Write descriptive essay about Sunset Blvd. movie 1950, write an essay of at least 500 words on Sunset Blvd., 5 paragraph essay on Sunset Blvd., definition essay, descriptive essay, dichotomy essay.
Sunset Blvd.
Drama, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
Billy Wilder
William Holden as Joseph C. 'Joe' Gillis
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim as Max Von Mayerling
Nancy Olson as Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark as Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough as Morino
Jack Webb as Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum as Undertaker - Chimp's Funeral
Larry J. Blake as First Finance Man (as Larry Blake)
Charles Dayton as Second Finance Man
Hedda Hopper as Herself
Buster Keaton as Himself - Bridge Player
Anna Q. Nilsson as Herself - Bridge Player
H.B. Warner as Himself - Bridge Player
Storyline: The story, set in '50s Hollywood, focuses on Norma Desmond, a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max who was once her director and husband has become her self-contained world. Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis, a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness.
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Sunset Blvd. (1950)
This dark shadowy film noir was an excellent classic that I recommend to anyone. It is funny, dramatic,and tragic. Although the humor is dark it is tasteful. The opening scenes of Sunset Blvd. are some of the most famous in motion picture history. After the opening credits, the camera follows motorcycles and police cars as they pull up to a Beverly Hills mansion where a body floats face-down in a pool. Then a voice over narration begins telling the story of a dead man. The house is almost another character altogether and an amazing mise en scene for a film. Film lovers will love the movie driven story, fantastic performances and great direction. It's one of the few movies that will be well known forever and never forgotten.
"Mr. Wilder, I'm ready for my close-up"
Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett were about the best writing team in Hollywood for more than three decades. "Sunset Boulevard" shows the men at the pinnacle of their profession. Billy Wilder directed the film with his usual panache at this nostalgic look at a Hollywood that had faded almost a quarter of a century before. If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.

With the advent of the "talkies" a lot of film stars of the silent era lost their privileged positions as the most admired people in movies. When the new generation appeared in the scene, they were more accessible to the fans that flocked to see the new technique in the movies that came out. One of those movies stars, Norma Desmond, lives in the past as she never adapted to the new reality, which is evident in the way she stays out of the scene dwelling in her antiquated castle on Sunset Boulevard.

Enter Joe Gillis, the man who never made it into the industry. As a writer, all his screen plays were rejected by the studio machinery because they were not what the heads of the production departments wanted to produce, or just were plain, not interested. Joe Gillis comes into the Desmond mansion by accident and it's an accident he encounters on his way out of it! Tbe egotistical Norma Desmond lives in the her palatial home with Max Von Mayerberg, the loyal servant, who was himself, somebody in the silent era. Norma falls for the young Gillis in ways she never expected, but as a desperate woman she wants to possess what she can't otherwise buy, even a man going through financial bad times the way Joe Gillis is.

Billy Wilder got magnificent performances out of the three principals. William Holden had one of the best opportunities of his film career with Joe Gillis, a character he wasn't even scheduled to play, but which Montgomery Cliff handed to him in a silver platter when he refused to appear in the picture! Gloria Swanson, having experienced that old Hollywood, was a natural choice to play Norma, which was perhaps, the crowning role in her distinguished career. Erich Von Stroheim, the great director, himself, is absolutely wonderful as Von Mayerling.

We see some of the silent era stars such as Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anne C. Nilsson, H.B. Warner, as well as Cecil B. DeMille, the director of Hollywood epics par excellence.

The great musical score of Franz Waxman enhances the film. John Seitz black and white photography brings us back to that time. Ultimately, it's the genius of Billy Wilder that keeps things in balance showing a man who understood movies as perhaps the only one that could have directed the classic "Sunset Boulevard".
The Wild Roller-coaster of Fame
In many ways Sunset Boulevard is like the reverse side of the coin of A Star Is Born. In that film we have young Vicki Lester going through all the travails and heartache before achieving her goal of movie stardom.

Sunset Boulevard is the reverse. A Star Is Born has its tragic figure in Norman Maine who commits suicide rather than face being a has been. In Sunset Boulevard we have the character of Norma Desmond who has not taken that route. She lacks for nothing in the material world, she wisely saved and invested her money. But the acclaim of the audience is a drug she craves. She's been at the top on the celebrity roller-coaster and now is at the bottom.

