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"Sunset Boulevard," a skewering of decadance and decay of old Hollywood, is next FilmOut screener

SAN DIEGO – “Sunset Boulevard,” rated by the American Film Institute as one of the best movies of all time, will be the next monthly selection by FilmOut San Diego.

The 1950 black-and-white classic starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson and Eric von Stroheim will be shown at 7 pm Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the historic Birch North Park Theatre.

Holden earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his role as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis in “Sunset Boulevard.” Nominated as Best Actress, Swanson plays faded silent film star Norma Desmond, who takes a fancy to the handsome young man as she dreams of reviving her long-dead career. Von Stroheim plays Max, Norma’s butler and a former husband, and Nancy Olson plays the love interest of Joe Gillis.

A devastating film noir look at the decadence and decay of old Hollywood, “Sunset Boulevard” is full of cameo appearances including by legendary director Cecil B. DeMille, powerful gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, and silent film actors such as Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson.

For its time, “Sunset Boulevard” was fairly scandalous for its plot as well as the May-December “romance” between the young screenwriter and the aging actress. Film historians have suggested that Holden and Swanson were not even the first choices for the leads, and it is known that Montgomery Clift had signed to play Joe Gillis before backing out. Early favorites for the role of Norma Desmond had included Mae West, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo and Mary Pickford.

The writing – a collaboration by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr. – is known for its biting wittiness and cynicism. Norma’s famous lines include “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” and ‘I am big; it’s the pictures that got small.”

The character of Norma Desmond has long been rumored to have been based largely on the life of silent film star Norma Talmadge … whose along with her actress sisters are the founders of the San Diego neighborhood of Talmadge.

“Sunset Boulevard” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor (William Holden), Best Actress (Gloria Swanson), Best Supporting Actor (Erich von Stroheim) and Best Supporting Actress (Nancy Olson).

Winning Oscars were the screenwriting team of Brackett, Marshman and Wilder; music score by Franz Waxman; and art direction and set design by Hans Dreier, John Meehan, Samuel M. Comer and Ray Moyer.

Also nominated for Oscars were film editors Arthur Schmidt and Doane Harrison; and cinematographer John F. Seitz.

“Sunset Boulevard” might have won more Oscars in 1950 had it not been for another gem, “All About Eve,” which won six statues including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

The details

“Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

Directed by Billy Wilder and written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr.

Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Eric von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough, Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper and Buster Keaton.

Showing at 7 pm Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Birch North Park Theatre, 2891 University Ave. Tickets are $10 HERE.