In Billy Wilder's harrowing, incantatory journey to the decaying underside of Hollywood's gleaming celluloid dreamworld, Joe Gillis (William Holden), a monetarily and imaginatively bankrupt script writer, takes takes cover in a seemingly abandoned mansion while fleeing from his creditors. The crumbling, ominous structure turns out to be the home of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), an aging, luridly bitter silent-film starlet who was unable to remain a box-office draw when films began using sound. Gillis begins living above the mansion's garage and editing an unwieldy script written by the self-deluded Desmond. At first, when he is able to view the whole setup as a sham, there is a glimmer of a better life for the writer in the form of a blossoming romance with a young, sharp (and eminently sane) studio employee, but Gillis begins to sink deeper and deeper into Desmond's suffocating, strangely hypnotic world of make-believe. Holden's portrayal is the perfect frayed ribbon of cynicism above Wilder's vortex of fallen Hollywood, where the line between fact and fiction is vertiginously blurred. This obfuscation is in no small part aided by the demonically inspired casting of, among others, Buster Keaton and Cecil B. DeMille as themselves; legendary silent film director Erich Von Stroheim as Norma Desmond's butler (and former director); and, most significantly, Swanson--herself a hugely successful silent film actor largely forgotten by the masses by the time of the film's release--as Desmond.