Edith Head designed the costumes for the film, including Gloria Swanson's wardrobe. Here is Miss Head's costume sketch for Swanson's opening scene as Norma Desmond. When you look closely you'll notice in the movie, as in this design sketch, that the outfit is not a skirt but are pants worn under a hostess dress. The liner fabric was changed in the final productiion.
William Holden and Gloria Swanson play out a scene at Norma's mansion. The house is full of photos of Swanson from old movies. The house too had its Hollywood connection. It was depicted as an old Sunset Boulevard mansion, "..stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis." where all the old movie stars used to swim in its swimming pool. And to add to its fading glory, Norma has bridge parties with silent film stars such as Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner (who played Jesus in De Mille's King of Kings in 1927), and Anna Q. Nilsson. In real life the mansion had belonged to J. Paul Getty and was located on Wilshire Blvd. before it was torn down, but not before its pool was used for a scene in Rebel Without a Cause.
But William Holden too makes the movie work. As co-star Nancy Olson related at the recent TCM Film Festival, Holden made the movie during a personal dry spell, drinking heavily and himself facing the taste of desparation that breathed down Joe Gillis's neck. The film's greatness is based on the strength of its characters. And as the characters vainly hope for in the film, Holden himself really did make a comeback after Sunset Blvd. As the film ended at a wrap screening for Paramount's stars, it was said that Barbara Stanwyck wept as she kissed the hem of Swanson's silver lame gown in reverence. In 2007, Sunset Blvd was ranked the 16th greatest film of all time by the American Film Institute, and the Library of Congress placed it in the National Film Registry as one of the 25 landmark films of all time.
While the sun doesn't set on Sunset Blvd, it's appeal lies in darkness. As Norma Desmond says, "Just us, the cameras, and those lovely people out there in the dark!"