Nancy Olson on ‘Sunset Blvd’

No, Nancy Olson doesn’t think think Betty Schaeffer, her level-headed character in “Sunset Blvd,” goes back to Artie — the financee (Jack Webb) she dumped — after her new lover Joe Gillis (William Holden) gets plugged by Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson).

“She injured that relationship, and Artie’s not going to be happy about the headlines about her being in a love triangle. But she’s going to be OK because she’s a very strong and sound person,” says Olson, 84, the sole survivor of the film’s principal cast, who’s promoting Tuesday’s debut of “Sunset Blvd” on Blu-ray.

Did Betty ever finish the screenplay she was working on with Joe? “I think she went on a new course; she probably ended up like me, married to a writer with two kids. Everyone back then was an opportunist, including Betty Schaeffer. After ‘Sunset Blvd’ they put me in three more pictures with William Holden — being a movie star was just a matter of being a product that was exploited.”

As direct as the character she plays in Sunset Blvd., Olson says “I wasn’t cast by Billy Wilder because I was any kind of great actress” — signed by Paramount out of UCLA, the 20-year-old actress had only been in one previous film, a Randolph Scott western. “I was well spoken, I was educated, I seemed like someone who could be an aspiring writer.

“Every time I tried on one of Edith Head’s outfits for Betty, Billy shook his head and said, ‘That’s not what Betty would wear, is it?’ Could you wear your own clothes, please? And I didn’t have a great wardrobe.”

Olson vividly remembers shooting the sequence at the New Year’s Eve party given by her fiancee Webb. “I’m sitting on the edge of the bathtub in my best dress, a dark green off-the-shoulder number with a large cameo my father gave me several Christmases earlier. And then I’m joined by William Holden with white tie and tails and that famous vicuna coat — he really looked like a movie star!”

That sequence originally included a number, “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues,” performed mostly by songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans,” that was cut from the film and replaced by them performing a couple of bars of their Oscar-winning “Buttons and Bows.” (The deleted number surfaces for the first time on the Blu-ray; here’s a sample ).

“I played the piano and whenever I got bored at Paamoun, I would go into the music department and visit the two of them,” recalls Schaeffer, who a decade later met Livingston’s younger brother Alan, another songwriter, and was married to him until his death in 2009. (For most of the 1950s, she was married to lyricist and screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner, who dedicated “My Fair Lady” to her).

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