Down-on-his luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), out of work, rejected by the studios, and facing repossession of his car—a necessary tool in early ‘50s Los Angeles—seeks accidental 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, located 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 each feeds from the other, as Norma becomes harmfully infatuated with not only Gillis but also her dreams of a career resurrection, mentored long ago by the great Cecil B. DeMille. 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.
Appears in: (Re)discoveries: New Restorations, New Prints
Other Films by Billy Wilder
Out-of-work newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum (a perfectly smarmy, snarling Kirk Douglas in one of his best roles) moves west to New Mexico from New York following a string of firings for a variety of offenses, most notably libel and drunkenness. Now in the normal routine of covering small-town “interest” stories at an Albuquerque rag, he …