I am big! It’s the pictures that got small!Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard
One picture from 1950 which was anything but small was Sunset Boulevard. Billy Wilder’s dramatic story of a fallen silent film star was given the working title A Can of Beans because of the makers’ fears that this tale about Hollywood’s dark side would blacken the name of the whole film industry. Despite the disapproval of happy-ending Hollywood folks like Louis B. Mayer at rival studio MGM, this film was a huge critical and financial success, earning eleven Academy Award nominations, three wins, and a reputation as one of the greatest films ever made.
The story is classic. A down-on-his-luck screenplay writer, Joe Gillis (William Holden), is unable to find any work in Hollywood, and he’s about to lose his car if he can’t produce $300. When being chased by finance men, he gets a flat tire and pulls into what he thinks is a deserted driveway off Sunset Boulevard. He parks his car in the empty garage and wanders around the decant, decaying grounds of an opulent 1920s palazzo. He is startled to hear a woman’s voice ask him why he’s so late. A strange butler, Max (Erich von Stroheim), ushers him inside, seeming to expect him and refusing to listen to his excuses. He shows him upstairs, where he meets the eccentric, faded silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who mistakes him for an undertaker come to bury her pet chimp. Although initially enraged by his presence, Norma is fascinated when she discovers that he is a writer, so she hires him to read a screenplay she has written. Lured by the promise of money, Joe agrees, discovering that evening that Max took the liberty of moving him into the guest room. He soon finds himself nearly imprisoned in the house, not realizing that the possessive, deluded Norma is in love with him. Meanwhile, he is developing a love hate relationship with a pretty female reader who thinks one of his scripts has potential and wants to revise it with him. Will Joe be able to snap Norma out of the fantasy world in which Max has helped her stay trapped for years, or will he become too entangled to escape?
Some films are dynamic enough to inspire endless analyses, discussions, spin-offs, adaptations, and parodies. This is one such film. Its impact is huge. It has spawned a highly successful Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, dozens of television parodies, and multiple literary references. I’m sure there are also an unlimited amount of background stories, comparisons, and fan theories to discuss. We’ve decided to honor this timeless movie with a blogathon!
We decided that the perfect time to host our blogathon tribute to Sunset Boulevard is New Year’s. A climactic scene in the film occurs on New Year’s Eve, when Norma Desmond hosts a grand party for just her and Joe. It is in this scene when Joe finally realizes that Norma is in love with him, leading him to fully accept the reality of being a kept man to a wealthy older woman. Also, the end of a year is comparable to a sunset, this film’s symbol.
We are hosting this blogathon at the beginning of 2021, the dawn of a great new year! The dates are January 1-3, Friday through Sunday.
If you love to write, there are three categories for participation in this blogathon!
Joe: I’m not an executive, just a writer.
Norma: You are, are you? Writing words, words, more words! Well, you’ll make a rope of words and strangle this business!(If you agree with Norma about words, you don’t have to join!)
- Write about Sunset Boulevard, the original film – a review, production information, comparisons, etc.
- Write about some adaptation, spin-off, parody of, or reference to Sunset Boulevard
- Write about the career or one particular film of one of the three stars, Gloria Swanson, William Holden, and Erich von Stroheim
- Write about any film which contains a memorable New Year’s Eve scene
If you’re “ready for your close-up,” leave a comment and tell us your topic choice! If you don’t have a blog, you can email us your article so that we can post it on our website. We are putting no restrictions on numbers of posts or duplicates for topics.
Below are the beautiful posters which Rebekah made for this celebration.
The Roster So Far
- Tiffany Brannan of PEPS – Queen Kelly (1932), the silent Gloria Swanson Erich von Stroheim-directed film shown as a clip in Sunset Blvd.
- Kristen N. Winiarski of KN Winiarski Writes – Sabrina (1954)
More Coming Soon!
We’ll see all you writers in 2021!
Now, back to the typewriters by way of Washington Square.Joe Gillis
And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after ‘Salome’ we’ll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!-Norma Desmond
Please join our other upcoming blogathon!
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