Character and Theme-focused Screenplay Analysis

Great Films

Sunset Boulevard: A Screenplay Analysis

Posted by Jennine Lanouette on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Sunset Boulevard Norma Desmond


Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett’s original idea for Sunset Boulevard was to portray an aging silent movie star as an embodiment of Hollywood’s callous treatment of no-longer-exploitable people. But they couldn’t figure out where to go with the story until a bridge-playing partner suggested they bring in a younger struggling screenwriter who the aging movie star is having a relationship with. This gave them the character they needed to focus the story on. Whereas fading star Norma Desmond is far on the downhill side of the pyramid of success, embittered Joe Gillis is halfway up. It is his fate that rests in the balance. But the question is not whether he will live or die. We meet him floating face down in a swimming pool. The question is, will Hollywood get the better of Joe as it already has with Norma? Or will he be sufficiently influenced by the apple-cheeked, hard working Betty so as to not lose his soul before he loses his life?

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