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A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.
Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big. Norma Desmond: I *am* big. It's the *pictures* that got small.
Norma Desmond: We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
[last lines] Norma Desmond: [to newsreel camera] And I promise you I'll never desert you again because after 'Salome' we'll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.
Joe Gillis: There's nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you're trying to be twenty-five.
Joe Gillis: Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.
Joe Gillis: [narrating] The poor dope - he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool.
Joe Gillis: I didn't know you were planning a comeback. Norma Desmond: I hate that word. It's a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.
Joe Gillis: [narrating] Well, this is where you came in, back at that pool again, the one I always wanted. It's dawn now and they must have photographed me a thousand times. Then they got a couple of pruning hooks from the garden and fished me out... ever so gently. Funny, how gentle people get with you once you're dead.
Betty Schaefer: Oh, the old familiar story. You help a timid little soul cross a crowded street, she turns out to be a multimillionaire and leaves you all her money. Joe Gillis: That's the trouble with you readers, you know all the plots
First assistant director: [about Norma Desmond] She must be a million years old. Cecil B. DeMille: I hate to think where that puts me. I could be her father.
Norma Desmond: The stars are ageless, aren't they?
Joe Gillis: I'm not an executive, just a writer. Norma Desmond: You are, are you? writing words, words, more words! Well, you'll make a rope of words and strangle this business! With a microphone there to catch the last gurgles, and Technicolor to photograph the red, swollen tongues!
Max Von Mayerling: There were three young directors who showed promise in those days: D. W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, and Max Von Mayerling. Joe Gillis: And she made you her servant. Max Von Mayerling: It was I who asked to come back. I could have continued my career, but I found it unbearable after she'd left me. You see, I was her first husband.
Joe Gillis: Norma, you're a woman of 50, now grow up. There's nothing tragic about being 50, not unless you try to be 25.
Norma Desmond: They took the idols and smashed them, the Fairbankses, the Gilberts, the Valentinos! And who've we got now? Some nobodies!
Betty Schaefer: Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Gillis, but I just didn't think it was any good. I found it flat and trite. Joe Gillis: Exactly what kind of material do you recommend? James Joyce? Dostoyevsky? Betty Schaefer: I just think that pictures should say a little something. Joe Gillis: Oh, one of the message kids. Just a story won't do. You'd have turned down Gone With the Wind. Sheldrake: No, that was me. I said, "Who wants to see a Civil War picture?"
Betty Schaefer: Perhaps the reason I hated "Bases Loaded" is that I knew your name. I'd always heard you had some talent. Joe Gillis: That was last year. This year I'm trying to earn a living.
Betty Schaefer: I've been hoping to run into you. Joe Gillis: What for? To recover that knife you stuck in my back?
Norma Desmond: Without me, there wouldn't be any Paramount studio.
Norma Desmond: We don't need two cars, we have a car. Not one of those cheap new things made of chromium and spit, an Isotta-Fraschini. Have you ever heard of Isotta-Fraschini? All handmade. Cost me $28,000.
Joe Gillis: [Joe is reading Norma's script] Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be. This promised to go the limit.
Joe Gillis: So they were turning after all, those cameras. Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her.
Norma Desmond: There once was a time in this business when I had the eyes of the whole world! But that wasn't good enough for them, oh no! They had to have the ears of the whole world too. So they opened their big mouths and out came talk. Talk! TALK!
Betty Schaefer: Where have you been keeping yourself? I've got the most wonderful news for you. Joe Gillis: I haven't been keeping myself at all, lately.
Joe Gillis: [voice-over] The whole place seemed to have been stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis - out of beat with the rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow motion.
Norma Desmond: My astrologist has read my horoscope, he's read DeMille's horoscope. Joe Gillis: Has he read the script?
Policeman: [calling on the phone] Coroner's office. Who's on this line? Hedda Hopper: [in Norma's room, on the phone] I am. Now, get off. This is more important.
[after hearing that Norma Desmond has come to see DeMille] First assistant director: I can tell her you're all tied up in the projection room. I can give her the brush. Cecil B. DeMille: Thirty million fans have given her the brush. Isn't that enough?
Max Von Mayerling: She was the greatest of them all. You wouldn't know, you're too young. In one week she received 17,000 fan letters. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. There was a maharajah who came all the way from India to beg one of her silk stockings. Later he strangled himself with it!
Betty Schaefer: Don't you sometimes hate yourself? Joe Gillis: Constantly.
[Norma threatens suicide again] Joe Gillis: Oh, wake up, Norma, you'd be killing yourself to an empty house. The audience left twenty years ago.
