Sunday, July 7, 2013

5 Lessons Learned from Cruising 1950's Sunset Boulevard

Billy Wilder’s 1950 film noir classic, Sunset Boulevard, won three Academy Awards and has inspired countless viewers to wrap their heads in leopard-print scarves while perfecting lines like, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”

What is it about this film that has helped it stand the test of time? Perhaps it’s William Holden’s cleft chin, or nostalgia for the early days of film. Or, maybe we all just like seeing Gloria Swanson, a true silent screen goddess making the mother of all comebacks in this film, do her Charlie Chaplin routine.

Get a primer on the film below, and then join us at Old Town Music Hall ( to see Sunset Boulevard on the big screen 7/12-7/14.

1. When a crazy former silent film star (Norma Desmond) falls for you (Joe Gillis) – try not to get shot and end up in her pool, even if you do make the most handsome corpse ever. Besides, how can you do a voice over of your own life when you’re dead? Next time you want to leave, try sneaking out the back door while she is playing bridge with friends like Buster Keaton.

2. If you are a former silent film star that has not had a hit in, oh….decades, it is important to pay attention to your budget. When hiring staff, save pennies by hiring someone like Max, who can chauffeur, be a butler and play the organ. Yes, he may have once directed you and been your husband, but—bygones!

3. If you accept the role of Norma Desmond’s male “companion”– be that and only that. If she wants you to work on her great comeback screenplay where she will play a teenager, tell her to get a secretary. And if you want to hone your writing skills, start a blog.

4. While living with a former silent film star, don’t fall in love with any sweet ingénues like Betty Schaefer. True love does not exist in film noir, and you don’t have time for it anyway because you are busy attending funerals for monkeys and driving through the hills with Norma and Max.

5. Even though you are losing your grip on reality, one must always remember their adoring public and make an entrance like the queen of the screen you once were. Assemble the police, the press, and Cecil B. DeMille, and descend the stairs of your mansion to deliver one of the most famous lines in history: “All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.”

Authors Tracey LaMonica and Lara Scott are on the advisory committee for Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, CA, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dedicated to preserving classic films and music.

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