“Sunset Blvd,” Billy Wilder’s scathing portrait of Hollywood, stars Gloria Swanson as silent film star Norma Desmond seeking a return to the screen, William Holden as her younger boyfriend, a writer named Joe Gillis, and Erich von Stroheim as her faithful servant and eyeshadow adjuster. Wisconsin-born Nancy Olson plays the smart, fresh-faced girl who wants to be a screenwriter and who falls in love with Joe.
Here are my favorite lines from this terrific film, widely considered to be one of the greatest American movies ever made. It was written by Wilder, Charles Brackett and D.M. Marshman Jr.
1. Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”
2. Joe Gillis: “Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.”
3. Salesman at a men’s clothing store, to Joe: “As long as the lady is paying for it, why not take the Vicuna?”
4. Norma Desmond: “No-one ever leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star.”
5. Joe Gillis referring to Norma’s script: “Sometimes it’s interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.”
6. Cecil B. DeMille (playing himself): “You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit.”
7. Norma Desmond: “Without me, there wouldn’t be any Paramount studio.”
8. Nancy Olson as Joe’s friend Betty: “Where have you been keeping yourself? I’ve got the most wonderful news for you.”
Joe: “I haven’t been keeping myself at all, lately.”
9. Joe Gillis talking about his car: “I kept it across the street in a parking lot behind Rudy’s shoeshine parlor. Rudy never asked any questions about your finances – he’d just look at your heels and know the score.
10. Norma Desmond: “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”