Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Screenplay Genre: Drama / Film Noir

Movie Time: 110 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

Attempting to elude creditors, down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) pulls into the driveway of a decrepit mansion on Sunset Boulevard to stash his car. At first he thinks the place is abandoned, but the owner Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a former matinee star from the silent film era, mistakes him as the undertaker for her dead monkey and summons him inside. (00:13:30)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After coming clean with Norma that he is just a writer and no undertaker, Norma asks him to sit down and read her screenplay: a stack of handwritten pages for a film of Salomé that she has written as a vehicle for her return to the screen. Joe, knowing the script is terrible but needing money to pay his creditors, convinces Norma to hire him to edit the script, but she insists that he will live with her in the mansion as he works on it. (00:24:01)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

On New Years Eve, it becomes clear that Norma has romantic feelings for Joe. During Norma’s party, she realizes that he does not feel the same way. Norma storms upstairs, and Joe goes out to a party with some of his friends. While he is out, Joe calls the mansion and learns that Norma has attempted suicide again. (00:52:05)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

After discovering that Joe has been out all night with Betty (Nancy Olson) writing a script, Norma calls Betty to tell her the truth about Joe’s living situation, but Joe overhears and pick up the phone, asking Betty to come over to see for herself. When Betty arrives, however, Joe pushes her away by coldly explaining that he has a good thing going Norma. Norma is elated until she realizes Joe is leaving her too, deciding to become his own man. (1:34:31)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

As Joe packs his bags, Norma pleads for him not to go, holding a revolver and threatening suicide. But Joe doesn't buy her threats, and in a rage he tells that her fans “left her 20 years ago”, that Max has actually been writing the fan letters, and that Paramount was never interested in her script... they just felt sorry for her. In an ill-fated attempt to control him, Norma follows Joe outside and shoots him three times. (1:42:30)


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