"Credible" and "more sympathetic," indeed.
R453, in displaying a fundamental ignorance of what "Sunset Boulevard" was intended to be and is, while proudly misunderstanding its theme AND its careful characterizations, this poster deserves a big, sticky, brown "Oh, dear" for camp-as-black-social-satire illiteracy.
Swanson's performance is the core of Wilder's and Brackett's indictment of the Hollywood studio system still being tinseled and celebrated at the time of the film's release. There's a reason Mayer shouted at Wilder at the theater after its premiere, and reason why Wilder called back, "Fuck you" to Mayer.
Swanson's job in this horror movie (which it was meant to be, with the cut scene of dead Gillis with other corpses in the morgue talking to each other at the very start, to the "monkey" funeral and the wheezing organ and the dead house of relics and the "wax museum" card game - Keaton was himself personally stung by how the scene affected him - and the rest) probably is the best in the history of mainstream American cinema. She was exactly what was scripted and directed for. And there's no MARY appropriate after that statement. And I'm not that crazy about her off the screen.
Brave, deadly as a garrote, informed by personal history, and self-immolating and self-revealing in an almost ghastly way. She loathed Chaplin and did him perfectly in "pantomime." She encouraged scenes from her disaster "Queen Kelly" in the horrid home-movie viewing. She treated Von Stroheim's character like a slave, and he had directed her in that and other movies. She - and De Mille - did the spotlight-at-the-studio scene as an autopsy, and De Mille's voice cracked as he ordered his team to drop the contacts about renting her car.
Go back to our beloved schlock and the simpering patronization of all those "women's movies" and musicals and bios. I enjoy them. But no one but Swanson could have done Norma. The actresses who were considered or claimed to be considered were all-too-much examples of what the film was getting at to play it. Shearer, who took her money and her hot new young husband and ran, avoided their fate by having another life. She would have had no understanding, sympathy or craft to attempt to play something as far from her league as the Yankees have been from Vassar Resolutes of 1932. And she would have known it. And I like Shearer, for all of her three-note range.
By the way, Shearer's marriage to Arrouge was very happy. They were completely devoted to each other, and he gave her a life they both enjoyed. There are plenty of stories from their social set commenting how great and fun they were. Even Robert Wagner devoted time in his autobiography to them.
"Credible." Christ. I'm deleting that word from my vocabulary for such idiocy.