Into her life comes Joe Gillis quite accidentally. Fleeing from some repo men looking to take his car, Gillis drives into the garage of what he thinks is a deserted mansion. It looks pretty run down from the outside. Gillis compares it to the house of Miss Faversham from Great Expectations, little knowing how right he was.

Billy Wilder was a casting genius though in some ways he fell into the cast he had. Gloria Swanson was not his first choice, he approached both Mary Pickford and Pola Negri for the Desmond role first. Gloria Swanson who actually had made the transition to sound well, but had gone on to stage and radio since her success in Music in the Air, drew from the experiences of many of her colleagues. At the time she was cast in Sunset Boulevard she had a radio show out of New York.

Bill Holden was sheer serendipity. Originally Montgomery Clift was to do the part, but at the last minute he said no, feeling that this was to similar a part to the one he played in The Heiress. Wilder then went through the list of contract leading men at Paramount.

Wilder saw something in Holden, God bless him. Holden had done a whole series of what he termed 'smiling Jim' roles. He was considered an amiable and non-threatening leading man. Although he had done well in a role as a psychotic killer in The Dark Past, Sunset Boulevard brought him his first real acclaim as an actor. An Academy Award nomination came with the acclaim.

Nancy Olson and Erich Von Stroheim were nominated in the Best Supporting Player categories as was Swanson for Best Actress. Von Stroheim was another inspired choice. His is a strange part indeed. He was Desmond's first director in silent films and left his career behind to take care of her. He was also her first husband.

Sunset Boulevard for it's time and with the Code firmly in place was a brutal look at the sexual needs of a middle-aged woman. Before Holden knows it, he's giving up his life as an aspiring screenwriter to be a kept gigolo. He doesn't like it, but can't leave it. When he does, it results in tragedy.

Nancy Olson plays a reader at Paramount studios where Holden is trying to sell a script. She and Holden had good chemistry and after this they did four more films together.

Casting Cecil B. DeMille as himself was of necessity for who could play the great DeMille, but DeMille. DeMille in fact was a former actor and playwright at the turn of the last century. In his autobiography DeMille lets us in on a private joke. He in fact did direct many of Gloria Swanson's early silent films and a pet name he had for her was 'young fella.' Note that when Norma Desmond comes to the Paramount lot to see him, he greets her with that same expression. Note that DeMille got a plug for his own film Samson and Delilah which was in production at the same time. It is the set of that film where Swanson and DeMille meet.

You will never forget the finely etched characters of Sunset Boulevard. You can see it many times as I've done, but if you see it only once you will have it burned in your memory. Especially that last scene before the newsreel cameras where Swanson loses whatever sanity she has left. She descends down the stairs of her mansion and descends into the comfort of insanity.

I've often wondered should a sequel have been done covering the trial of Norma Desmond. I'm sure Billy Wilder wanted to move on to other projects. Still that would have been a film to see.
I've seen this film over and over on tv and video. Last week I got to see it on the big screen. WOW! GO, Drive miles and miles, walk if necessary, steal a car, whatever - any chance you have to see this film as intended TAKE IT! I've always loved this film and thought it was brilliant - NOW I know it's truly a masterpiece! Gloria Swanson's performance is unbelievable - just how DID Judy Holiday win that oscar?!?!?

Greatness Boulevard.
Generally considered as Wilder's peak,it lives up to its reputation.Fifty years later,it remains the best movie about movie world,not only hollywoodian .One hundred times plagiarized,never surpassed. First of all,there 's the Swanson/Von Stroheim couple.He directed her in the famous "Queen Kelly"(another must of the silent movies).Von Stroheim was too ahead of his time,his movies scared the censors ,so he was not allowed to pursue a career that would have been stunning in the talkies.Here he became (supreme downfall),Swanson's butler ,while we see one of his former colleagues,Cecil B. De Mille,playing his own role,still directing.Von Stroheim's character is called "Max von Mayerling" ,probably one of Wilder's private jokes: Stroheim once said he was the son of a lady in waiting of Austrian Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) whose son Rudolph committed suicide in Mayerling!And Wilder was Austrian too. Swanson is impressive too.The comeback myth is the dream of every actor whose star is slowly but inexorably fading.that she continues viewing her old -and real!- triumphs like "Queen Kelly,that she's writing an extravaganza shows that her comeback desire has reached the point of no return and that her only place in this world is the asylum.What Swanson did not achieve in the movie,she did it for real:she really could come back(as Lilian Gish),her performance,particularly in the last scene ,has stood the test of time. Wilder as a scriptwriter outdoes himself here;lines like "I'm still big;it's the pictures that got small" could be pronounced today ! 25 years later,he would try to update "sunset blvd" with "Fedora":the latter suffered by comparison,but it's a very worthwhile work that every fan of this great director should see.
"...we didnd't need to talk, we had faces!"
Gloria Swanson was the definitive choice for the role of Nora Desmond in this classic story of an excentric aging silent screen star determined to make a come back. William Holden plays the out-of-luck young writer who sees the filthy rich Swanson as his meal ticket. Under the pretence of writing Swanson's come back script, Holden becomes the pretty boy giggolo to the psychotic older lady.

