Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson

Infobox actor
name = Gloria Swanson

imagesize =
birthname = Gloria May Josephine Swanson
birthdate = birth date|1899|3|27|mf=y
birthplace = Chicago, Illinois
deathdate = death date and age|1983|4|4|1899|3|27|mf=y
deathplace = New York City
yearsactive = 1914 - 1981
spouse = Wallace Beery
Herbert K. Somborn
Henri de la Falaise
Michael Farmer
George William Davey
William Dufty
goldenglobeawards = Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1950 "Sunset Boulevard"
awards = Special Award (Saturn Award)
1975 Lifetime Achievement
Silver Ribbon for Best Foreign Actress
1950 "Sunset Boulevard"
Jussi Award for Best Foreign Actress
1950 "Sunset Boulevard"
NBR Award for Best Actress
1950 "Sunset Boulevard"
NBR Career Achievement Award
1980 Lifetime Achievement
Walk of Fame - Motion Picture
6748 Hollywood Blvd
Walk of Fame - Television
6301 Hollywood Blvd

Gloria Swanson (March 27, 1899 – April 4, 1983) was an Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning American Hollywood actress. She was prolific during the silent film era, but her career declined with the advent of "talkies". She is now best known for her performance in the film "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), in which—mirroring her own life—she portrayed a former silent movie star largely forgotten by audiences of the day.

Early life

Swanson was born Gloria Josephine May Swanson [] in a small house in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Adelaide (née Klanowski) and Joseph Theodore Swanson, a soldier. She attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. Her father, whose surname was originally "Svensson", was from a strict Lutheran Swedish American family, and her mother was of German, French and Polish ancestry.cite book|last=Quirk|first=Lawrence J.|authorlink=|coauthors=|title= The Films of Gloria Swanson|publisher=Citadel Press|date=1984|location=|pages=256|month=|url=|id=ISBN0806508744] cite book|last=Harzig|first=Christiane|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Peasant Maids, City Women|publisher=Cornell University Press|date=1996|location=|pages=283|month=|url=|id=ISBN0801483956] Swanson grew up mainly in Puerto Rico, Chicago, and Key West, Florida. Gloria didn't intend to go into show business. After her formal education in the Chicago school system and elsewhere, she began work in a department store as a sales clerk.

ilent films

Her film debut was in 1914 as an extra in "The Song of Soul" for Chicago's Essanay Studios. While on a tour of the studio, a young Gloria asked to be in the movie just for fun. Guessing her acting quality, Essanay hired her to feature in several movies, including "His New Job", directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin.

Swanson moved to California in 1916 to appear in Mack Sennett's Keystone comedies opposite Bobby Vernon including "Teddy at the Throttle", and in 1919 she signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with Cecil B. DeMille, who turned her into a romantic lead in such films as "Don't Change Your Husband", "Male and Female", "The Affairs of Anatol", and "Why Change Your Wife?" Swanson later appeared in a series of films directed by Sam Wood. She starred in "Beyond the Rocks" (1922) with Rudolph Valentino. (This film had been believed lost but was rediscovered in 2004 in a private collection in The Netherlands.)

In her heyday, audiences went to her films not only for her emotional portrayals in lurid romances, but to see her wardrobe. Frequently ornamented with beads, jewels, peacock and ostrich feathers, haute couture of the day or extravagant period pieces, one would hardly suspect that Gloria was barely five feet (1.52 m) tall. In 1925, she starred in the first French-American coproduction, "Madame Sans-Gêne" directed by Léonce Perret. During the production of this film, she met her third husband Henry de la Falaise, Marquis de la Falaise, who was originally hired to be her translator during the film's production. She appeared in a 1925 short produced by Lee DeForest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process, which was one of the earliest attempts to synchronize sound with a moving image.

She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as the title character in the 1928 film "Sadie Thompson", costarring and directed by Raoul Walsh, based on Somerset Maugham's short story "Miss Thompson", later called "Rain" (the story was re-filmed under this title in 1932, starring Joan Crawford and directed by Lewis Milestone). Her first independent production "The Love of Sunya", in which she costarred with John Boles and Pauline Garon, opened the Roxy Theater in New York City on March 11, 1927. (Swanson was pictured in the ruins of the Roxy on October 14, 1960 during the demolition of the theater in a famous photo taken by Time-Life photographer Eliot Elisofon.)

Swanson's unfinished film "Queen Kelly" (1929) was directed by Erich von Stroheim and produced by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., father of future President John F. Kennedy. She was romantically linked to the elder Kennedy at the time.

Swanson ultimately made talkies, even singing in "The Trespasser" (1929) directed by Edmund Goulding, "Indiscreet" (1931), and "Music in the Air" (1934). Even though she managed to make the transition into talkies, her career began to decline.

