Inside Sunset Boulevard: Part 3
Sunset Boulevard tells the ill-fated story of Norma Desmond, an aging silent film star, and Joe Gillis, a down-on-his luck screenwriter. Although Joe’s chance meeting with the more-than-eccentric Norma appears initially to be his salvation, in due course, it turns out to be his doom. Check out the last post in this series offering a plethora of titillating tidbits and intriguing items of interest about this great film.
- In the scene where Norma visits Cecil B. DeMille at the studio, he greets her by calling her “Young Fella.” It is the pet name that DeMille had for Gloria Swanson – he was her director in a number of films, including Don’t Change Your Husband (1919), Male and Female (1919), and Why Change Your Wife? (1920).
- At Artie’s New Years’ Eve party, one of the two giggling blondes hogging the telephone was Yvette Vickers. She has one line in the film: “You can have the phone now.” Vickers later appeared in Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and Attack of the Giant Leeches, both for American International Pictures. (Tragically, Vickers was found dead inside her Benedict Canyon home on April 27, 2011. Her neighbor became concerned after noticing a pile of yellowing mail in her mailbox and spider webs across her front door. The L.A. County coroner’s department confirmed that the actress had died from heart failure, perhaps nearly a year earlier.)
- In the scene where Joe and Betty first kiss, Billy Wilder allowed the clinch to go on for so long that William Holden’s wife, who was visiting the set, finally yelled out, “Cut, dammit!” Ardis Holden was better known as actress Brenda Marshall, who appeared in such films as The Sea Hawk (1940) and Whispering Smith(1948).
- Sunset was scored by Franz Waxman, who’d known Billy Wilder since their days together in Berlin in the 1930s. Like Wilder, Waxman left Germany when the Nazis came into power.
- At the time Sunset Boulevardwas filmed, Hollywood had several big-name gossip columnists, one of which, Hedda Hopper, was seen in the film. According to one story, Hedda’s chief rival, Louella Parsons, was also asked to appear, but she turned Wilder down when she heard that Hopper was signed first. Another story maintains that, although Billy Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett were closer friends with Parsons, they never offered her a role, choosing Hopper instead because she’d started her career in Hollywood as an actress and they knew she’d do a better job on screen. Incidentally, another Hollywood columnist, Sidney Skolsky, was also in the film, but his appearance in a scene in Schwab’s Drugstore ended up on the cutting room floor.
- Sunset Boulevard was the 17th and final screenplay collaboration between Billy Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett. After an especially nasty argument over a sequence in the film, they vowed to never work together again.
- Of the film, Gloria Swanson once said, “I hated to have the picture end. None had ever challenged or engrossed me more.”