"Boulevard! A Hollywood Story"
Yes, Andrew Lloyd Webber turned director Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard into a Tony award-winning stage musical, but the famed composer was not the first to realize that Norma Desmond belonged on Broadway. In the early 1950s, Gloria Swanson pitched Wilder’s Hollywood tragedy as a stage musical in a bid to capitalize on the success of her Oscar-nominated comeback role as the silent film star infatuated with a young screenwriter. As detailed in director Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary Boulevard! A Hollywood Story, Swanson recruited former MGM contract player turned lyricist Richard Stapley and pianist/composer Dickson Hughes to adapt Sunset Boulevard as a stage musical. But the project fell apart long before it was ready for Broadway, mostly because of Swanson coming between professional and romantic partners Stapley and Hughes. A documentary about life imitating art, Boulevard! A Hollywood Story recalls not just the challenges to adapt Sunset Boulevard for Broadway but also a silent film icon’s resourceful bid to remain in the public eye and a neophyte songwriting duo’s efforts to ensure their potential big break does not ruin their personal lives. Schwarz mines various resources, including Swanson’s inventory of papers at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, to tell a near-forgotten story of reinvention.Boulevard! A Hollywood Story is now available to streamthroughSept. 6 during aGLIFF’s Prism 34. Jeffrey Schwarz previously directed the documentaries Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story, Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, Vito, I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential, and The Fabulous Allan Carr.
Aired: Sept. 2, 2021.