The Film: Sunset Blvd., the 1950 film noir classic co-written/directed by Billy Wilder and starring Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Erich von Stroheim and Nancy Olson.
The Scene: After leading two repo men on a high-speed car chase along a winding stretch of Sunset Blvd., down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (Holden) ditches them with a quick turn into an old, rundown estate. Mistaken for a “pet mortician” by the mansion’s bizarre owner (Swanson), Gillis tries to explain his intrusion into her reclusive world as her identity begins to dawn on him…
“You’re Norma Desmond… You used to be in silent pictures… You used to be big.”
“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!”
The Question: What was the address for this legendary exchange, (a) in the film, and (b) in real life? (Again, no fair Googling up hints.) Click the continuation link to see the answer…
However, the actual mansion (and pool) used in the film stood at 641 S. Irving Blvd., and belonged to the second wife of millionaire J. Paul Getty. Originally built in 1924 by William Jenkins at a cost of $250,000, the estate was torn down in 1957 and replaced by what is now the Harbor Building (photo inset), formerly the Getty headquarters. Incidentally, the Alto Nido apartments that Gillis called home still grace the Hollywood landscape.
As a dark, satirical indictment of Tinseltown, Sunset Blvd. has won a treasured place in American cinema. For an indepth look at its legacy, see the Wikipedia entry. Additional background, quotes and trivia can be found at the IMDB website and the Noir of the Week blog.
Better yet, buy or rent the collector’s DVD and (re)discover for yourself why “no one ever leaves a star.”