Writtten by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M Marshman Jr.
One of the many great lines this film has is the protagonist saying “Audiences don’t know that somebody sits down and writes a picture, they think the actors make it up as they go along”. This film which is in the midst of what is referred to as the golden age of Hollywood pays a great homage to that line. In short it demonstrates to us ‘the power of writing’.
The film opens to a dead man in a swimming pool and ends after the tale of how he got there. Joe Gills (played by William Holden) is a b-grade writer of Hollywood with 2-3 movies to his credit. Of late he hadn’t been getting any offers and is suffering a bit with his finances. His house rent and the his car’s mortgage are due. To avoid the foreclosure of his automobile he parks it on a street nearby.
After yet another unsuccessful visit to the studios, he’s driving back home and spots the mortgage agents on the other side of the road. In a desperate attempt to get away from them, he punctures his car and pulls into the nearest driveway on Sunset Boulevard.
Soon he discovers that the house which owns the driveway is owned by Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson), a star of the yester years of the ‘silent movie’ era of Hollywood. A bit of a mix-up pushes the screenplay to a place where Gills agrees to revise the script Norma had been writing for a while.
With time he learns that Norma is hardly connected to the world outside and how she still lives in an illusion where in ‘she’s still the biggest star of Hollywood’. Gills and Norma end up in a dark love commitment to each other. The thing that drives the already disturbed Norma to the extreme is Gills sneaking out at night to meet a fellow writer (Betty Schaefer played by Nancy Olson) to complete a screenplay they’ve agreed to work on.
And another character to look forward to in the film is that of Norma’s butler – Max (Erich Von Stroheim) with a past which adds to the film’s disturbed characterization.
Even though Hollywood and World Cinema alike have exploited numerous crazy and brainsick characters in every decade. The character of Norma Desmond remains to be one of THE CRAZIEST and most memorable. The credit of this character creation should be split in equal halves by the script writer and Gloria Swanson.