“It is Hollywood craftsmanship at its smartest and at just about its best, and it is hard to find better craftsmanship than that, at this time, in any art or country.” - James Agee, Sight & Sound

“Dead fame, the grim phantom that often uniquely besets careers in Hollywood, becomes the theme for one of the most remarkable pictures ever produced.” - Edwin Schallert, Los Angeles Times

Thursday, July 25, 8:30 p.m. | Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD begins as memorably as it ends, with a dead body floating in a pool, and concludes with an iconic staircase and a line you’ve probably quoted (or misquoted!): “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” Starring Gloria Swanson as the ravishingly delusional, aging diva Norma Desmond, SUNSET BOULEVARD is a claustrophobic cautionary tale of Hollywood which finds Desmond wasting away in her decaying mansion on the famed street, hanging on to her glory years as a silent film star. Co-starring William Holden as a down-on-his-luck screenwriter, Erich von Stroheim as an enabling butler, and Nancy Olson as an ambitious young script reader (all of whom, alongside Swanson, were Academy Award-nominated for their performances), SUNSET BOULEVARD is a cold-blooded critique of the entertainment industry that The Nation called an “uncompromising study of American decadence.” In the final moments, as Desmond descends that famed staircase and the frame blurs to black, her audience (“those wonderful people out there in the dark”) can’t help but feel complicit: we loved her, we dismissed her, and our gaze has observed her undoing.

Awards & Nominations

Nominee - Best Actor in a Leading Role (William Holden), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Gloria Swanson), Nominee, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Erich von Stroheim), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Nancy Olson), Best Director, Best Picture, Best Editing, Academy Award
Winner - Best Art Direction, Best Screenplay, Best Score, Academy Awards


Last ShotStick the landing. Bring it home. Finish strong. In cinema, the last shot is arguably the most important. “This is it, this is the final moment, it is perfect!” only to have it go on, stumbling and fumbling its way to the credits? For all those missed opportunities, there are also the pitch-perfect conclusions, the memorable last looks, the frames that catch your breath in your throat and with pure artistry not only conclude a film but underscore, emphasize, or affirm the entire running time that came before it. Our 11-film Last Shot series explores impeccable resolutions in film. View full Last Shot series. *Spoiler alert: the endings of all films in this series are mentioned (as subtly as possible) in their description, and the accompanying still images do not reflect their final frames.

The Film Center is ADA accessible. This presentation will be projected without open captions. The theater is hearing-loop equipped. For accessibility requests, please email filmcenter@saic.edu