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Hollywood on Hollywood

Sunday, June 17, 1979
6:00 p.m.
9:30 p.m.
Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder (USA,1950)

“Brittle satiric tribute to Hollywood’s leopard-skin past, narrated by a corpse. A young scriptwriter (William Holden), speeding away from the finance-company men who have come to repossess his car, turns into a driveway on Sunset Boulevard and finds himself at the decaying mansion of the once great silent star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Attended by her butler (Erich von Stroheim), who was once her husband and her director, she lives among the mementos of her past, and plots her comeback in her own adaptation of ‘Salome.’ The rapacious old vamp persuades the young man to stay and work with her on the script; he becomes her kept man, her lover, her victim. The details are baroque: the rats in the empty swimming pool; the wind moaning in the organ pipes; the midnight burial of a pet chimpanzee. Glint-eyed Swanson clutches at her comeback role almost as if it were Salome, yet the acting honors belong to Holden. When he makes love to the crazy, demanding old woman, his face shows a mixture of pity and guilt and nausea.”

—The New Yorker

• Directed by Billy Wilder. Screenplay by Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman, Jr. Photographed by John F. Seitz. With Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton. (1950, 110 mins, Print from Films Inc.)