In 1950, Billy Wilder made what is probably the definitive film on Hollywood and aging with Sunset Boulevard, but it seems he wasn’t quite done with the topic, returning to it in 1978’s Fedora, a film about an iconic actress from the 1940s (very Garbo-esque in accent and distancing demeanor) who has retired to the Greek isles under somewhat mysterious circumstances.
After a long series of films with Jack Lemmon, Wilder returns to his previous favorite male actor, William Holden – who also not coincidentally played the male lead in Sunset Boulevard, the first of many echoes from that film to this. Here he’s a movie producer (perhaps a few steps up from Joe Gilles’ desperate screenwriter, though he’s still desperate) hoping to find the reclusive Mme. Fedora and convince her to come back and star in a film for him. The first half of Fedora plays like a mystery, a “where is Fedora” and “why won’t the people at this island villa she’s supposedly staying with let me in or talk to me” situation that’s reminiscent of The Third Man.