Billy Wilder pulled out all of his tricks for this eye-candy of a movie. Re-makes don't come close to this original gem, and for God's sake stay away from the awful Andrew Lloyd Webber play! There is no substitute for the real McCoy; this original movie is the winner hands down!*****
Welcome to the Hotel California on Sunset Blvd.
Sunset Blvd. had to have influenced the Eagles classic hit, Hotel California. Parallels exist throughout, including the enchantment.


1) A man compelled to stop for the night, as did Joe Gillis, whose face showed his puzzlement and hesitation upon viewing Norma Desmond's estate on Sunset Blvd: "This could be Heaven, or this could be Hell."

2) "Then she lit up a candle..." Norma lit many.

3) "Her mind is definitely twisted," as was Norma's, and, "she's got the Mercedes-Benz." Only in Norma's case, the Isotta-Fraschini.

4) "She's got lots of pretty, pretty boys that she calls friends." Norma had gone through three husbands and lured Joe into an intimate friendship.

5) "How they danced in the courtyard..." Joe and Norma danced in the great room.

6) "Some danced to remember" (as did Norma); "some danced to forget" (as did Joe).

7) "So I called up the captain, 'Please bring me my wine.'" Max Von Mayerling served as butler/wine captain.

8) "Pink champagne on ice." Lots of champagne consumed in the film.

9) "We are all just prisoners here of our own device." That's the theme of the movie! Every character is trapped in his and her own way.

10) "Last thing I remember, I was running for the door." Joe did also to "find the passage back to place I (he) was before."

11) Finally, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Precisely the fate of Joe.

If this fine film didn't inspire other artists, I'd be very surprised. It adroitly captured the mood and seductiveness of Hollywood and California of the early '50s.
Up To Date, Disturbing And Powerful, Despite A Few Dated Elements
Do you want to be disturbed?

Are you ready for a clammy, ice-cold classic that's relentlessly sad, chilling and upsetting?


Where else can you find a movie that starts -- actually starts -- with the main character being dragged out of a swimming pool dead? And then, the poor dope spends two hours telling you how he lost his job, his career, his girl friend, his self respect, and his life.

But he got that swimming pool he always wanted.

It's horrible to watch Joe Gillis lose everything. William Holden gives his character so much smarts and charm, you just can't believe he can be snuffed out so easily. But that's what Hollywood does -- and the message is that if it can happen to Joe, it can happen to anyone.

On the other hand, Norma Desmond is truly a fiend out of hell. Gloria Swanson will never be equaled in her courage, playing a woman who is more repulsive and hateful than any modern serial killer or hatchet wielding maniac. And yet all she wants is to go on being young and beautiful forever, sharing the magic of her stardom with "those wonderful people out there in the dark!" And the message is, if this monster is what's in front of the camera, who knows how many other monsters are out there -- in the dark?

At the heart of this movie is an intriguing contradiction. On the one hand, the chilling madness of Norma Desmond is as real and modern as the ghastly antics of the late Michael Jackson. (Funeral for a chimpanzee, anyone?) On the other hand, the anguish of Joe Gillis at being "kept" by an older woman is almost (and I do mean almost) too sexist and out of date to keep the viewer involved in the story.

Consider how this story would play if the gender roles were reversed. What if Norma Desmond were a tough, male Western star of the silents -- someone like legendary stuntman/cowpoke Tom Mix. And what if the young screenwriter were a pretty young woman with a cheerful, irreverent, upbeat personality, sort of like Carole Lombard or Katherine Hepburn? If the two of them got together it would seem sweet, romantic, not repulsive and chilling. Particularly if the eager young female helped him to get over the death of a beloved wife, or maybe his horse.

