CULTUREIFY/By Marsha Collock
Poor Norma Desmond, so misunderstood. Sure, she was a bit loony. Who wouldn’t be? When the thing you love most deserts you, it can have devastating consequences.
…that room of hers, all satin and ruffles. And that bed, like a gilded rowboat. The perfect setting for a silent movie queen. Poor devil – still waving proudly to a parade which had long since passed her by.
Norma Desmond was devoted to her art – the art of being a star. It’s not her fault the movies spoke, the chimp died and the boy-toy fell for a younger woman. Norma kept her promise to live and breathe every waking moment as a star.
A star still shines, even if no one is looking.
There is much to be learned from Norma, so all of you who long to live life as a star – pay attention!
Here are Norma’s top ten lessons in living life as a star (with a little help from her friends Max, Joe and CB).
Lesson #1: Enrapture Your Fans
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!
Lesson #2: Inspire Your Director’s Devotion
Max Von Mayerling: Madame is the greatest star of them all.
Cecil B. DeMille: You didn’t know Norma Desmond as a lovely little girl of seventeen, with more courage and wit and heart than ever came together in one youngster.
Lesson #3: Enslave Your Ex-Husband
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. You see, I was her first husband.
Lesson #4: Be an Unashamed Cougar
Set up the hunky younger man in the bedroom next door. Add extra points if you can do this in front of the ex-husband.
Lesson # 5: Be Fashion Forward
Mere mortals should imitate you, not vice versa.
Lesson #6: Live Like a Star
Decorate like a star…
have big pets…
and always hang with other star-friends…
Lesson #7: Be Confident
Joe Gillis: They’ll love it in Pomona.
Norma Desmond: They’ll love it everywhere.
Norma Desmond: Without me there wouldn’t be any Paramount Studio.
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.
Lesson #8: Smoke and Make Sure You Have a Cool Cigarette Holder
Lesson # 9: A Star’s Emotions Are Bigger Than Life
Lesson #10: Never, Never, Ever Forget Your Fans
Norma Desmond: Then why do they still write me fan letters every day? Why do they beg me for my photographs? Why? Because they want to see me, ME, Norma Desmond
Joe Gillis: I didn’t know you were planning a comeback.
Norma Desmond: I hate that word. It’s return – a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.
No one ever leaves a star. That’s what makes one a star.
Stars are ageless, aren’t they?
I just want to tell you all how happy I am to be back in the studio making a picture again! You don’t know how much I’ve missed all of you. 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! There’s nothing else – just us – and the cameras – and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.
And always answer your fan mail!
Norma’s best student:Joan Crawford
My Personal Favorite Quote from SSB:
Max Von Mayerling: If you need any help with the coffin, call me.
Special thanks to the fabulous face of Gloria Swanson
And, of course, credit to Billy Wilder. Yes, I know it’s only a movie, but it seems so real.
A Person in the Dark IS a site designed for all of the wonderful people out there in the dark and dedicated to the unabashed passion for silents, early talkies, all stars and all films.