On May 14, the Arena Theater Film Club presents a film with a fading movie star enlisting a young screenwriter to aid her comeback, but it's complicated by her oversize ego which turns the challenge into an uphill battle. With caustic, bitter wit in a story, Sunset Boulevard, that blends both fact and fiction and dream and reality, co-writer/director Billy Wilder realistically exposes (with numerous in-jokes) the corruptive, devastating influences of the new Hollywood and the studio system by showing the decline of old Hollywood legends many years after the coming of sound.
Swanson’s character Norma Desmond utters one of the most famous lines in film history. When talking about a changing movie industry—whether silent to sound, 35mm to 70mm, or big screens to television, many think of Norma Desmond’s exchange with fictional screenwriter Joe Gillis:
Joe Gillis: Wait a minute, haven't I seen you before? I know your face.
Norma Desmond: Get out! Or, shall I call my servant?
Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
Norma Desmond: I am big. It's the pictures that got small.
Sunset Boulevard, a classic, tragic film was honored with eleven Academy Award nominations and the recipient of three Oscars: Best Story and Screenplay, Best Black and White Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.
See Sunset Boulevard (1953) screens Monday, May 14, 7:00pm. It's not rated and has a runtime: 111 minutes. In addition to Holden and Swanson, the cast includes Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson, and Fred Clark.