Sunset BoulevardAFI Rank: #12
Year Released: 1950
Director: Billy Wilder
Actors: William Holden, Gloria Swanson
Almost an autobiography, this movie covers a fading 50-ish starlet who still lives in a world where she believes she's a star. She lures a broke writer into supporting her world and trying to recreate her dreams.
Number 12 on the AFI list of top movies of all times, there are many reasons why this 1950 movie about a fading silent-screen starlet still has the power to move people in modern times. First, with the basics - the actors are superb, the plot is fascinating, and the sets are stunning. You really do believe you're in the decaying remnants of a movie star's mansion.
In many ways, this movie plays out as an autobiography. The lead actress is in fact a famous silent screen heroine. Max is played by a director who worked with her on several movies. Many famous individuals from that era - Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, and others - play themselves. There's a reason the story is so poignant. Actresses really DO get passed over once they age. Even half a century later, in modern times, fantastic actresses get fewer and fewer parts once they cross a certain line.
You only have to look at modern day tabloids to see how this exact same situation - an older actress taking up with a younger man - is treated with derision and laughter. The actresses are supposed to accept their situation - give up on any good parts, forget about any appreciation, and retire to a quiet farm somewhere.
The movie hints constantly at what a fine actress the main character was. Directors speak fondly of her. Other actors and actresses swarm around to talk with her. The photos and film clips of her show how beautiful and unique she was. One has to wonder how she might have turned out if she had been allowed to continue to play fantastic roles, appropriate to her age, as she went from 20 to 30 to 40.
Highly recommended, not only as a look at what Hollywood was like back in its formative years, but also as an interesting commentary on how Hollywood in general treats its female stars.
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