Day Twenty-Four of Noirvember: The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (Part 4)

Nancy Olson during her appearance at TCMFF 2018.

For today’s post, I’m doing double duty – my daily Noirvember celebration and the next installment of my year-long coverage of the 2018 Turner Classic Movies film festival!

I was delighted this year to have the opportunity to see and hear the lovely Nancy Olson, who starred with William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. She’s been at the TCM film festival before, but conflicts had caused me to miss her. I was determined not to let anything stop me this year.

Evans and Livingston in the singing scene that made it into the film.

Prior to the festival’s screening of Sunset Boulevard, Olson (her name is actually Nancy Olson Livingston now) was interviewed by singer and past TCM Guest Programmer Michael Feinstein, who opened the event by showing a clip from a number that was cut from the film. Titled “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues,” the song was performed by composers Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (who also wrote and performed “Buttons and Bows,” a portion of which was in the final version of the film). The duo sang “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues” in the same scene that Buttons and Bows was performed – at the New Year’s Eve party thrown by Artie Green (Jack Webb), then-fiancee of Olson’s character, Betty Schaefer. With references to studio head Sam Goldwyn, gossip maven Hedda Hopper, and producer Dore Schary, the song contained such lyrics as: “Though I’m terrific, my talent is immense, guess I’ll only get in pictures by paying 80 cents.” Word is that the number wound up on the cutting room floor because Paramount execs weren’t happy with all the “inside” references.

Olson was a 20-year-old college student when she was discovered by a Paramount talent scout.

Olson, who was introduced by Weinstein to a rousing ovation, informed the audience that she was a 20-year-old Theater Arts student at UCLA when a Paramount scout saw her, invited her to do a screen test, and signed her to a seven-year contract. After appearing in a film with Randolph Scott, where she played a half-breed Indian, Olson returned to school, but before long, Billy Wilder expressed an interest in her for Sunset Boulevard. Olson said she read the script and “it was amazing.”

“Billy Wilder seemed to be very interested and curious about me. He’d ask about my classes, my parents,” she said. “I think what Billy Wilder wanted most was for me to be me. My nickname in college was Wholesome Olson. Edith Head kept coming up with a wardrobe for me, but it wasn’t right for the character. Finally, Wilder told me to just wear my own clothes. He wanted me to just simply be me – Wholesome Olson.”

Olson praised Sunset Boulevard for “telling the truth” about Hollywood and movie stars.

“They were designed to be larger than life. They are a commodity – they are hyped to sell,” Olson said. “And then when they become a certain age, they’re no longer interesting – they’re thrown away.”

Olson thought William Holden was ideally cast in Sunset Boulevard.

The actress also shared that her co-star William Holden was not the first choice for the role of Joe Gillis. Initially, the part was offered to Montgomery Clift, who accepted but later changed his mind. As it turned out, Holden was perfect for the role.

“Holden went to the army, got kind of lost, started to drink too much, his marriage was falling apart. He was a desperate human being,” Olson recalled. “And so was Joe Gillis. [Holden] also had that incandescent quality that movie stars have.”

In her 20-minute interview with Feinstein, the then 89-year-old Olson displayed an enviable vitality and vigor, not to mention a strong will and a razor-sharp memory. She is a true treasure, and I’m so gratified that I got the chance to see her up close and personal. I’ll never look at her Betty Schaefer the same again!

Join me tomorrow for Day 25 of Noirvember (and stay tuned for next month’s installment of my look at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!

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~ by shadowsandsatin on November 25, 2018.

6 Responses to “Day Twenty-Four of Noirvember: The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (Part 4)”

  1. The party scene is pivotal . Holden leaves the party to return to Swanson. Olsen is a metaphor not just for wholesomeness but for sanity versus the insanity of Swanson. A movie and a director on the top shelf of cinema!

  2. It’s almost like being there.

  3. Typo: twice you refer to Feinstein as Weinstein. I see that his name is also incorrect in the tags.

    • Thanks for taking the time to point out these mistakes, David. I hope you were able to enjoy the post despite these glaring gaffes. Anyway, as Joe E. Brown said in Some Like it Hot, nobody’s perfect!

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