Today! Because I am big, it’s the pictures that got small –
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Directed by Billy Wilder (x2)
Starring Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Nancy Olson, Erich von Stroheim, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough (x2), Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper (x2), Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, Anna Q. Nilsson
Even for movies about movies, which lean heavy on this formula, Sunset Boulevard’s art-imitating-life bent is almost head-spinning. By many indications, Gloria Swanson was only amping up her own persona slightly in playing damaged, faded silent star Norma Desmond, while her former director turned butler Max Von Mayerling was played by accomplished Austrian actor Erich von Stroheim, who had himself directed Swanson in the 1929 drama Queen Kelly. Cecil B. DeMille appears as himself, as do Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson. While Hollywood cameos in Hollywood-set films is nothing new, it’s the fact that these folks would play such degraded, forgotten versions of themselves in 1950, when former silent actors were basically out on the curb, that makes it all the more remarkable.