Sometimes, we forget how much we love to do the little things in life that make us happy. My last two months have been consumed by non-stop nursing clinicals, courses, exams and written assignments. This has left me with minimal time to watch my favorite films in addition to posting on my blog. I decided it was time to make this a priority alongside nursing school, as it serves as a great stress relief. As my two biggest passions are nursing and classic movies, I decided to incorporate both aspects into this post.
Currently, I completing my final week of the mental health nursing component of my program. My instructor gave me an assignment that I had a tremendous amount of fun with so I decided to share the experience here. We were required to select a film, any film of our choosing…the genre and decade of the film were up to our discretion. After making our film choice, we were to watch it through the eyes of a mental health care provider, and document which characters demonstrated mental afflictions or personality disorders.
While many of my peers chose films made within the last twenty years, I of course made the decision to utilize one of the classics. At first I considered writing about Leslie Howard and Humphrey Bogart from The Petrified Forest, and then I contemplated studying Andy Griffith’s character from A Face in the Crowd. Then it hit me, the movie I felt compelled to analyze was Sunset Boulevard. To classic film fans, this probably seems to be an obvious choice. However, for my peers who have had little exposure to the classics, it was a way to intrigue and educate them about a film that still remains relevant in today’s society.
Though I have seem the film several times, I continue to be blown away each and every time by Gloria Swanson’s portrayal of Norma Desmond. From the verbal dialect to the style of dress and exaggerated facial expressions, Gloria brings the character of Norma to life in such a way that she captivates and makes the viewer uneasy at the same time. As a viewer, you can see the emotions Norma is feeling by the expression that is conveyed by her eyes. This film always makes me question why such a tremendous actress like Gloria was never able to successfully make the cross over from silent film to talkies. In this film she shows the true caliber of her acting abilities, and though she is playing the role of the antagonist, the viewer cannot help by sympathize with her.
While viewing this film for class, I picked up on things that I had never been cognizant of before. This included consistent dialogue by Norma Desmond illustrating delusions of grandeur and the degree of determination that she exhibited related to not letting go of the past. The following are some memorable quotes made by Norma throughout the film in addition to some interesting aspects of the film that I noted during this viewing. If you have never seen this picture, I highly recommend it!
Joe Gillis (played by William Holden): “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.”
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.
Norma Desmond: “We didn’t need dialogue we had faces. There just aren’t faces like that anymore. Maybe one, Garbo. Those idiot producers, those imbeciles, have they forgotten what a star looks like. I’ll be up there again, I’ll show them!”
The house in which she lives resembles a shrine to herself. Everywhere you look, there are framed photographs of her from her days as a silent film star. She has a private projection screen in her house so that she can watch her old films about two to three times per week. Many times throughout the day, she is signing old head shots of herself for her countless ‘fans.’
When the gatekeeper at Paramount Studios did not recognize Norma, she became enraged and stated, “Without me there wouldn’t be any Paramount Studios.”
One of the most memorable scenes (featured below) shows Norma descending the staircase after murdering Joe Gillis. She has descended into a complete state of shock/psychosis and believes that the police/news reporters are the cameramen for a film in which she is starring. “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.”