“I didn’t know you were planning a comeback,” the youngish screenwriter says. And the long-ago movie star spits back, “I hate that word. It’s a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.” As silent-film relic Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s 1950 Hollywood horror movie, Swanson captured all the egotism and insecurity of a queen forgotten by her subjects. Swanson was only 50 at the time, younger than Kim Cattrall is now, but people got older earlier back then. She had effectively been out of movies since the early ’30s and was a huge star only in the silent era: different medium, vanished language. The script is a Bartlett’s of memorable quotations about old-time star quality (“I am big — it’s the pictures that got small”; “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”; “All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close up”). Swanson speaks with a tart rhetorical flourish that finds the showbiz truth in all these lines. Especially this one: “The stars are ageless, aren’t they?”
Top 10 Comeback Movies
Mickey Rourke's critically acclaimed role in The Wrestler is just the latest in a long line of Hollywood comebacks. TIME looks at the most memorable.