Sunset Boulevard is a movie made in 1950 and directed by the then-renowned, and now legendary, Billy Wilder. Wilder also co-wrote the storyline alongside Charles Brackett and D.M. Marsh man, Jr.
The film tells the story of aging silent movie star Norma Desmond, once a vibrant icon and now a has-been, a forgotten jewel in the crown of the silent movie era and now as obsolete as the silent pictures themselves. Silent movies have been replaced by "talkies" and although Norma hasn't worked in some while, she is a recluse and so does not realize that the public have largely forgotten her.
This is more than a film about a forgotten movie star. It is also more than a mystery or thriller (the movie opens with a dead body floating in a swimming pool) and it is more than a movie about a gigolo who lived off a rich older woman by telling her all the things that she wanted to hear. This is a movie about the emotional breakdown of a fragile and delicate woman who is at the same time frightened of obscurity and ruined by fame. It is a story of everlasting love (Norma's ex-husband is so devoted that he stays on in the house as her butler because it is the only way he can stay close to her); it is a story of tenderness (Norma's' pet chimpanzee passes away leaving her as emotionally. Error as a mother who has lost her child). It is a movie about ambition, the Depression, unrequited love and dangerous love triangles. Although Billy Wilder carefully appears to make a film about an aging actress who cannot quite come to terms with the fading of her star, what he actually succeeds in making is a tragedy about an emotionally damaged woman struggling with mental illness against a backdrop of the much less glittering underbelly of Tinseltown.
Sunset Boulevard was nominated for an impressive eleven Academy Awards and went on to win seven of them, including Best Actress for Gloria Swanson, who plays Norma Desmond, and William Holden who starred as Joe Gillis. There were also Oscars for Best Screenolay, Best Black & White Set Decoration, Best Music, and both Best Supporting Actor and Actress Awards. Billy Wilder was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Director.
As well as being a classic movie that has by and large endured, Sunset Boulevard has also been developed as a stage musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and debuted in London starring Patti LuPone as Norma Desmond, a role she reprised on Broadway and for which she won a Tony Award. The film also includes some lines that have become more famous that the movie itself, the most famous being Norma's final line to camera -"Mr De Mille, I am ready for my close-up."