Swanson auditioned for the leading female role in "His New Job", a Charlie Chaplin short, but Chaplin did not see her as leading lady material and cast her in the brief role of a stenographer. She later admitted that she hated slapstick comedy and had been deliberately uncooperative.

She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for motion pictures at 6748 Hollywood Boulevard and another for television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard. Before she died, she sold her archives including photographs, copies of films and private papers to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin. The second largest collection of Swanson material is held in the archives of Timothy Rooks.

"Sunset Boulevard"

After Mae West and several former silent screen actresses (including Mary Pickford, Pola Negri, and Greta Garbo) all declined the role, Swanson, gamely acknowledging reality, was featured in 1950's "Sunset Blvd.", and made history with her remarkable, if brief, return. For the performance she was nominated for her third Best Actress Oscar but lost to Judy Holliday for "Born Yesterday".

She received several subsequent acting offers but turned most of them down, saying they tended to be pale imitations of Norma Desmond. Her last major Hollywood motion picture role was in "Three for Bedroom "C"" in 1952. Swanson played an aging movie star in the Warner Bros. comedy. With disappointing reviews and ticket sales, the failure ended Swanson's return as a movie actress.

Television roles

Swanson hosted a television anthology series, "Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson", in which she occasionally acted. She also appeared in the 1971 Broadway production of "Butterflies are Free" at the Booth Theatre. Her last acting role was in the television horror film "Killer Bees" in 1974, though she also appeared as herself in the movie "Airport 1975", the same year. Through the 1970s and early 1980s, Swanson appeared on various talk and variety shows such as "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" to recollect on her films and to lampoon them as well. Her most famous television appearance is a 1966 episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies" titled "The Gloria Swanson Story" in which she plays herself. In the episode, the Clampetts mistakenly believe Swanson is destitute so they finance a comeback movie for her - in a silent film.

Personal life

Swanson was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where she attended Lake View High School. {She was a long-time vegetarian and early health food advocate who was known for bringing her own meals to public functions in a paper bag. Swanson told actor Dirk Benedict about macrobiotic diets when he was battling prostate cancer at a very young age. He had refused conventional therapies and credited this kind of diet and healthy eating with his recovery.

Swanson had a reputation as a difficult and often unpleasant character, albeit a fascinating one. This is referenced in the TV movie, "White Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd" (1991), where Swanson is portrayed in that light and is rebuked by the actress playing Patsy Kelly, Todd's comedy partner.

Swanson died in New York City of natural causes at the age of 84; she was cremated and her ashes interred at the Episcopal Church of Heavenly Rest on Fifth Ave in New York City.

Marriages and relationships

Her first husband was Wallace Beery, whom she married on her 17th birthday. They divorced two years later.

She married Herbert K. Somborn (1881-1934), then president of Equity Pictures Corporation and later the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant, in 1919. Their daughter, Gloria Swanson Somborn, was born in 1920. Their divorce, finalized in January 1925, was sensational. Somborn accused her of adultery with 13 men including Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino and Marshall Neilan. During this divorce in 1923 Swanson adopted a baby boy named Sonny Smith (1922-1975) and renamed him Joseph Patrick Swanson.

Her third husband was French aristocrat Henry de la Falaise, Marquis de la Falaise whom she married in 1925 after the Somborn divorce was finalized. He became a film executive representing Pathé in the United States. She conceived a child with him but had an abortion which she said (in her autobiography, "Swanson on Swanson") she regretted. This marriage ended in divorce in 1931.

In August 1931, Swanson married Michael Farmer (1902-1975). Although frequently described as a sportsman the only evidence of the Irishman's prowess was his frequent betrothals. Unfortunately Swanson's divorce from La Falaise had not been finalized at the time, making the actress technically a bigamist. She was forced to remarry Farmer the following November, by which time she was four months pregnant with Michelle Bridget Farmer, who was born in 1932. The Farmers were divorced in 1934.

In 1945 Swanson married William N. Davey and they divorced in 1948. Little is known of Davey except that single mother Gloria married this rich man because young Michelle had been nagging her about wanting a father. According to Swanson, she and Davey actually cohabited forty-five days.Swanson is also known as one of the first celebrities with an obsessed stalker. In the early 1950s she was pursued by a crazed World War II veteran, Samuel Golden. Golden claimed that the two were destined to be married and would give her 2/3 of his children as well as divulge secrets about the Navy's computer systems if she would run away with him. Recent declassified FBI documents disclose J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with seeing Golden tried for treason, but Golden somehow disappeared somewhere in the Boston area.

Swanson's final marriage was in 1976 and lasted until her death. Her sixth husband, writer William Dufty (1916-2002), was the co-author of Billie Holiday's autobiography "Lady Sings the Blues", the author of "Sugar Blues", a best-selling health book, and the author of the English version of Georges Ohsawa's "You Are All Sanpaku". Swanson shared her husband's enthusiasm for macrobiotic diets.

