Wise words on the occasion of “Sunset Boulevard” turning 60

It’s the 60th anniversary of the release day of the most admired film ever made about Hollywood and the movie business and very possibly the best, Billy Wilder’s “Sunset Boulevard.” If you haven’t seen it, today wouldn’t be a bad day to do so. If you don’t have time, A.O. Scott has a pretty good quick rundown for you.

One observation about how our attitude towards aging has changed since 1950 due to culture and medical science: Norma Desmond was only 50. Meryl Streep is 61 and Helen Mirren is 65. I’m not saying we no longer have a problem with aging, just that it seems possible for some people to do it extremely well and women may at last starting to be catching up to men in being able to play the “ageless” game. Not that Desmondism was rampant in 1950 more than today, though I can’t think of any female stars of the era who were still playing leads in their sixties. Norma’s career problem wasn’t so much physical aging or even being seriously delusional, but that she had been too much associated with a moribund genre and a specific by-gone era. Sort of like David Crosby.

If you have seen the whole movie, then you should check out Edward Copeland’s enjoyable and thoughtful appreciation of one of his favorite films. Also, I thought it would be nice to hear just a couple of notes for directors by the movie’s director and cowriter, Billy Wilder, himself from back in 1976. First on the one thing a director must know how to do.

After the flip, Mr. Wilder addresses a subject highly relevant to his more atmospheric pictures like “Sunset Boulevard” and, almost as much, “Double Indemnity.”

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