The Performance of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

Gloria Swanson’s performance in Sunset Blvd. is considered a masterpiece of motion picture acting. Why do you believe it is so considered and why do you agree or disagree?
An allusion to Great Expectations is made seconds before William Holden’s character, Joe Gillis, enters Norma Desmond’s enormous home. Contemplating about the house’s appearance, Joe narrates, “It was like that old woman in Great Expectations. That Miss Havisham in her rotting wedding dress and her torn veil, taking it out on the world because she’d been given the go-by.” This suggestion prophesizes the mysterious character of Norma and her crumbling psyche, expertly portrayed by Gloria Swanson. Though Norma Desmond is more rational in her behavior than Miss Havisham, they mirror each other in destructive single-mindedness and egocentricity. In the same way that Charles Dickens provides a vivid mental picture of Miss Havisham’s putrefaction, Gloria Swanson provides clear physical characteristics and behaviors to Norma Desmond in order to visually communicate Norma’s mental breakdown.
Gloria Swanson’s performance as Norma Desmond clearly notes the comparison between Norma and Miss Havisham- or at least is thoroughly constructed through observation of similarly broken people trapped in their past. From the first moment Norma appears onscreen, she dominates the picture. The first image of her is through shuttered blinds, but soon her full figure is shown draped in a long black gown and sunglasses. She is mourning for her dead monkey, but through Swanson’s performance it soon becomes clear that she’s mourning for her lost, glimmering past much more deeply than her pet. Norma only appears eccentric at first, but Swanson provides a madness behind her eyes that takes hold when she becomes passionate. Every twitch and intense glare of Norma that Swanson provides is fascinating and foreshadows Norma’s final homicidal madness.
The most interesting aspect of Swanson’s performance of Norma Desmond...