The point is, no one would be horrified if a 50 something male star seduced a bright young woman in her late twenties or thirties. In fact it would be regarded as rather romantic by a lot of people.

A lot of the "horror" of SUNSET BOULEVARD comes from an unthinking assumption -- that women with money and power are unnatural creatures and that they can only attract younger men through evil and manipulation. And there's also the double standard that a woman over 50 is no damned good to a man, but a man over 50 is still in his prime.

One final thought: William Holden had a wonderful career well into his seventies, and deservedly so. One of his last great performances was in THE WILD BUNCH, where he plays an aging outlaw named Pike Bishop. Note that Pike has the same basic concerns as Norma Desmond. Have I outlived my era? Can I still command respect? What was my life worth? Yet Pike's struggles to pull off one last job are not only not laughed at -- they're rendered as poignant, admirable, and unbelievably heroic. Pike plays the kind of noble, courageous life-giving elder whose wisdom and humanity -- and even his violent tragic death -- simply serve to rejuvenate an entire community.

That's the kind of part a mature actress should be able to play as well!
Dead in street...
SUNSET BOULEVARD will always be inextricably linked to ALL ABOUT EVE. They both came out the same year; they both star legendary actresses playing legendary actresses; they both are cynical, sometimes savage in their estimation of show business. And, of course, they are both great films.

But they are very different stylistically and philosophically. A primary difference is that EVE is about a survivor. Bette Davis' Margo Channing in EVE accepts, perhaps grudgingly, that change is inevitable. Either she adapts to reality, or she loses all. That is what makes Margo more than just "a great star, a true star." Margo's rival, Eve Harrington, may someday end up like BOULEVARD's Norma Desmond, but Margo Channing never will.

But if EVE is about life, SUNSET BOULEVARD is about death. Even their titles suggest this: "Eve" being the first bearer of life and "sunset" being the approaching night. In BOULEVARD, Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond is to some extent already dead by the time the film starts, locked away in a haunted house, coming out only for the funeral of her pet monkey. She is bound by reputation and profession to a type of film-making that is long dead and nearly forgotten. Her life, like her career, is based on illusions of life.

The prevailing interpretation of SUNSET BOULEVARD assumes that Norma is one of Hollywood's victims; that the town and the industry turned its back on her when she was no longer a star, her career sabotaged by the coming of sound in motion pictures. I don't buy that. The film clearly shows us that at age 50 Norma is still vibrant, still beautiful, still energetic and eager to make movies. Plus, she is filthy rich. This is not a woman who would walk away from movie making because she is afraid of her own voice. Indeed, her voice is magnificent; sultry, insinuating and theatrical. I don't think Norma went mad because Hollywood turned its back on her, rather Hollywood turned its back on her because she went mad.

I don't think we are getting the full story here. Something may have drove Norma mad, but it wasn't talking pictures. Indeed, she may have been unstable all along, but I think there is something in her past that destroyed her, and I suspect that involves Max (Erich von Stroheim). In his "Great Movies" essay, Roger Ebert suggests that the love between Norma and Max, her ex-husband/ex-director/butler, is the heart of the story; that it's Max's love of Norma that validates her continued existence. I don't see that. I suspect that Max is less a servant than a caretaker or even a jailer. Max (like Joe Gillis, Norma's erstwhile boytoy) may be trapped in Norma's web, but it is a web of his own making. He appears subservient, but he is the one in control, he perpetuates her delusions and enables her madness. I even suspect that he only allows Joe into the situation because he knows that Joe is weak and no real threat to his power; and that he suspects that it will help placate Norma by feeding her fantasy of a comeback. There is more than adoration that cements the relationship between Max and Norma; perhaps guilt, jealousy, desperation -- who knows? All I know is that it is best kept as a subtext, a part of the film's impenetrable mystery. The less we understand Norma, the more intriguing she is.

