A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.
The story, set in '50s Hollywood, focuses on Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a silent-screen goddess whose pathetic belief in her own indestructibility has turned her into a demented recluse. The crumbling Sunset Boulevard mansion where she lives with only her butler, Max (Eric von Stroheim) who was once her (silent) director and husband has become her self-contained world.
Norma dreams of a comeback to pictures and she begins a relationship with Joe Gillis (William Holden), a small-time writer who becomes her lover, that will soon end with murder and total madness. ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is still the most pungently unflattering portrait of Hollywood ever committed to celluloid. Billy Wilder, unequalled at combining a literate, sulphurous script with taut direction, hits his target relentlessly.
The humour - and the film is rich in this, Wilder's most abundant commodity - is black indeed. Swanson was a famous silent star herself, and the film is full of references to the Silent period, and include appearances by Buster Keaton, and Cecil B deMille playing themselves.
USA · 1950 · Billy Wilder · 110min