Release Date: August 1950
Awards: Nominated for no less than 11 Oscars at the 23rd Academy Awards (Including all four acting categories). It won Best Writing, Story and Screenplay; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Black-and-White); Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Best Music (Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture).
Rating: 98% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a whopping 95% Audience score!
“What’s it about?” I hear you ask! Well, a down on his luck Hollywood script writer, Joe Gillis (William Holden) who, whilst trying to hide from repossession men, stumbles upon the house of a former silent movie star, one Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Turns out she’s trying to get back into the business and a script writer is exactly what she needs…
First off, this movie is a real art imitating life moment. Gloria Swanson actually was a silent movie star who hadn’t made many big pictures since dialogue became a thing. Erich Von Stroheim, who plays Desmond’s butler Max, was the director of the silent movie which Desmond shows Gillis (which is an actual movie Swanson was in). Cecil B. DeMille and Hedda Hopper feature as themselves and Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson & H.B. Warner, as actual former silent movie stars, feature as themselves in Desmond’s bridge club.
Even the locations and sets were in on the act. Paramount’s studios were actually used for filming, and the “set” of Samson and Delilah, where Desmond meets DeMille, was the actual set of the movie which DeMille was working on at the time of his cameo.
OK, so there’s some cool trivia, but how’s the movie? Bloody brilliant! Swanson’s portrayal of Desmond’s descent into madness is perfect. Unlike her character, she had accepted that Hollywood wasn’t as keen on her as it had been, but you really feel the desperation Desmond has to be in a movie again, and the delusion that she’s as much of a big ticket actress as she was in her heyday.
I doubt I’m the only person who has been put off of the idea of watching a film because it’s in black and white. I admire the artistry required for a black and white film, but I’d always assumed that a film would feel like it was missing something for it’s lack of colour.
Well boy was I wrong. I honestly feel like this movie might be in my top three movies I’ve done as part of the Late Late Review, if not the number one spot. It’s no mystery why it remains so highly rated, even being 70 years old next year. If you’re reading this and you’ve not seen the movie, check it out. You won’t regret it.
If you read this and thought “man, he really got crazy towards the end there”, just wait until you see what happens to Norma Desmond!
Is there an iconic film or album you think I should have experienced by now? Let me know @MoveToTRASHUK #latelatereview