Posts Tagged ‘Gloria Swanson’


Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Costumes by Edith Head.

I recently needed a break from all the holiday hoopla and decided on a night in with a classic non-holiday movie – Sunset Boulevard.

What a great film of “glamorous” Hollywood, which stays on the comfortable side of creepy but adds a pinch of noir. Directed by Billy Wilder in 1950 and starring Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond and William Holden as Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard tells the story of an unstable middle-aged actress who is living in denial. She’s striving for a Hollywood comeback or rather a throwback to her youth as a big star in silent films thirty years earlier. Writer and debt-ridden Holden comes along and gets snared into her time warp.

Swanson received an academy award nomination for her work in this film but she was not the fist choice for the part. She accepted it after actresses such as Mary Pickford and Mae West turned it down for the story-line hitting a little too close to home.

It must have for Swanson as well. She had been a star in the 1920s but at age 50 she had long since faded into Hollywood history. Still, being a bit of a health nut, particularly about food, Swanson looked great and Wilder made the choice not to turn her into an old scary hag for the role of Norma Desmond.

Although she is stuck in her heyday era, Norma Desmond still looks chic thanks to costumer extraordinaire Edith Head.

In her biography Head discusses Wilder’s vision:

Billy explained to me that he wanted Gloria to convey a feeling of the past, but he didn’t want her to re-create it. He didn’t want anything ridiculous or laughable … Norma Desmond tried to be as contemporary as possible by wearing fashionable styles … To accomplish this I added a touch of the bizarre to each costume to remind audiences that she was living in a dream world of the past.

I think Head did a fabulous job creating a look for Norma that is unique and timeless.

Escape the holidays for an evening and visit Sunset Boulevard.

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