Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring William Holden, Marthe Keller
Screenplay by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond
Based on the novella by Tom Tryon
Approx. 114 min. DCP.
So, washed up producer William Holden’s big comeback project, an adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, to feature the electrifying return from retirement of Garboesque eternally-youthful screen legend Fedora (Marthe Keller), goes down the drain when she throws herself under a train in real life. Flashback two weeks, as Holden sneaks into her remote Greek island hideaway to make his desperate pitch, finding she’s been kept prisoner there by creepy Countess Hildegard Knef, overprotective servant Frances Sternhagen, and virtuosic plastic surgeon José Ferrer. But who’s really telling the truth? Adapting from Crowned Heads, a novel by ex-actor Thomas Tryon, Wilder and longtime co-scripter I.A.L Diamond moved back from their frantic comedy style (SOME LIKE IT HOT, ONE, TWO, THREE) to his noir roots (SUNSET BOULEVARD), and to an evocation of a kind of Hollywood glamor that even in the 1970s seemed like the distant past.
“RICH, MAJESTIC, ALSO A BIT MAD! Old-fashioned with a vengeance, a proud, passionate remembrance of the way movies used to be, and a bitter smile at what they have become. It seems exactly what Mr. Wilder wants it to be, perfectly self-contained and filled with the echoes of a lifetime… The compactness and symmetry aren’t achieved these days without a good deal of self-consciousness. Mr. Wilder achieves them naturally.”
– Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“SHAMEFULLY UNDERRATED! ONE OF THE MOST SUBLIME ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE 1970s! Wilder’s testament… Only superficially does it resemble SUNSET BOULEVARD, since time has moved on; appropriately, FEDORA is about a star’s disastrous attempt to make time stop, and a washed-up producer’s efforts to cope with Hollywood’s inexorable new generation. Atmospherically set on Corfu, it explores the basis of cinema: realism, illusion, romance and tragedy – in a word, emotion. It’s not a flashy film, let alone a cynical one, and it has a narrative assurance beyond the grasp of most directors nowadays: finely acted, mysterious, witty, moving and magnificent.”
– Adrian Turner, Time Out (London)
“FEDORA’s tawdry observations about stardom and vanity give it a kicky kind of sordidness.”
– Melissa Anderson, Artforum
Click here to read the complete review.
“A companion piece to SUNSET BOULEVARD that exceeds the earlier film’s aura of despair… Located on the Greek island of Corfu, FEDORA’s Mediterranean hideout is every bit the palatial coffin that Norma Desmond’s was, realized by Wilder in frozen deep space and as menacing with its use of flamboyantly decorated, sunlit interiors as SUNSET BOULEVARD was with its chiaroscuro.”
– Carson Lund, Slant
“Wilder’s penultimate film is a shattered reflection of his 1950 classic SUNSET BOULEVARD… [but] unlike the earlier film, this one seethes with authentic nostalgia.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Click here to view StageBuddy.com’s “5 Reasons Not To Miss Fedora”.
"A chance for Wilder to make another Hollywood Gothic… Norma Desmond’s musty mansion and FEDORA’s shrouded island villa share a forbidding aura out of horror films, and FEDORA is peppered with movie-chiller imagery."
– Kevin Lally, Wilder Times: The Life of Billy Wilder
“Its spare classical style, its sense of character, and its occasional romantic excesses are all very much Old Hollywood (and Wilder has even included a jeremiad against the new boys in town). But the deliberate anachronisms are signs of a deep, unshakable commitment to a personal aesthetic.”
– Dave Kehr