920s that turn up only as tantalizing photos in film books. So it is a real joy to discover a tinted and toned print on DVD with a serviceable new music score. The film also provides an opportunity to view the sophisticated work of Cecil B. DeMille when he was still very much of a creative film-maker and before he settled into the "cotton candy" purveyor of comic book-type films of the sound era. Perhaps the spendid visual quality of some recent DVD silent film releases has spoiled me, but as all silent film buffs know, the flesh tones in silents are crucial. When the actors all look as though their make-up is white flour, you know you're watching a print a few generations removed from a good original. Since the liner notes claim that ANATOL was taken from a 35 mm. original - hence the elaborate stenciling, tinting and toning - I was shocked at the rather muddy pictorial quality and dead white faces of the actors. It's still a wonderful film but the disapponting visual quality will limit its appeal to established silent film buffs. It's tough sledding for others.

Queen Kelly

Financed by Joseph Kennedy, Stroheim was hired by his old friend Gloria Swanson, but when talkies came in and it was apparant there would never be a market for a silent Swanson vehicle, production stopped and the film was unreleased for decades. Almost completed, and later restored with stills replacing lost footage, the film has a unique power like all of Von's work. This was Von's swan-song (no pun intended.) He would never complete another film, but go on to immortality as a great actor, ignored in the U.S. but worshipped in Europe. This film is proof that there was a brief period in which American films could be held up against the films of the world as great works of sophisticated filmatic art. Von's films make even the best products of the "studio System" look like bad soap operas. It is impossible to fully appreciate Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" without seeing this film (Von referred to his performance in Wilder's film with contempt as "that butler role." The world of course knows better. As Elenor Roosevelt said, Von was the greatest director in the world.


Three for Bedroom C

Sadly uneven comedy of romance between movie star and scientist aboard transcontinental train heading to L. A. A derailment for Swanson after her triumph in SUNSET BLVD.



endition of two DeSylva-Brown-Henderson songs, aren't compensation enough for sitting through this one. Original running time 92m.


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