Joe Gillis: [sarcastically] They'll love it in Pomona. Norma Desmond: They'll love it everyplace.
First assistant director: I understand she [Norma Desmond] First assistant director: was a terror to work with. Cecil B. DeMille: Only toward the end. You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit.
Joe Gillis: [who has just has a visit from two men trying to repossess his car] [narrating] Joe Gillis: I was way ahead of the finance company. I knew they'd be becoming around and I wasn't taking any chances. So I kept it across the street in a parking lot behind Rudy's shoeshine parlour. Rudy never asked any questions about your finances... he'd just look at your heels and know the score.
Joe Gillis: [voice-over] You don't yell at a sleepwalker - he may fall and break his neck. That's it: she was still sleepwalking along the giddy heights of a lost career.
Joe Gillis: May I say that you smell really special? Betty Schaefer: It must be my new shampoo. Joe Gillis: That's no shampoo. It's more like freshly-laundered linen handkerchiefs, like a brand new automobile.
Joe Gillis: Tell her, Max. C'mon, do her that favor. Tell her there isn't going to be any picture. Tell her there are no fan letters other than the ones you write. Norma Desmond: It's not true! Max! Max Von Mayerling: Madame is the greatest star of them all.
Norma Desmond: No-one ever leaves a star. That's what makes one a star.
Norma Desmond: [Joe wants to move out from Norma's house] No one ever leaves a star...
Norma Desmond: [Norma thinks Joe is a funeral director] I'd like the coffin to be white, and I want it specially lined with satin. White... or pink. Maybe red! Bright flaming red! Let's make it gay!
Joe Gillis: [narrating] How could she breathe in that house full of Norma Desmonds? Around every corner, Norma Desmonds... more Norma Desmonds... and still more Norma Desmonds.
Joe Gillis: [narrating] Come think of it, the whole place seemed to have been stricken with the kind of creeping paralysis... out of beat with the rest of the world... crumbling apart in slow motion. There was a tennis court... or rather the ghost of a tennis court... with faded markings and a sagging net... And of course she had a pool. Who didn't then? Mabel Norman and John Gilbert must swum in it ten thousand midnights ago... It was empty now. Or was it? [cut to close-up of rats]
Norma Desmond: You're a writer, you said. Joe Gillis: Why? Norma Desmond: Are you or aren't you? Joe Gillis: That's what it says on my Guild card. Norma Desmond: And you have written pictures, haven't you? Joe Gillis: I sure have. Want a list of my credits? Norma Desmond: I want to ask you something. Come in here. Joe Gillis: Last one I wrote was about Okies in the Dust Bowl. You'd never know because when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat.
Norma Desmond: Jonesy! Hey, Jonesy!
Joe Gillis: Now back to the typewritters by way of Washington Square
[the salesman thinks Joe is a gigolo] Salesman: [whispering in Joe's ear] As long as the lady is paying for it, why not take the Vicuna?
Norma Desmond: Don't be silly. [hands Joe a present] Norma Desmond: Here, I was going to give it to you at midnight. Joe Gillis: Norma, I can't take it, you've bought me enough. Norma Desmond: Shut up, I'm rich! I'm richer than all this new Hollywood trash! I've got a million dollars. Joe Gillis: Keep it. Norma Desmond: Own three blocks downtown, I've got oil in Bakersfield, pumping, *pumping*, pumping! What's it for but to buy us anything we want! Joe Gillis: Cut out that "us" business! Norma Desmond: What's the matter with you? Joe Gillis: What right do you have to take me for granted? Norma Desmond: What right? Do you want me to tell you? Joe Gillis: Has it ever occurred to you that I may have a life of my own? That there may be some girl I'm crazy about? Norma Desmond: Who? Some car hop, or dress extra? Joe Gillis: What I'm trying to say is that I'm all wrong for you. You want a Valentino, somebody with polo ponies, a big shot! Norma Desmond: What you're trying to say is that you don't want me to love you. Say it. Say it! [slaps him hard across the face]
Joe Gillis (as narrator): You don't yell at a sleepwalker. He may fall and break his neck.
Max Von Mayerling: You see those offices up there? That was Madame's dressing room, the whole row. Joe Gillis: Didn't leave much for Wallace Reid. Max Von Mayerling: Oh, he had a big bungalow on wheels.
Norma Desmond: I'll be up there again, so help me!
[first lines] Joe Gillis: Yes, this is Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California. It's about 5 0'clock in the morning. That's the homicide squad, complete with detectives and newspaper men.
Norma Desmond: You there! Why are you so late? Why have you kept me waiting so long?
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