The movie was critically acclaimed on release and is generally and consistently accepted as one of the masterpieces of American cinema. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Music and Best Writing. In the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century 'Sunset Boulevard' is consistently highly placed, currently number 16, and in 1989 it was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the U.S. Library of Congress.
The movie is set in the Hollywood of the 1950's where an unemployed screenwriter, Joe Gillis (William Holden) is in financial difficulties. After eluding his creditors in his car he has a flat tire and pulls into the driveway of a ramshackle mansion belonging to former silent-movie star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard. She hires him to rewrite her screenplay 'Salome' but her jealousy and insanity ultimately cost him his life.
The film reaches a superbly ghoulish climax when the police crawl over the murder scene, reminding the demented Norma of her glory days and she vamps up to the camera declaring that she is "Ready for my close up, Mr. De Mille."
Main CastWilliam Holden ... Joe Gillis
Gloria Swanson ... Norma Desmond
Erich von Stroheim ... Max von Mayerling
Nancy Olson ... Betty Schaefer
Fred Clark ... Sheldrake
Lloyd Gough ... Marino
Jack Webb ... Artie Green
Franklyn Farnum ... Undertaker
Larry J. Blake ... Finance man #1
Charles Dayton ... Finance man #2
Cecil B. DeMille ... Himself
Hedda Hopper ... Herself
Buster Keaton ... Himself
Anna Q. Nilsson ... Herself
H. B. Warner ... Himself
Ray Evans ... Himself
Jay Livingston ... Himself
CreditsDirector ... Billy Wilder
Producer ... Charles Brackett
Story and Screenplay ... Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D. M. Marshman Jr.
Cinematography ... John Seitz
Music ... Franz Waxman
Running Time ... 110 mins
Released ... 4 August, 1950
Production Company ... Paramount Pictures Corp.
Academy Awards3 Wins:
Art Direction/Set Direction ... Hans Dreier, John Meehan/Sam Comer, Ray Moyer
Music(Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) ... Franz Waxman
Writing(Story and Screenplay) ... Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D. M. Marshman Jr.
8 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Paramount
Best Director ... Billy Wilder
Best Actor ... William Holden
Best Actress ... Gloria Swanson
Best Supporting Actor ... Erich von Stroheim
Best Supporting Actress ... Nancy Olson
Cinematography ... John F. Seitz
Best Film Editing ... Arthur Schmidt, Doane Harrison