Sunset Boulevard

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  • Topic: Gloria Swanson, Silent film, Cecil B. DeMille
  • Pages : 4 (1672 words )
  • Download(s) : 256
  • Published : October 9, 2007
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Sunset Boulevard, though at times harshly critical of the motion picture business, is considered a great achievement and a true classic among films made during the height of Hollywood's Heyday. While the story is narrated by down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis, or rather, his corpse, the real star of the movie, both literally and figuratively, is the character of Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson. A silent film star, Desmond hasn't made a picture for over twenty years and still believes herself to be the greatest star who ever lived, despite the fact that her fans have all seemed to have deserted her. Living as a recluse in her Sunset Boulevard mansion with no one but her faithful butler, Max, she is desperate for human contact and affection and finds it in the arms of Joe. Gloria Swanson herself had been a silent movie actress, and many of her physical gestures and facial expressions serve to illustrate that point and help to make her portrayal of Norma Desmond more effective, especially during the last fifteen minutes of the film.

The first scene we will look at begins as Joe has just let his true love, young Betty Schaeffer, walk out of his life, and realizing that his chances of respectable independence are slipping away, decides to leave Norma for good, and goes to his room to pack. Norma follows him, tries to persuade him to stay, and when he tries to walk away from the house on Sunset Boulevard forever, she shoots him, rather than letting him leave her.

Though at first glance, the scene may seem rather simple and straightforward, Swanson's performance is tempered and nuanced, adding great depth and complexity, which serves to make the scene more memorable. As Joe brushes past her, Norma's back is to the camera, but her shoulders arch slightly, betraying her tenseness and guarded fear of what Joe might do next. She clutches at his arm, trying to pull him to her, desperate for human contact and warmth, which she has found with him during the...
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