Sunset Boulevard directed by Billy Wilder in 1950 is based on how Norma Desmond, a huge Hollywood star, deals with her fall from fame. The film explores the fantasy world in which Norma is living in and the complex relationship between her and small time writer Joe Gillis, which leads to his death. Sunset Boulevard is seen as lifting the ‘face’ of the Hollywood Studio System to reveal the truth behind the organisation. During the time the film was released in the 1950s and 60s, audiences started to see the demise of Hollywood as cinema going began to decline and the fierce competition of television almost proved too much for the well established system. Throughout this essay I will discuss how Sunset Boulevard represents the Hollywood Studio System, as well as exploring post war literature giving reasons as to why the system began to crumble.
I will begin my essay by looking closely at the narrative of Sunset Boulevard to see where and how the film represents the Hollywood Studio System. At the beginning of the film the audience is introduced to Joe Gillis, a script writer who is struggling to pay his rent as he in unable to sell his scripts to the ‘majors’ of Hollywood. The film follows Joe to ‘Paramount Pictures’ one of the major studios in Hollywood, which the film pays a large self reference to as the producers of Sunset Boulevard as well as representing the studio system.
An example in the film that highlights the demise of the studio system is when Joe pitches a script idea to a producer of Paramount. Joe is quick to say that the film only needs one main character, has many outdoor locations and can be made ‘for under a million dollars’ (Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard, 1950), which highlights the idea of saving money on a small production, emphasising the demise of the system and its funds. Moreover the producer later replies ‘I haven’t got a thing, there’s nothing, honest’ (Mr Shelldrick, Sunset Boulevard, 1950), referring to the lack of jobs available such as voiceovers and extras during the decline of Hollywood.
The film’s main focus largely represents the Hollywood star system to which Norma Desmond is a victim of. The film particularly highlights the fantasy world in which Norma lives in, the world where she is the ‘greatest star’ (Norma Desmond, Sunset Boulevard, 1950). Sunset Boulevard steps into Norma’s mixed up world where hundreds of photos of herself clutter her crumbling mansion and where she watches herself on screen on a weekly basis. The crumbling and deteriorating mansion could be seen as a metaphor for Norma’s fall from stardom, the collapse of her career.
The focus of Norma’s fame is a recurring theme throughout the film that is referenced in order to emphasise the extent to which fame has affected Norma and her life. When Norma decides to talk to Cecil DeMille about her script the young security guard questions her by saying ‘Norma, who?’ as the younger generation are unlikely to have heard of the actress. This...