Movie Mondays: Sunset Boulevard
Down on his luck, screenwriter Joe (played by William Holden) runs away from bill collectors who want to take possession of his beautiful convertible. When his tire blow out, he finds himself in front of what appears to be an abandoned Hollywood hills mansion. Stashing his car in one of the old garages, he is discovered by the butler of the home.
After realizing that a crazy old silent Hollywood star, Norma, still lives in the home, he sees the opportunity to take advantage of her and make some money by pretending to be interested in editing the screenplay she is working on for her big return to the silver screen.
After a while of bunking in the old lady’s home, it becomes obvious that he is now the one being taken advantage of. He attempts to lead a double life, following his own writing passions, but keeping them a secret from his crazy benefactress.
Things escalate as the former actress tries to kill herself, emotionally manipulates Joe, and goes so far in her delusions as to visit Cecil B. DeMille to discuss her big return to Hollywood. Joe discovers that the butler has his own crazy delusions and is weaving a web of lies that perpetuate Norma’s senility.
This film is one of Billy Wilder‘s great masterpieces that was particularly difficult to get approved for production, as it is quite candid about the deceit, typical jaded attitudes, and pitfalls of opportunism in Hollywood. If you watch this movie, keep in mind that the actress who played Norma, Gloria Swanson, was actually a former silent movie star herself, whose career took a dive after making a film with a Hollywood director, the very man who plays her butler in Sunset Boulevard. And even more interesting is the fact that the poorly received film which put Swanson’s career on halt for a while is the very movie which is played in Norma’s home by the butler (the director of Swanson’s real life ill-fated film) for Joe and Norma to watch (see still #4). It all ties together very nicely!