NANCY OLSON: SUNSET BOULEVARD

 

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The Film Noir Foundation has,for several years,been compiling an archive of video interviews related to classic Hollywood. Stars interviewed include Marsha Hunt,Peggy Cummins,Julie Adams,Coleen Gray,David Ladd,Rhonda Fleming,Ernest Borgnine and Nancy Olson.

These interviews are readily accessible and it’s so good that the words and thoughts of those who were part of the golden era are preserved. One could wish that this project had started even earlier.

When you think of the Hollywood film makers who should have been interviewed from the 60s onwards, it’s such a shame.

So, well done to the Film Noir Foundation, also for all their work in preserving Noir films.

 

Nancy Olson was interviewed by Alan K.Rode in May,2014 at a screening of SUNSET BOULEVARD. Looking fabulous,at the age of 86, Nancy spoke with confidence and clarity about a subject obviously dear to her. (The interview lasts about 20 minutes.)

Here are some of her comments on the filming of this classic:

 

 ” I was a student at UCLA – theatre arts……I was under contract to Paramount and continued to go to school……..”

 

“First of all, I had no idea who Gloria Swanson was!   (Nancy’s mother set her straight)…….. “It was Gloria who really knew that this film was going to make history….”She got there (the studio) at 7 in the morning,started shooting at 9 and we finished at 6. She would beg Billy to stay and work with her on scenes for the next day.”

 

  “His (Wilder) first thought was Mae West – can you imagine Mae West? Then he thought about Mary Pickford.He also wanted Monty Clift to play Joe Gillis – and Monty Clift said no.”

 

“Perfect casting was Bill Holden.He was a great star.He did Our Town and Golden Boy……….he was in a marriage that wasn’t working.He started to drink very heavily.For him to play Joe Gillis, who was at the end of his rope……..Bill Holden was desperate and it changed his life,the relationship with Billy Wilder changed his career.”

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“Bill and I spent three years together – making 4 films,not every single day…….I grew up with Bill Holden – there was a very deep friendship and affection for each other.”

 

“He (Wilder) never directed me.We’d start a rehearsal and he’d say, ‘That’;s fine.Nancy.’ And we would go ahead and do the scene.”

 

  “The studio were paying me $300 a week – which I never saw.My parents had to put that into a fund as I was under 21 – I was 20 when I made the picture.”

 

  “Erich Von Stroheim was totally enigmatic. He always said to me, ‘Good morning,Miss Olson.’

 

“At a private screening of Sunset Boulevard,Louis B. Mayer went over to Billy and said ‘How could you do this to us.’ It exposed that the studios took advantage of people like Norma Desmond, and when they were through with them,they threw them away………this was the tragedy of the film.”

 

A terrific interview, well worth watching.  Nancy is planning her memoirs and read out a sample – on Marilyn Monroe whom she knew. Miss Olson writes in great depth about the Hollywood system and what it can do to some people.

On YouTube is  another interview Nancy did on the same topic ( with Alison Martino), but this time the interviewer  didn’t even get to ask one question – Nancy launched forth for another 20 minutes with almost identical comments to Alan Rode’s interview! Though this time she read from a different part of her proposed autobiography. I cant wait to read it.

Nancy’s other films with William Holden were UNION STATION,FORCE OF ARMS  and SUBMARINE COMMAND, all released in 1951. (She had been signed by Paramount in 1948 and Sunset Boulevard was only her second film – and she was Oscar nominated for it).

She only made 20 films in total,having moved back to New York when she married Alan Jay Lerner with whom she had two daughters. After their divorce, she was married to record producer Alan Livingstone.

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