Friday, September 9, 2016

Sunset Boulevard: But What about the Monkey?

No, I don't think he committed suicide.....
I can’t help it. I want to know more about Norma Desmond’s monkey.

Monkey, we hardly knew you.....
Oh sure, we know he’s dead, and that he serves as the plot device to get Joe Gillis into Norma’s cage, but, really, who was he? Was he, as Joe guesses, a distant relative of Cheetah? What was his name? Was he a movie star? Was he rescued from a circus? How did he and Norma meet? Was he even a “he”? After all, she did want to line the coffin in pink.

Yeah, yeah, he’s the crystal ball into which Joe can see his future – becoming Norma’s new monkey (remember that dream he has about the organ grinder and the monkey?). But, I’d really like to know more about him. Did he like bananas for breakfast? Was he a clever and urbane conversationalist? Was he able to mix Norma’s favorite cocktail? Did he and Max get along? Did he have a smoking jacket?
Could Monkey hold his liquor?
Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the monkey moves the plot along. But unlike those serviceable characters that are expendable, the monkey is missed. 
Did Monkey help Norma with Salome?
Imagine if he had lived! He could have advised Joe NOT to get the vicuna. And, he might have helped Joe keep his clandestine meetings with a little more discrete. Even better, he might have helped Joe escape (after helping him punch up Norma’s Salome).

The New Year's Eve before the end,,,,,,,
I imagine that chimp being quite extraordinary in all ways. Norma was a great star who had great demands (3 husbands!) And yet, she mourned that monkey. His death left a hole in the happy little threesome that we never got to see.
Monkey had refined table manners,
which I'm sure Norma and Max appreciated

Billy Wilder reportedly kept telling Gloria Swanson that Norma was doing the monkey, but I’m not buying it. I picture the monkey as more of an Oscar Wilde type – witty, charming and possibly gay. Written in the margins of Sunset Boulevard’s main story is the story of an unnamed monkey who died in luxury but whose life remains a mystery.
Norma in her monkey fur coat. Could this have been a relative?


Silver Screenings said...

Haha! The monkey as Oscar Wilde! Fabulous. I completely agree with that speculation.

Loved this essay. I never, for a second, wondered about the monkey, but I certainly will be the next time I see this movie. :)

Caftan Woman said...

Every so briefly, and occasionally when watching the film, thoughts of Monkey would cross my mind only to disappear in the ether replaced with thoughts of William Holden (that shall be left unsaid for the sake of discretion). Now I fear my dreams will forever haunted by thoughts of one who has gone before. Do you really think you have used your power for good?!

FlickChick said...

Hey Ruth - thanks so much. I've had such a hard time getting back to blogging. I hope this breaks the spell.

FlickChick said...

CW - you make me laugh! And I'm sorry, but Monkey must have his say!

Inge Gregusch said...

Better late than never department: witty and clever and beautifully illustrated as always. This masterwork of a movie has so much in it. Leave it to you to give the chimp his fifteen minutes. My favorite scene ties in with your current blog post. It's where Norma camps around in front of Joe--as Charlie Chaplin.