POSTERS: Sunset Boulevard

An aspiring screenwriter named Joe Gillis (William Holden) isn’t having luck in Hollywood, he’s up against the wall and is on the verge of heading back East where he’s from. While driving around town one day, he is spotted by a pair of repo men out to take his car, so he tries to make a quick escape and ends up on Sunset Boulevard where he pulls into a long driveway which leads him to a secluded mansion.

After hiding his car in the vacant garage he is spotted by the owner who tells him to come in. He’s shown into the home, where a woman lives and it turns out she is the famous silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Decades later she is all but forgotten by the outside world, her palatial mansion a cave of forgotten dreams where only her faithful butler Max (Erich Von Stroheim) treats her like a queen. Norma has become lost in her own delusions of grandeur. When Joe arrives it’s like a gift, she can now have someone else to love her besides Max. Joe tells Norma he is a screenwriter and she begs him to help her finish a special script she’s been working on. Joe doesn’t really want to stay but his dire circumstances push him to accept the offer. Outside Norma’s confines, Joe is beginning to fall in love with Betty Shaeffer (Nancy Olsen) a fellow screenwriter who doesn’t know about his current predicament or relationship with Norma.

Gloria Swanson’s Norma is really the central focus of the movie and her performance has gone down in history as representation of the whole Hollywood mystique. A real life silent film star, Swanson played Desmond with such fervor and melodrama. Norma Desmond is always acting, everything she says is almost like a central scene in a movie, creating a strange mirror between life and the silver screen.

Sunset Boulevard is one of those films that pulls you into its story and just sweeps you away into the illusionary world of Hollywood where stardom is as fleeting as a sunny sky. This is what Billy Wilder conveys so magnificently for the viewer in his classic film noir. It is like Citizen Kane or Treasure of the Sierra Madre, cinema at its most sublime, superbly directed, written, structured and acted.


The film features several legends of Hollywood who play Normas inner circle of friends including: Stroheim, Cecil B. DeMille, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper and H.B. Warner.

The furious poster shows disturbed fallen star Norma’s face against bright red, looking almost psychotic looming over Joe and Betty as her victims.

Sunset Boulevard



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database/Furious Cinema contributor. Pete is a rabid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation/cult flix to big budget mainstream classics. His other interests include: graphic design, cartooning and music.

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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just rewatched Sunset Blvd. the other day! But it occurred to me that perhaps Joe is the villain and Norma is the hero of the piece?

    I go into a lengthy explanation why here:

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