Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

dir. Billy Wilder

It’s hard to add something to what has already been said about this classic film, but I’ve managed to find a few more surviving locations that haven’t been mentioned before.

The police rushing to the scene of the crime – Sunset Boulevard at N. Rexford Drive, Los Angeles, California.

The Desmond mansion’s driveway – 10060 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. It was the estate of Edwin Janss Sr., whose family company developed Holmby Hills, an exclusive enclave off Sunset Boulevard between Bel Air and Beverly Hills.

The neighborhood has long been home to film and other celebrities, and Norma Desmond (whose fictional address was given as '10086 Sunset') could have lived there. The Janss mansion has since been demolished, and its former lot is now incorporated into the Owlwood Estate at 141 South Carolwood Drive. The remnant of the driveway used in the film leads to a wall now.

Later in the film, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is seen entering the driveway while escaping the repo men.

Norma Desmond's (Gloria Swanson) mansion – 641 S. Irving Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. Built between 1919 and 1924 for William O. Jenkins, who owned sugar plantations in Mexico, and spent most of his time over there. In 1936 J.P. Getty bought the derelict house, and reportedly left it to his former wife as part of the divorce settlement. The mansion stood empty for several years before Billy Wilder chose it for filming of Sunset Boulevard. As everyone knows by now, it didn't have a swimming pool required by the screenplay so it was installed for the purposes of filming. The pool and the mansion were later used in another classic film, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause. A couple of years after Ray's film was released, the mansion was torn down. The Harbor Building has occupied the site since 1958. This location is a good six miles away from the driveway on Sunset Boulevard used in the movie.

The archival photos below show the mansion shortly before and during the demolition in 1957.

Joe Gillis’ apartment building – Alto Nido, 1851 N. Ivar Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The Alto Nido ("high nest" in Spanish) has seen its share of renowned non-fictional residents as well, including Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Claudette Colbert, and George Cukor. According to local lore, Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia, also stayed there. This is apparently not true but it didn't stop Brian De Palma from featuring it in his 2006 film version of the infamous murder case.

The place where Gillis stashed his car – the parking lot on Vine Street, next to The Palace, Los Angeles, California. The camera is looking toward Ivar Avenue.

Gillis drives onto Vine Street toward Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

Paramount Studios - 5451 Marathon Street, Los Angeles, California. This is the Bronson Avenue gate. You can no longer get close to the famous gate (unless you have a business at the studio or book a tour), it can only be admired from a distance.

Schwab’s Pharmacy – 8024 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. It was Hollywood’s most famous drugstore, a popular hangout for writers, actors, etc., many of those living in the neighboring Chateau Marmont or Garden of Allah. In the film, Gillis calls it "headquarters; a combination office, coffee klatch, and waiting room."
Schwab's in the 1940s.

The original Schwab's was torn in the late 1950s and was replaced with a modern building. The store had to close in 1983, and was demolished a few years later. The 8000 Sunset shopping mall now stands on the site.

Gillis drives from the meeting with his agent – Still searching for this location. The Sunset Blvd. sign is probably fake.

Gillis sees the repo men at a traffic signal – Sunset Boulevard at Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, California.

Gillis accelerates and tries to escape them – Sunset Boulevard at Beverly Glen Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

The repo men make a sharp U-turn and start chasing Gillis – Sunset Boulevard at Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, California.

Gillis gets a ride with Max and Norma – Angelo Drive, Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles, California.

Norma Desmond buys Gillis new clothes – studio set with rear projection footage of the 3900 block of Wilshire Boulevard. Perino’s, then located at 3927 Wilshire Boulevard, is seen across the street. That building was demolished long time ago but the archival photo below shows the same block with the same establishments.

Norma’s Isotta Fraschini drives past Stage 17 towards Stage 18 - Francis Ford Coppola Avenue, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California.

Norma meets with Cecil B. De Mille - Stage 18, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California. This is the largest stage at Paramount that used to be known as "The De Mille Stage." Four years after Sunset Boulevard was filmed, it housed the gigantic set for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Later it became known as "The Star Trek Stage" as all the Star Trek movies and some parts of the TV shows were shot there.

Readers Department where Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) works - ”Dreier”, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California. These offices are located above the entrance to Stages 8 and 9, right across the street from Stage 18 as it’s shown in the film.

Joe and Betty walk through the studio backlot - Washington Square set, Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California. The facades for Washington Square have since been modified, and the buildings on the far left and ahead of them are no longer there.

See also...

All About Eve

The Day of the Locust


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Carrie. Glad you found it interesting.

  2. I'm watching Sunset Blvd now and wanted to find some information on the house. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post! Love it when someone takes the time to get then-and-now images from the same angle! Thank you!

  4. Thanks. Joe Gillis is such an interesting character and I loved the fact that apartment building stands. I love Hollywood.

  5. Excellent info, really interesting

  6. Great movie history. Fascinating! Thank you for the research.

  7. Good review and pictures. My son Brent lives in the apartment used for Gillis home. It is #500 not 503 as in the movie.