'Boulevard! A Hollywood Story' sheds new light on an old 'Sunset' musical
Last Edit: WaymanWong 12:43 am EDT 08/19/21
Posted by: WaymanWong 12:28 am EDT 08/19/21

Decades before Andrew Lloyd Webber's ''Sunset Boulevard'' hit the Great White Way in 1994, there was an attempt to get a musical version to Broadway in the 1950s ... by Gloria Swanson, the Oscar-nominated star of the original film. Jeffrey Schwarz's ''Boulevard! A Hollywood Story'' documents in delicious detail the making and unmaking of that doomed project. On Tuesday night, Schwarz's movie made its world premiere, ready for its closeup, at the Outfest in L.A., playing at the DGA Theater on Sunset Blvd.

Just as the fictitious silent-film siren Norma Desmond hired Joe Gillis, a struggling young writer to write her comeback vehicle, Gloria hired Richard Shapley and Dickson Hughes, two struggling young writers, to pen a show that would put her back into the spotlight. And just as Norma falls in love with Joe, Gloria fell for Richard, but in this case, Richard was gay and in a relationship with Dickson. At this point, the documentary slyly cuts to a scene from the 1950 movie where William Holden says: ''It was all very queer. But queerer things were yet to come.''

Schwarz researches and unravels this fascinating tale through recollections from Swanson's granddaughter, plus film historians and friends of the songwriters, and some stories are whimsically illustrated with animation. But what's really remarkable is that Schwarz uncovers audio of Hughes and video of Shapley reminiscing late in their lives about their ''Sunset'' years. As a ''Boulevard'' of broken dreams, the film becomes a moving meditation about how fame can be so fleeting and and explores the haunting human desire to be remembered.

If you love old-time movies and musicals, ''Boulevard!'' promises to be right up your alley; it streams through Fri., Aug. 20, at Outfestla2021.com.
Link Outfest in L.A.: 'Boulevard! A Hollywood Story' by Jeffrey Schwarz

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