Sunset Boulevard

Film

Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 American noir film directed and co-written by Billy Wilder. It was named after the boulevard that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California. The film stars William Holden as down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, and Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a faded movie star who draws Gillis into her fantasy world in which she dreams of making a triumphant return to the screen.

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  • Wilder was a man who jealously guarded the primacy of his scripts, but he quietly assented to all of DeMille’s dialogue changes. In fact, he more or less gave him carte blanche, because DeMille is the heart of the film’s crucial scene—he’s the conscience of the film. Without DeMille, the audience has no knowledge of the Norma Desmond that used to be: “A lovely little girl of seventeen with more courage and wit and heart than ever came together in one youngster”—or what led her to become the fascinating gargoyle we see: “a dozen press agents working overtime . . .” etc. As one critic noted, DeMille is the only character in the film with an “uncorrupted heart. In his compassionate regard for Norma Desmond, he seems more human than any hero in a DeMille epic.”

    Scott EymanEmpire of Dreams

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