SUNSET BOULEVARD is the sad recounting of the tale of silent movie queen Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson. The premise of the 1950 black and white movie is, perhaps, best stated by William Holden, who plays Joseph C. Gillis: “There is nothing tragic about being fifty, as long as you aren’t trying to be twenty-five.” Desmond is wealthy and has a huge run-down house and a man servant, Max. As the movie progresses, it is revealed that Max was a renowned movie director and “madam’s first husband.” It was he who actually “discovered her at the tender age of seventeen.” One of the revealing moments into the psyche of Norma Desmond comes when she says, “I’m still big, it’s the movies that have gotten small.” With these words, Desmond recalls her lost world. She is bitter, it is 1950, and her last film was twenty-five years ago.
For sheer drama, SUNSET BOULEVARD is excellent. However, it is adult fare and probably of little interest to children. Good acting performances abound, and the movie also features a multitude of stars in cameo appearances. The Academy favored the movie with several Oscars: Best Screenplay, Best Music and Best Art Direction. Overall, this classic movie deserves a dramatic A+, even if the story is a bit melancholic.
(R, V, S, A) Romantic idealism -- tragedy of the "down and out"; woman shoots man to death (not extended or gory); implied fornication -- couple lives together; and, alcohol use.