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Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Fame kills: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

By Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 10, 2022 | In Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast

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James and Thomas wrap up their series of episodes on film noir with a discussion of Billy Wilder’s acerbic and vastly entertaining critique of Hollywood avarice and vanity, Sunset Boulevard.

The movie business from the beginning has created some sad and grotesque figures, and this film focuses on two in particular. One is the sad and deluded has-been celebrity. Sunset Boulevard gets “meta” in its reflection of the perils of star-worship, especially in the character of Norma Desmond, a former silent film idol played unforgettably by a real-life former silent film star, Gloria Swanson.

The other Hollywood type this film shows us is the ambitious loser. Film noir protagonists tend to be losers, and indeed the loser seems like a distinctly American archetype, the flip-side of the American dream with its expectation that one should always be advancing one’s station in life. Perhaps no place generates losers like L.A., and in Sunset Boulevard we get our man in down-and-out screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by William Holden.

Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com

Criteria is hosted by Thomas V. Mirus and James T. Majewski.

Thomas is a pianist living in New York City. He is Director of Podcasts for CatholicCulture.org and hosts the Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

James is the Director of Customer Relations for CatholicCulture.org. A stage, film, and voice actor based in New York City, he is the host and narrator for Catholic Culture Audiobooks. See full bio.

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