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Directed by Billy Wilder

United States 1950 110 mins.

Down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) seeks refuge at the home of former silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, in a career-defining role). Norma’s once-opulent but decaying estate, just off Sunset Boulevard and overseen by her watchful servant Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), provides the backdrop for a tumultuous relationship pulled from Greek tragedy. Gillis seeks a stable situation, which Norma can provide, showering him with gifts and affection. But Norma becomes harmfully infatuated with not only Gillis, but with her dreams of a career resurrection. The merciless system of Hollywood, with its cast-offs and also-rans, provides Wilder with more than enough material to form a scathing critique wrapped in the allure of an unexpected love affair. “I love Hollywood and the whole thing of the Golden Age and Sunset Boulevard captured that so well. I just love that world. I love it when William Holden and Nancy Olsen go for a walk on the studio back lot at night. That’s probably never quite happened in exactly that way, but it should have. It should be going on right this minute! Working late at night in those writers’ rooms. It should be going on right now! It’s just too beautiful—every part of it.”—David Lynch.