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Don’t You Sometimes Hate Yourself?

By , 19 March, 2009, No Comment

Recently I posted about my movie watching group and how we were going to push past preconceptions regarding certain films and watch them — finally. This past week was our first effort and we watched “my” former rejection, Sunset Boulevard (1950).

I’d previously rejected this film because I thought I knew it. That most-mocked line from the (nearly) final scene, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” has become such an over-used quip that I shuddered when people dropped (forced) the cliched line into conversation. But I was more than bored with the film…

The parodies of Gloria Swanson as Sunset Boulevard‘s Norma Desmond, the aged and forgotten silent movie star who lives in the past, have so permeated pop culture that I actually thought of Gloria as that character. Sure, I thought she was beautiful, but I just knew Gloria had failed when the talkies came out just as her character, Norma, had.

One of the first times I’d ever seen such a parody of the film was when I was a youngster. It was Carol Burnett and her non-too-cleverly-disguised ‘Nora Desmond’ character.

From then on, every parody, quote, reference and mere suggestion of the film’s possible reference made me sigh with boredom.

And when I suggested it to my movie group, there were sighs all around; all of them had done their best to avoid this film too, and none were happy to have it suggested. Ah, the perfect film for our project then, ey? *wink*

Oh, the poetic justice then, that each and every one of us (six women), fell in love with the film.

And Gloria Swanson? Oh, honey do I owe you an apology! You were brilliant!

I’d tell you more about the film and our reactions, but that would be yet another tired review of a film you thought you knew. And I have no desire to do that — to you, or the film. I’d much rather prefer that you just knew that the lot of us ashamedly ate our hats; and I invite you, encourage you, to do the same.


Oh, and if you or someone you know has been avoiding film noir, our group decided that this would be the perfect film to pop your noir cherry. One of the many delights of Sunset Boulevard is the sublime, nearly perverse, sense of humor which adds the perfect edge to what some fear is the “all melodramatic gloom all the time” that is film noir. (Note: Neither myself not the other members of my film group dislike film noir or feel that’s a fair statement; but that’s the sort of comment we hear from noir nay-sayers, and so we’d like to offer this movie up as a very enjoyable entre to the genre.)

Now, just go watch Sunset Blvd. You’ll be glad you did.

PS The title of this post comes from a great line in the movie:

Betty Schaefer: Don’t you sometimes hate yourself?
Joe Gillis: Constantly.

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  • Inky

    I am so glad you watched Sunset Boulevard. It is one of my favorite films and brilliantly executed. My husband felt s you did until one day when I was watching it for the umpteenth time and he wandered by at the beginning and was sucked in and thus rewarded by such a fantastic film. Congrats – now go watch Double Indemnity if you haven’t seen it yet – Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray – fab film noir!

  • The Horny Time Traveler

    Always liked it, though I haven’t seen it lately. I heard recently that Monty Clift was considered for the Joe Gillis role–but turned it down. Imagine what a different movie it might have been! I always thought Holden’s weary cynicism is an integral part of the success of that film.

  • Hala Pickford

    I’m working on a Swanson article now. Actually she didn’t fail when talkies came along…her first talkie was a major hit (The Trespasser)! Unfortanitly her relationship with Joe Kennedy started going sour and depression folk were sick of her glamorous decadent image. She made a few pics in the 30s, tried one comeback before Pearl Harbor (literally it debuted like the week of, Desi Arnaz was in it!) and THEN did Sunset Blvd. This woman should be WORSHIPED for being in Sadie Thompson, Sunset Blvd, and even Why Change Your Wife? Gloria was an amazing actress…and she was very busy well into old age. She had an old lady fashion line for some 20 years, her own makeup line (think bare minerals), endorsed several health books, and did a lot of stage and TV work as well as sculpting and painting. She was EVERYWHERE right up to the year she died. So nope no Norma Desmond there. I literally had a heart attack when once a few months ago I seen her (ever unreliable bullshit) Wikipedia said in the opening paragraph that she ‘was known for her role in Sunset Blvd. which mirrored her later life’. UMM NO! Mae Murray yes. Gloria no.

  • Jaynie Van Roe

    I look forward to the article, Hala; please come back & post the link or send me an email! I’m a big fan of Gloria since seeing Sunset Blvd and your comment has me even more intrigued 🙂

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