Billy Wilder, Sunset Blvd, and The Loved One

An article posted on the MyInform.com news blog reviews the history of the classic 1950 Hollywood film Sunset¬†Boulevard, written and directed by Billy Wilder. The author of the article, which appears to be generally well written and researched, is identified only as <denofgeek.us>. The article refers at one point to the¬†influence¬†of Waugh’s novel¬†The Loved One¬†on Wilder’s story and film:

Billy Wilder was one of the ultimate Hollywood insiders and he grew with film. He directed classic films like Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole, The Apartment, The Lost Weekend, Stalag 17, Witness for the Prosecution, Sabrina, and Some Like It Hot. Sunset Boulevard’s cinematographer John Seitz said Wilder “had wanted to do The Loved One, but couldn’t obtain the rights.” British author’s Evelyn Waugh‚Äôs satirical 1948 novel was about a failed screenwriter who lives with a silent film star and works in a cemetery. At one point Norma mistakes Joe for a funeral director and asks for her coffin to be white, as well as specially lined with satin. White, pink, or maybe bright flaming red. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who plays herself in the movie, wrote that “Billy Wilder … was crazy about Evelyn Waugh’s book The Loved One, and the studio wanted to buy it.”

The author¬†may have relied in this paragraph on¬†an earlier article by Steve Sailer, journalist and film critic,¬†that explored in more detail the influence of Waugh’s novel on Wilder’s film. See earlier post. As Sailer points out in his article, there are several instances of Wilder’s use of elements of Waugh’s story but they are inverted or twisted in Wilder’s version. The new article quoted above gets one of these wrong. In The Loved One, the failed screenwriter Dennis Barlow who works in a cemetery lives not with a silent film star but with another, older failed screenwriter, Sir Francis Hinsley. Sailer cites¬†a fairly direct allusion in the film when the failed screen writer, Joe Gillis, is mistaken for the employee of a pet cemetery on his arrival¬†at the home of Norma Desmond, the aging ¬†film star. She had earlier called the cemetery to collect her dead pet chimpanzee, and was expecting one of their representatives¬†rather than Gillis.

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