Sometimes there’d be a little bridge game in the house, at a twentieth of a cent a point. I’d get half of her winnings–once they ran up to 70 cents, which was about the only cash money I ever got. The others around the table would be actor friends, dim figures you may still remember from the silent days. I used to think of them as her waxworks.
Buster Keaton in Sunset Boulevard (1950) dir. Billy Wilder
Considered one of the greatest silent film comedians, Keaton’s career quickly declined following the introduction of sound in 1926-27. The actor, writer, and director signed a fateful contract with MGM in 1928, and the studio promptly took away his creative control over projects. Known for his physical comedy, Keaton was now considered too great a financial asset to MGM and was thus prohibited from performing his own stunts. Along with his crippled career, during the 30s Keaton consistently suffered from family troubles, divorce, and alcoholism. Though he was able to recover from these problems and find consistent work in the industry after 1940, his career was never the same. For the rest of his life, Keaton maintained that signing MGM’s contract was “the worst mistake” of his career.
Rencontrer, observer, étudier, parler, dire, attendre, re-observer, réétudier, redire, se lancer, se rétracter, regretter, se relancer, expliciter, oser, hésiter, avoir envie, espérer, tergiverser, penser, hésiter encore, oser, foncer, braver, se risquer, risquer de perdre peut-être mais risquer de gagner surtout.
Sunset Boulevard - Ready for My Closeup Mr. DeMille
One of my favorite movies of all time. Hard to say when I first saw it. I seem to remember catching at least part of it when I was quite young (too young to get a lot of it, I’m sure), and I remember being really creeped out by the beginning with the empty pool and dead monkey (still manages to creep me out today, to be honest).
William Holden plays a cynical, down on his luck hollywood screenwriter, who while dodging creditors, ducks into a seemingly deserted hollywood mansion, where he makes the acquaintance of an elderly has-been silent screen star (Gloria Swanson, absolutely wonderful in this role), waited on by a creepy manservant (Eric Von Stroheim). They confuse him for the funeral arranger, because her pet monkey has just died, and eventually the truth comes out that he writes for the movies, and the star latches onto him for help with a vehicle for her ‘big screen return’ (being short on cash, he of course goes along with the ruse). Eventually he not only becomes her writing assistant but her boy toy and lover, and things begin to get complicated when he starts sneaking out at night to write with the fiance of his best friend.
The perfect movie for movie lovers, because it is both reverential and despising of the medium and how it chews up and spits out its own, funny and creepy and manages to be a great comedy and film noir all at the same time. Had the good fortune recently to see it on the big screen, and it was an amazing experience (at the end when Swanson looks directly into the camera for the line “and all you little people out there in the dark”, it gave a chill up my spine, because it felt like she was looking directly at you personally).
5 stars out of 5
Released 1950, First Viewing May 1985 with many revisits over the years