Great Characters Wiki
Great Characters Wiki

"I am big! It's the pictures that got small."

"We didn't need dialogue. We had faces."

Norma Desmond is a central character in the 1950 Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard. She was a famous silent film actress before the silent era started to end and she had to step down.

She was portrayed by the late Gloria Swanson, who really was a movie star in the silent film era.

Why She Rocks

  1. Gloria Swanson does a phenomenal performance as the envious ex-silent film star. Being an actual former actress from the silent age certain helps.
    1. She also gets to show off her silent film acting talents in this film and shows that she hadn't lost her charm during her time off the big screen.
  2. She's pretty much a cautionary tale (if exaggerated) of how celebrities tend to be very egoistic and glory hungry, and unwilling to move on, and considering how broken down and depressed she feels, it all just makes the message even stronger.
  3. Even if she did go insane in her spare time, her post-celebrity life has shown to be very depressing, as hardly anyone remembers her, and she barely get any visitors in her place other than her butler, Max. The lady tries to suicide several times, she feels that useless.
  4. Unlike most people who use the captive and only see them as tools, Norma has shown to genuinely care for Joe when he was forced to lived with her. She checked on Joe regularly and would entertain him when he got bored during his writing.
  5. Even when she did shoot Joe dead in the end she was still merciful about it and mainly did it because she's heartbroken was that was living a lie during her past few years and thought she was remembered.
  6. Several timeless, and memorable one-liners such as...
    1. "All right, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
    2. "I am 'big'. It's the PICTURES that got 'small'"
    3. "We didn't need dialogues, we had faces."


  • Norma's name has a hidden movie star reference. It's actually a combination of silent-era actress Norma Talmadge and silent-era director William Desmond.