In Hollywood of the 50's, the obscure screenplay writer Joe Gillis is not able to sell his work to the studios, is full of debts and is thinking in returning to his hometown to work in an office. While trying to escape from his creditors, he has a flat tire and parks his car in a decadent mansion in Sunset Boulevard. He meets the owner and former silent-movie star Norma Desmond, who lives alone with her butler and driver Max Von Mayerling. Norma is demented and believes she will return to the cinema industry, and is protected and isolated from the world by Max, who was her director and husband in the past and still loves her. Norma proposes Joe to move to the mansion and help her in writing a screenplay for her comeback to the cinema, and the small-time writer becomes her lover and gigolo. When Joe falls in love for the young aspirant writer Betty Schaefer, Norma becomes jealous and completely insane and her madness leads to a tragic end. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The morning Joe Gillis wakes up after his first night in Norma Desmond's house, he sees all his belongings in his room over the garage. Angry, he puts on his jacket over his shirt and leaves the room. In the next shot, when he is walking down the stairs, his shirt is inside his trousers. See more »
Yes, this is Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California. It's about 5 0'clock in the morning. That's the homicide squad, complete with detectives and newspaper men.
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The Paramount logo appears as a transparency over the opening shot. The words "Sunset Blvd." are shown stenciled on the curb of that street. See more »
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
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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