4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Mel Gibson's Sunset Boulevard?

On this final Friday of 2012, a brief bout of movie-related self-promotion

None

I am very fond of Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic Hollywood over at The Hairpin. A while back, I was reading her piece on Gloria Swanson, and learned what I really should have known already: that there was a crucial kernel of autobiography in Swanson's performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard:

During her tenure in the ‘20s, Swanson had arguably been the biggest star in the world. But this role — this would be the role of a lifetime. It was the role of Norma Desmond, a washed-up, forgotten, delusional yet perfectly preserved artifact of the silent era, trying to revive her career in post-war Hollywood. It could have been Swanson’s alternate life, and that was exactly the point: in 1950, most of the viewers would have a keen memory of 1920s Hollywood, the same way that we have a keen memory of 1980s film and television...this was something rare: a role that would succeed precisely because of Swanson’s past image, but would also allow Swanson to leave that image behind. Tom Cruise (sorta) did it with Tropic Thunder, but it's a rarified turn. How can you simultaneously reify and transcend your image? The secondary pleasures are extra-textual: viewers reveled in conflation of Desmond’s past with Swanson’s own (remember, most audience members in 1950 would have a keen memory of Swanson and the silent era she embodied; for us, it’d be like watching a movie about a fallen ‘80s pop star, starring Michael Jackson). Swanson also agreed to accentuate the similarities, adding items of her personal collection to the set and costume design, performing a Chaplin imitation she made famous in Manhandled, and agreeing to the casting of her former director, Cecil B. DeMille, as, you guessed it, her former director.

And it struck me that the character of Mel Gibson in my little Mel Gibson story Surfing with Mel (only 99 cents!) might could be the man's Norma Desmond role: simultaneously reifying and transcending. If you've got a few minutes, you might find it interesting.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

How to spend a weekend in Santa Barbara

Venture 3.5 hours north to see why S.B. deserves the title of American Riviera.
Next Article

La Jolla’s Monkey House

“The site of many family weddings, 4th of July parades, holiday parties, and La Jolla Secret Garden Tours.”

None

I am very fond of Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic Hollywood over at The Hairpin. A while back, I was reading her piece on Gloria Swanson, and learned what I really should have known already: that there was a crucial kernel of autobiography in Swanson's performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard:

During her tenure in the ‘20s, Swanson had arguably been the biggest star in the world. But this role — this would be the role of a lifetime. It was the role of Norma Desmond, a washed-up, forgotten, delusional yet perfectly preserved artifact of the silent era, trying to revive her career in post-war Hollywood. It could have been Swanson’s alternate life, and that was exactly the point: in 1950, most of the viewers would have a keen memory of 1920s Hollywood, the same way that we have a keen memory of 1980s film and television...this was something rare: a role that would succeed precisely because of Swanson’s past image, but would also allow Swanson to leave that image behind. Tom Cruise (sorta) did it with Tropic Thunder, but it's a rarified turn. How can you simultaneously reify and transcend your image? The secondary pleasures are extra-textual: viewers reveled in conflation of Desmond’s past with Swanson’s own (remember, most audience members in 1950 would have a keen memory of Swanson and the silent era she embodied; for us, it’d be like watching a movie about a fallen ‘80s pop star, starring Michael Jackson). Swanson also agreed to accentuate the similarities, adding items of her personal collection to the set and costume design, performing a Chaplin imitation she made famous in Manhandled, and agreeing to the casting of her former director, Cecil B. DeMille, as, you guessed it, her former director.

And it struck me that the character of Mel Gibson in my little Mel Gibson story Surfing with Mel (only 99 cents!) might could be the man's Norma Desmond role: simultaneously reifying and transcending. If you've got a few minutes, you might find it interesting.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Comments
2

I've been in the Alto-Nido Apartments at 1851 N. Ivar St. in Hollywood, as a friend lived there. This is where they filmed the William Holden character's apt. in Sunset Boulevard.

Dec. 28, 2012

Very cool.

"She refers to a phenomenon of moviegoing which I have called certification. Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere." - Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

Dec. 28, 2012

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close