Boulevard stands twelfth in the polls conducted by the American Film Institute to determine 100 greatest films of 20th century. The film, Boulevard is held in high esteem by modern filmmakers and inspires the current lot to aspire for creating films with lasting appeal. In 1989, Boulevard was decided to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural, historical and aesthetic significance.
The main cast of Boulevard includes William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olson, Erich von Stroheim and cameos by Director Cecil B. De Mille and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who play themselves.
Boulevard begins in the present and shifts to the flashback, where the entire mystery is unraveled. The first scene of the movie shows a corpse in the pool and then the narration begins. The story then unfolds and finally the scene shifts to the present.
The movie, Sunset Boulevard, is the tale of an unsuccessful writer, Joe Gillis portrayed by William Holden. His chance meeting with Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a great star of yesteryears, while fleeing from repossession agents proves to be his undoing. The protagonist tries to flee through the Sunset Boulevard, which emphasizes the significance of the title. Norma offers him a script that she has been working on for years to stage for her comeback on the silver screen.
Gillis is financially dependent on Norma but is shocked when he finds out that Norma is in love with him. He rejects her and he attends a party at his friend’s house. He meets Betty, who’s genuinely interested in his writing. His escape from the femme fatale, Norma is short-lived as the information of an attempted suicide by Norma calls him back to her mansion.
The plot of Boulevard becomes intriguing, when Norma sends the script to Paramount studios and receives a call from Cecil De Mille’s office. She leaves for the studio. Meanwhile the story becomes complex with Joe falling in love with Betty and Norma tries to dissuade Betty from the relationship. Her obsession becomes fatal when she shoots Joe repeatedly as he attempts to leave her.
Then the narration in Boulevard shifts to the present, where Norma is in a world of fantasy as the News Cameras flash and she begins to speak. She thinks that she’s on a set of a film. The narration concludes with the mention of her dream of coming back to the screen becoming a reality in an unexpected way.
Boulevard is described by many critics as a ‘definitive Hollywood horror movie’ and the script is considered ‘ghoulish’. The major incidents in the movie occur in a ‘dark, old house’ making the ambience even darker than usual. The cinematography in Boulevard by John.F.Seitz is the highlight of the movie along with the realistic performances by the lead actors in the movie. Boulevard excels in technical, artistic and aesthetic aspect of filmmaking, thus carving a niche for itself in the world of cinema.