However, if I were to be so bold as to make one major change in SUNSET BOULEVARD, it would be to replace William Holden as Joe Gillis. I respect Holden as an actor, but his screen persona has always been one of strength and -- if not integrity -- confidence; he is not one who plays vulnerable with any conviction. Plus, he doesn't play the part of Gillis with any gentle shadings. The "romance" between Norma and Joe is the least convincing aspect of the film. Joe treats her with barely concealed contempt and a bit of occasional pity, which makes it hard to believe that a self-absorbed diva would even tolerate him, let alone make him the house pet. The role of Joe was originally intended for Montgomery Clift, an actor with a proven ability to appear passive, even as he plays sinister. His work in THE HEIRESS and A PLACE IN THE SUN illustrate this point. I see Joe Gillis, not as a bored hanger-on, but as sycophant who is in awe of Norma, even as he exploits her, and therefore he doesn't realize that he actually is the one who is being used (sort of a younger version of Max). I think Joe should be someone who is cunning, but naive about his own limits, not someone who is already bitter, corrupt and cynical as the story begins.

Maybe I am wrong, but I get the feeling that Holden was very uncomfortable playing the part of, well, a mistress, and especially one kept by such an older woman. Perhaps his manhood was threatened and that uneasiness shows. Clift, or an equally rakish young actor like, say, Farley Granger or Robert Wagner, would enliven the story and make the romance with the perpetually needy Norma more credible. I don't think it is enough that the film shows that Norma enjoys manipulating Joe, I think it has to also be implied that to a certain extent Joe loves being manipulated. The relationship is after all a romance and to be credible as long-term there has to be the spark that it is mutually enjoyable. Holden's interpretation that Joe is just doing it for the money just doesn't ring true. While a pairing of the aging diva with an ambitious -- and yes, probably gay -- younger man is practically a show business institution.

Yet, even with these reservations, it is undeniable that SUNSET BOULEVARD is quite a film. A little bit Hollywood satire, a little bit moralistic fable and whole lot of Gothic melodrama. And Swanson's just-not-quite over the top performance is mesmerizing. It was assumed that BOULEVARD would revitalize Swanson's career. It didn't. But apparently, it didn't matter to her: she dabbled in acting now and again, when the part amused her, but she had better things to do with her life. Swanson played Norma Desmond, but she lived life as Margo Channing.
Best Performance in Film History: Gloria Swanson
The plot has been discussed at length in other comments.

To me SUNSET BOULEVARD has it all. The comedy is sly, the drama is of epic proportions because it's not JUST a story about Hollywood or an aging actress. It's really about the giving up of dreams.

Norma's dream of return, held to for 20 years, is ironic because Norma so closely parallels Gloria. That Norma cannot make a comeback in 1950 even with connections to DeMille is sad. The sadness is due to Norma's refusal to accept her aging or the politics of Hollywood that worship youth. It's ironic that Norma has no place in Hollywood (the parade has passed by) but DeMille is still working and in the scenes from Samson and Delilah we spot other old-timers like Henry Wilcoxon and Julia Faye--still working but not as STARS. The final irony here is that Gloria did make the comeback that Norma couldn't make.

Norma has a thing about STARS.... she says at one point... "the stars are ageless." Well this is true in a filmic sense. I can still watch Gloria Swanson in THE LOVE OF SUNYA or MANHANDLED and yup, she is ageless. She is still twenty something. That screen image is forever held up like a bad mirror to the reality of being 50. On another occasion Norma says "nobody leaves a STAR, that's what makes one a STAR." True again, but it's not just Gillis who is leaving Norma, her fans have already left. Hence if one is left, one cannot be a STAR.

Gillis also gives up his dream (temporarily) of being a writer, Max gives up his dream of directing, and even Betty gives up her dream of love with Gillis. Scary stuff.

The film is also about LOVE. Look what these people have done for love: love of another person or love of fame or whatever. Max loves Norma. Norma loves Gillis. Gillis loves Norma and Betty. Betty loves Gillis and Artie. Artie loves Betty. And all of them love Hollywood.

Everyone is crushed at the end of this film..... The scene of Max "directing" the scene as Norma descends the staircase is one of the all-time great scenes in a film. Norma's final speech, which sums up everything ("there is nothing else"), is devastating. Can she really be insane and make this lucid speech? If she's NOT insane then she has knowingly killed Gillis to prevent his leaving her (a STAR)....... Also the shots of Max blinking away tears as Norma descends (supposedly into madness) and also of Hedda Hopper crying are equally as devastating as Norma's speech about "being back" and "all those wonderful people out there in the dark" (which of course includes us every time we watch the film).

I cannot think of any other film (possibly CITIZEN KANE) that works on so many different levels. And Gloria Swanson gives the greatest performance in film history!
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