A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

Director:

Billy Wilder
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Popularity
2,507 ( 104)
Top Rated Movies #60 | Won 3 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
William Holden ... Joe Gillis
Gloria Swanson ... Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim ... Max Von Mayerling
Nancy Olson ... Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark ... Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough ... Morino
Jack Webb ... Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum ... Undertaker
Larry J. Blake ... 1st Finance Man (as Larry Blake)
Charles Dayton Charles Dayton ... 2nd Finance Man
Cecil B. DeMille ... Cecil B. DeMille
Hedda Hopper ... Hedda Hopper
Buster Keaton ... Buster Keaton
Anna Q. Nilsson ... Anna Q. Nilsson
H.B. Warner ... H. B. Warner
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A HOLLYWOOD STORY: Sensational...Daring...Unforgettable...Sunset Blvd. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The role of Norma Desmond was initially offered to Mae West (who rejected the part), Mary Pickford (Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett realized when talking to her that her image as "America's Sweetheart" made her unsuitable for the part), and Pola Negri (Billy Wilder rejected her as her thick accent would cause too many problems) before being accepted by Gloria Swanson. See more »

Goofs

Norma tells Joe how Mabel Normand was a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty with her in the old days, but Mabel was never in that group, having left Keystone for Goldwyn by the time they became a film staple. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Joe Gillis: Yes, this is Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California. It's about 5 o'clock in the morning. That's the homicide squad, complete with detectives and newspaper men.
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Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Referenced in Gilmore Girls: A-Tisket, A-Tasket (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Auld Lang Syne
(1788) (uncredited)
Traditional Scottish 17th century music
Played by the band on New Year's Eve
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User Reviews

 
A true Hollywood horror story
15 March 2008 | by preppy-3See all my reviews

Hack screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) accidentally falls in with faded screen legend Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). She lives in a crumbling old mansion with her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). She refuses to believe that she's no longer remembered and will never make another movie. She gets Gillis to stay with her and rewrite "Salome" which she thinks will be her comeback. Gillis has no other choice and things slowly get out of hand.

A VERY cynical view of Hollywood--especially for 1950. It shows what Hollywood does to people like Norma--it makes them stars, tells them that they're great and dump them coldly when they're no longer needed. It also takes swipes at directors, agents, screenwriters, even entire studios! It has a tight quick script, is appropriately filmed in gloomy black and white and is masterfully directed by Billy Wilder. Everybody thought this was a bad idea when it was being made. It was believed to be too cold and vicious for the public. Also Holden was warned it would ruin his career by playing a younger man kept by an older woman. But it turned out great and is now rightfully considered a classic.

The acting is almost all good. I never thought Nancy Olson was that good. Her character is too pure and sweet to be believable. Everybody else is right on target though. Holden is just great in his role. You see the pity, anger and helplessness on his face when he realizes Norma is falling in love with him--and he's trapped. von Stroheim was equally good as Max who encourages Norma's delusions. Swanson however is just magnificent! She has a very showy role and could have overplayed it--but she doesn't. She's mad for sure--but you only see it peeking through every once in a while. When she loses it completely at the end it's frightening. If she had played it like that all through the movie it never would have worked. How she lost the Oscar that year to Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday" is beyond me. This is a must see and a true Hollywood classic but VERY cold and cynical. A 10 all the way.

"I am big--it's the pictures that got small". "All right Mr. deMille--I'm ready for my closeup".


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

29 September 1950 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

A Can of Beans See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,752,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$169,067, 13 May 2018

Gross USA:

$299,645

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$300,073
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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