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Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond, and the Dark Hollywood Dream

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  97 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Classic storytelling about one of Hollywood’s darkest masterpieces, Close-up on Sunset Boulevard goes behind the scenes to reveal everything about the making of this movie and the larger-than-life personalities of its creators and stars. Close-up on Sunset Boulevard features unforgettable anecdotes about every player: from silent queen Gloria Swanson in her poignant comeba ...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published February 4th 2003 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2002)
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Biographers have a fine line that can be crossed when interjecting themselves into the work. A few people -- Eve Golden -- Betty Fussell (I know there is controversy with her bio on Mabel Normand, but I love it) can do it, but many others Jane Ellen Wayne, Charlotte Chandler I'm looking at you! it comes off as egotistical and weird.

In this book, egotistical and weird. A lot of the book was padded and unneccessary too. Yes, "ready for my closeup Mr. Demille" and "return" not "comeback" are part
An interesting history of the Billy Wilder classic, but the whole thing comes from a camp perspective, which is fine, but I had never associated it with the film until I read this. Still don't. And Staggs' view of Wilder's work is strange - he believes that nothing after this (with the possible exception of Some Like it Hot) is on the level of the films Wilder wrote with Charles Brackett. This is a strange position, considering that he made several great films between 1950 and 1961. And in his c ...more
A bit too "dishy" for my taste. I would have preferred reading more about the actual making of the film. Most of the book only covers the affect the movie had on popular culture.
It was a little too gossipy for my taste. Found out some interesting things but nothing all that stunning. It was like a REALLY long magazine article.
Staggs totally does his homework and then some, as he not only digs into every detail of the production, its actors and production team, but lists every TV, film and stage production to ever rip off this fabulous film. Sometimes its a bit much --do we really need to know every time "I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille" appeared in print in the years following the film? Additionally, he delves into the history of the "Sunset Boulevard" musical --both Gloria Swanson's unfruitful battle to get t ...more
Mary Ann
This book was so engrossing I couldn't but it down. Author Sam Staggs researched this movie and then some, tracing anecdotes from the cast, reviews, casting challenges, set designs, feuds and even the staging of Weber's brilliant musical operetta adaptation - which was filled with as much drama off-stage as on. I now want to to read his "All About All About Eve." Any classic movie fan will love this, but you need to know the "lingo" of the film industry as well as the studios, the main players i ...more
Excellent, well-researched book. Only criticism is that the author sometimes goes into great detail about someone/something which is not directly related to the topic.... for example, considerabel space devoted to Billy Wilder's post-Boulevard career wasn't particularly interesting to me.
Jim Berkin
Staggs remains perhaps the most thorough analyst of particular films & their backstories whenever he tackles one. Sunset Boulevard, one of my favorite films ever, gets the treatment here - I almost feel like Ed McMahon in one of those Carson bits when I say, really, that EVERYTHING you'd want to know about Sunset Boulevard is in this book! Staggs has written about other films as well, and I'd recommend any of his books to anyone who loved whatever film he's talking about - even if you're an ...more
Mary Ann
Campy, informative, and fun. I loved it! A must-read for fans of the film and of books about Hollywood.
Really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this as I'm a big fan of Billy Wilder and enjoyed learning the back story to the film - well researched and insightful about the studio era and the layers of inside story worked into a classic noir film. Apart from learning that the deserted mansion in Rebel w/o a Cause was Norma Desmond's I really lost interest when tracking down *every* post-1950 reference to Sunset Boulevard - however banal!
This was a nice, trashy read (occasionally a bit too trashy, hence the 4-stars). The author is more opinionated than objective in many cases, which irritated me some, especially since I know I'm prone to the same sort of excess. But I have always loved this film, probably above all others, and really enjoyed the wealth of detail this book laid out on its creation and aftermath.
Sunset Boulevard is my favorite movie! This books gives all the back story. If you like Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond or old Hollywood then you will enjoy this book.
Invaluable but overly long. Allowing myself the pleasure of skimming and skipping I found it incredibly readable and learned just as much as I wanted to know.
The first couple hundred pages were fun and interesting after that a little tedious.
Fun read on one of my favorite films. Thanks Melissa!
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