How does Sunset Boulevard represent the Hollywood Studio System?

analytical Essay
1891 words
1891 words

Sunset Boulevard directed by Billy Wilder in 1950 is based on how Norma Desmond, a huge Hollywood star, deals with her fall from fame. The film explores the fantasy world in which Norma is living in and the complex relationship between her and small time writer Joe Gillis, which leads to his death. Sunset Boulevard is seen as lifting the ‘face’ of the Hollywood Studio System to reveal the truth behind the organisation. During the time the film was released in the 1950s and 60s, audiences started to see the demise of Hollywood as cinema going began to decline and the fierce competition of television almost proved too much for the well established system. Throughout this essay I will discuss how Sunset Boulevard represents the Hollywood Studio System, as well as exploring post war literature giving reasons as to why the system began to crumble.

I will begin my essay by looking closely at the narrative of Sunset Boulevard to see where and how the film represents the Hollywood Studio System. At the beginning of the film the audience is introduced to Joe Gillis, a script writer who is struggling to pay his rent as he in unable to sell his scripts to the ‘majors’ of Hollywood. The film follows Joe to ‘Paramount Pictures’ one of the major studios in Hollywood, which the film pays a large self reference to as the producers of Sunset Boulevard as well as representing the studio system.

An example in the film that highlights the demise of the studio system is when Joe pitches a script idea to a producer of Paramount. Joe is quick to say that the film only needs one main character, has many outdoor locations and can be made ‘for under a million dollars’ (Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard, 1950), which highlights the idea of saving money on a s...

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...ons as to why the studio system collapsed and how Hollywood tried to prevent this from happening. The Hollywood we see today is a reformed version of the old studio system, yet is still seen as the most dominant film industry in the world, despite its earlier collapse.

Works Cited
Richard Maltby (1995), Hollywood Cinema

David A. Cook (2004), A History of Narrative Film 4th Edition

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (2009), Film History: An Introduction 3rd Edition

Billy Wilder (1950), Sunset Boulevard

Britannia Encyclopedia, ‘Decline of the Hollywood studios’ [Accessed 02.12.09]

Tino Balio (1990), Digital E-Book Hollywood in the age of Television [Accessed 03.12.09]

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how sunset boulevard is based on how norma desmond, a huge hollywood star, deals with her fall from fame and the complex relationship between her and small time writer joe gillis, which leads to his death.
  • Analyzes how the narrative of sunset boulevard represents the hollywood studio system. the audience is introduced to joe gillis, a script writer struggling to pay his rent.
  • Analyzes how joe pitches a script idea to paramount's producer, emphasising the demise of the studio system and its funds.
  • Analyzes how the film's main focus represents the hollywood star system to which norma desmond is a victim of.
  • Analyzes how the focus of norma's fame is a recurring theme throughout the film to emphasise the extent to which fame has affected her and her life.
  • Analyzes how joe gillis' quote highlights the ‘real’ hollywood in sunset boulevard. the film pays reference to writers and producers of the system to show the audience what goes on behind the scenes and the extent of people involved in major film productions.
  • Analyzes how the audience sees a studio set, plenty of lighting, cameras, actors, and the famous director played by demille. betty and joe walk around paramount pictures whereby set's are being created.
  • Analyzes how the film refers to the star system when norma goes through an extensive beauty regime including skin peels, laser treatment and waxing to appear younger and healthier.
  • Analyzes how norma's insanity and fantasy world is pushed to the test when she eventually kills joe. representations of the hollywood studio system are evident in the scenes to follow.
  • Analyzes how the film represents hollywood, now they will focus on post-war literature to highlight the demise of the system during the release of sunset boulevard.
  • Analyzes how lifestyle changes amongst society also took its toll on hollywood, as cinema going started to decline. after the war people had more spare time and leisure activities to participate in.
  • Argues that the introduction of television was a major feature in the demise of the system, as television sets allowed families to enjoy entertainment from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Explains how hollywood kept fighting to save the well established system by participating in innovative and creative ideas to win their audiences back to the theatres.
  • Explains that hollywood began to produce 'runaway' films, which meant that american films were shot on location in foreign countries to reduce costs on sets and labour. the studio system collapsed under threats of political power, television, rising independent production, and, perhaps most serious, loss of the exhibition chains.
  • Concludes that sunset boulevard represents a great example of the hollywood studio system as it focuses on the star system within hollywood and how fame can be damaging to individuals.
  • Describes the works of richard maltby, david a. cook, daniel bordwell, and kristin thompson.
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