Billy Wilders “Sunset Boulevard” from 1950 is hailed as one of the best films in motion picture history and had my attention from the very beginning. The American drama film noir/ black comedy movie starts of with the body of Joe Gillis — portrayed by William Holden — floating in the swimming pool of a Sunset Boulevard mansion. In a flashback scenario Gillis retells the events that lead him to his death.
Months prior to the pool scenario in Sunset Boulevard unsuccessful screenwriter Joe Gillis is on the run from repossession men trying to take away his car, incidentally turning into the driveway of a deserted-like mansion. Gillis soon finds out that the mansion is not abandoned when he encounters a dramatic looking woman that mistakes him for being someone else. Joe recognizes the woman as faded and forgotten silent film star Norma Desmond. Later on when learning about Joe being a writer; protagonist Desmond asks his opinion on a script written by her about “Salome”, a role she plans to play herself in a triumphant comeback to the screen. Gillis finds the script to be appalling, but flatters the woman into hiring him as a script editor. Living in Desmond’s Sunset Boulevard mansion Joe gradually starts to accept the dependent life he has managed to create for himself. Gillis eventually realizes that Norma refuses to face the fact that her career as a film star is long-gone and is informed by Norma’s butler, and first husband Max, that she is the subject of great depression and suicide attempts. At New Year’s Eve Joe discovers that Norma has arranged a party for just the two of them and that she has fallen in love with him. Norma lavishes Joe with all sorts of expensive gifts and clothes. Joe tries to leave Norma in order to continue his life as an independent writer and when he calls Max to pack his things he is told that Norma has cut her wrists in yet a suicide attempt making him return to her.
Norma undergoes extensive beauty treatments preparing for her imagined comeback while Joe works nights at Paramount Pictures in secrecy. The story impossibly escalates toward the ending when Norma discovers Joe’s new script written by him and another woman. Determined to leave the dramatic life of Hollywood and Norma Desmond Joe disregards Norma’s threat to kill herself even when she produces evidence of a gun. He tells her about the world having forgotten all about her and her lost career making her shoot him three times in the back when he tries walking away from her. The movie ends with a bookend with Joe lying face down in the pool and the mansion being filled with reporters and the police. Norma having completely lost touch with reality believes that the reports with their cameras are there to film “Salome”.