Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed by Billy Wilder 

Who’s in it? William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Norma Desmond, Eric Von Stroheim

What’s it about? This classic film noir features one of Hollywood’s greatest opening sequences and a whole host of big name cameos, including legendary directors and silent era icons Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton as themselves, in a story about a fading silent film star (Swanson) fantasising about a return to the silver screen and the failed screenwriter (Holden) lured into the ageing star’s intoxicating and precarious world of tainted glory and fragile hope. Winning three of the 11 Oscars it was nominated for, Sunset Boulevard is a bone fide classic of American cinema and was justifiably ranked 12thon the AFI’s list of 100 Best American Films of the 20th Century. The film was also one of the first to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry given its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.

Memorable Moments? The film is perhaps best known for its closing line: “There’s nothing else. Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my closeup.”    

Look who’s talking: ‘Remains the best drama ever made about the movies because it sees through the illusions, even if Norma doesn’t.’ – Roger Ebert

Like that? Try this: Another self-referential Hollywood classic, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donnen’s 1920s set musical masterpiece Singin’ in the Rain, about the arrival of the ‘Talkies’ at the end of cinema’s silent era, features some of the greatest song and dance numbers of all time and the single most recognisable sequence in cinema history and is quintessential escapist entertainment.

Trivia Pursuit: The film’s title is officially registered as Sunset Blvd because the opening shot, in lieu of a title sequence, features a street sign of the famous Hollywood street with the abbreviated spelling.

Ronan Wright is a graduate in Film Studies from The Queen’s University of Belfast. As well as contributing to MercatorNet as a film critic since March 2011 he has run Filmplicity, a Belfast-based film...