Day 311: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

sunsetboulevardfilmposterThere are only seven Sundays left this year after today if you can believe that and t has been quite some time since we last did Sunday At The Classics. So, I figured we better get to those classics and I chose one in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard (the famous street in Hollywood). Joe Gillis (Damien: The Omen II‘s William Holden) is a struggling writer in Hollywood who is desperately in search of the solution to all of his problems when he stumbles upon a white elephant (what looks to be a big abandoned house) on Sunset Boulevard. What he discovers inside the house is a forgotten relic in former Silent film star Norma Desmond (Queen Kelly‘s Gloria Swanson). After agreeing to finish a script she had written, he soon discovers that he is stuck and that there is no way out as Norma still thinks that she is a wanted star, but she’s really just out of her mind. The film also stars Erich von Stroheim (Blind Husbands) as Max Von Mayerling, Nancy Olson (The Absent Minded Professor) as Betty Schaefer, Jack Webb (Pete Kelly’s Blues) as Artie Green, Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments) as himself, Buster Keaton (The General) as Himself, and the film was directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot).

SUNSET BOULEVARDWilliam Holden does an amazing job in the film handling double duty as he stars and narrates the whole film. I loved how the film starts at the end and he goes back in time to tell you his tragic tale of how he got there. The film is a real tragic tale of how desperate people in Hollywood can get when the chips are down. All he wanted was a place to store his car until he could figure out how to pay the bank. He agrees to finish the script for this actress and he gets stuck in it as she obsesses over him. She is just so out of touch with reality that it’s a crime itself, but with a woman with so much money to lose, what are the people closest to her supposed to do? Gloria Swanson is also an amazing actress who does a terrific job in the film and even delivered the most famous line ever, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” It was cool to see actual old silent film stars like Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anna Q. Nilsson, and H. B. Warner because it was like old Hollywood vs new Hollywood. The story is very solid for this film and a strong point in my opinion. The acting is also amazing and is what made this a great film to begin with. There is always going to be the argument of B&W vs Color film, but B&W makes the film look timeless and it enriches the shadows and the light of the picture. Make your own choice, but I love B&W. The film is available on Netflix right now as we speak and I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.

Day 252: Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

stea2I wanted to do something different for today as far as the type of movie I watched and it has been a while since I watched anything old. Slapstick comedy is one of the oldest forms of comedy that when done right can be really be funny and Buster Keaton (The General) was a master of it. That is why I chose to watch his last independent film in Steamboat Bill, Jr. For William “Steamboat Bill” Canfield (Ernest Torrence) the steamboat business has been good to him for many years, but there’s anew threat in town when the very wealthy JJ King (Tom McGuire) starts a steamboat business. One day, Bill receives a telegram from his son William Jr. (Keaton) is coming to see him all the way from Boston, but when he arrives he may not be everything his father expected. Will his dad be right or will Bill ed up proving him wrong? The film also stars Tom Lewis (The Great White Way) as Tom Carter- First and Last Mate, Marion Byron (A Pair Of Tights) as Kitty King- King’s Daughter, James T. Mack (The Cruise Of The Jasper B) as the Minister, and the film was directed by Charles Reisner (The Hollywood Revue of 1929). 

steamboat-bill-jr-1Buster Keaton was the very best at what he did whether it was directing (he was a co-director for this film) or acting in his films. It’s unbelievable to think that he was financing his own films, but unfortunately they cost too much to make for him to continue (Box office returns were bad). One of the best scenes in the film is towards the very end and it’s the cyclone scene. According to some research, he brought in some giant fans to help create the effect of a cyclone in a town that he had built especially for this film that comes tumbling down. It was definitely one of the most incredible sequences for a silent film in 1928. Not just that is incredible, but he also had no stuntmen and he used no trick shots during the film in the scene when the house comes down and he escapes unharmed because of an attic window. Buster Keaton was slapstick comedy and he proves in this film as his character can’t seem to do anything right as he runs into absolutely everything. Some of my favorite scenes are like the ones where he wakes up and the hospital has blown away so he gets out of the bed only to return as the bed gets blown away with him in it. Did I mention that this was a silent film? It’s one of those that I feel is easier to get through because it’s all about the acting. If the acting is bad then the film is a total failure. That was definitely not the case with this one. Give it a shot, you may surprise yourself. I am going to give the film an A- for a final grade.