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'Sunset Boulevard' undergoes repairs

“Sunset Boulevard,” the classic Billy Wilder film noir on the dark side of the movie business, is restored to its original black-and-white beauty.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Modified: November 21, 2012 at 1:25 am •  Published: November 23, 2012
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“Wilder and Charles Brackett did actually part company over that very fact,” Kalas said. “Wilder really did want to emphasize the lengths that she goes to, to try to prepare for the role that she thinks she's going to get. And Brackett thought that was a little too garish. But Wilder thought it was really telling the story well. I sort of leave it to the ages to decide which way is better, but it is a fascinating way ... how youth and beauty are encapsulated in her struggle to keep her stardom alive.”

Making it like new

Kalas' main concern was making the film look young again.

“We unfortunately did not have the original negative of the film,” she said. “We had a duplicate negative to start with, so we unfortunately had to start with sort of a compromise in image quality. So we approached it by scanning it at the highest possible resolution of 4K, and then we had a print from the original release that had been stored at the Library of Congress that we could use as a reference. And that was really an important reference for us because it really told us what the original look of the film was, the very important sort of darks and shadows that the cinematographer, John Seitz, had created.

“And so we used that as a reference to use digital tools to clean up scratches and dirt and return the look of the film to the restoration that you see now. There were no major, major points of damage. There were a few frames missing here or there, so we had another element which is called the fine grain that we would use to replace certain frames, and I'm not talking about major pieces missing. I'm talking about a couple of frames in different scenes. So we would carefully use the print and compare the two different elements that we had, and make sure that we had every single frame intact.”

In addition to the restored stark shadows and dark interiors, and digitally rejuvenated soundtrack, the disc also contains two hours of in-depth bonus material on the film's origin and its path to becoming a classic; featurettes on Swanson and Holden; and a previously unreleased deleted party scene of revelers singing “The Paramount-Don't-Want-Me Blues,” which was obtained from the Academy Film Archive. The clip features Academy Award-winning songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans singing with the crowd.

“It's fun, isn't it?” Kalas said. “It's such a terrific song. You can really laugh along with it. I don't know. I think ... there may have been some concern that it was a little too Hollywood insider. But I think it appeals broadly. I think a lot of people will enjoy it, and I'm glad that it's now out there for people to enjoy.”