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Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Paramount

Cast: Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim.

Rating: PG

Run time: 110 mins.

Genre: Drama

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

Winner of three Oscars, Sunset Boulevard really should have also scooped the "Best Picture" honour in 1950, but was narrowly pipped by All About Eve.

No matter, Sunset Boulevard remains one of the greatest exposes of the seamy underside of Hollywood ever made, still true to life about a world in which fame becomes the only goal - for which people will do anything.

Gloria Swanson - in real life a star of the silent screen - portrays the tormented Norma Desmond, a forgotten silent movie star dreaming of a comeback in her decaying Sunset Boulevard mansion. Her faithful butler and one-time husband Max writes fake fan mail to keep the illusion alive.

Into this world of delusion comes struggling young screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), who is trying to stay one step ahead of his creditors. Norma hires him to clean up the awful script she's been writing for her return to fame (she "hates" the word "comeback) and it isn't long before he becomes her kept lover, too.

But when attractive young screenwriter Betty Schaefer sees potential in one of Joe's discarded scripts, he has the chance to rescue his career . . . and his heart.

Brilliantly directed by the great Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity), who also co-wrote the biting script, Sunset Boulevard features many real-life Hollywood characters including Buster Keaton and H.B. Warner and the great director Cecil B. DeMille in a delicious cameo. Hence the great line from the increasingly demented Norma as she prepares for the movie that will never be made . . . "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

A superb making-of documentary is among the many extras on the 2008, two-disc special edition of the movie, which features outstanding remastered picture and sound.

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