Swanson had an affair with married tycoon Joseph Kennedy for a number of years. He became her business partner and their affair was an open secret in Hollywood circles.

Academy Award nominations

*1951 - Best Actress in a Leading Role — "Sunset Boulevard"
*1930 - Best Actress in a Leading Role — "The Trespasser"
*1929 - Best Actress in a Leading Role — "Sadie Thompson"



*"Society for Sale" (1918)
*"Her Decision" (1918)
*"Station Content" (1918)
*"You Can't Believe Everything" (1918)
*"Everywoman's Husband" (1918)
*"Shifting Sands" (1918)
*"The Secret Code" (1918)
*"Don't Change Your Husband" (1919)
*"For Better, for Worse" (1919)
*"Male and Female" (1919)
*"Why Change Your Wife?" (1920)
*"Something to Think About" (1920)
*"The Great Moment" (1921)
*"The Affairs of Anatol" (1921)
*"Under the Lash" (1921)
*"Don't Tell Everything" (1921)
*"Her Husband's Trademark" (1922)
*"Her Gilded Cage" (1922)
*"Beyond the Rocks" (1922)
*"The Impossible Mrs. Bellew" (1922)
*"My American Wife" (1922)
*"Prodigal Daughters" (1923)
*"Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" (1923)
*"Hollywood" (1923) (Cameo)
*"Zaza" (1923)
*"The Humming Bird" (1924)
*"A Society Scandal" (1924)
*"Manhandled" (1924)
*"Her Love Story" (1924)
*"Wages of Virtue" (1924)
*"Madame Sans-Gêne" (1924)
*"The Coast of Folly" (1925)
*"Stage Struck" (1925)
*"The Untamed Lady" (1926)
*"Fine Manners" (1926)
*"The Love of Sunya" (1927)
*"Sadie Thompson" (1928)
*"Queen Kelly" (1929)
*"The Trespasser" (1929)
*"What a Widow!" (1930)
*"Indiscreet" (1931)
*"Tonight or Never" (1931)
*"Perfect Understanding" (1933)
*"Music in the Air" (1934)
*"Father Takes a Wife" (1941)
*"Sunset Boulevard" (1950)
*"Three for Bedroom "C"" (1952)
*"Nero's Mistress" (1956)
*"Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times" (1972) (documentary) (narrator)
*"Airport 1975" (1974)

hort subjects

*"The Song of the Soul" (1914)
*"At the End of a Perfect Day" (1915)
*"The Ambition of the Baron" (1915)
*"The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket" (1915)
*"His New Job" (1915)
*"Sweedie Goes to College" (1915)
*"The Romance of an American Duchess" (1915)
*"The Broken Pledge" (1915)
*"The Nick of Time Baby" (1916)
*"A Dash of Courage" (1916)
*"Hearts and Sparks" (1916)
*"A Social Cub" (1916)
*"The Danger Girl" (1916)
*"Haystacks and Steeples" (1916)
*"Teddy at the Throttle" (1917)
*"Baseball Madness" (1917)
*"Dangers of a Bride" (1917)
*"Whose Baby?" (1917)
*"The Sultan's Wife" (1917)
*"The Pullman Bride" (1917)
*"Wife or Country" (1918)
*"A Trip to Paramountown" (1922)
*"Gloria Swanson Dialogue" (1925)

Television work

*"Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson" (1954-1955)
* Guest on "The Mike Wallace Interview", April 28, 1957 []
*"Killer Bees" (1974)
* Guest on "ABC" Television's "Dick Cavett" Show, 1970 August 3, available on the DVD "Dick Cavett Show Rock Icons".
* Guest on "The Beverly Hillbillies", 1966
* Mrs. Daniels in "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour's" "Behind the Locked Door" 1964

Further reading

*Swanson, Gloria, "Swanson on Swanson", 1980. An autobiography.
*Kessler, Ronald , "The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty He Founded", Warner, 1996, ISBN 0-446-60384-8, chapter 6.


* 1900 United States Federal Census, Chicago Ward 25, Town of Lakeview, Cook County, Illinois, Enumeration District 760, p.8A (J.T. Swanson)

External links

*imdb name|id=0841797|name=Gloria Swanson
*tcmdb name|id=187518|name=Gloria Swanson
*ibdb name|id=68850|name=Gloria Swanson
* [ Gloria Swanson at Golden Silents]
* [ Gloria Swanson Photo Galleries]
* [ Gloria Swanson Biography]
* [ Gloria Swanson photographs and bibliography]
* [ Gloria Swanson] , video of "The Mike Wallace Interview", April 28, 1957


NAME= Swanson, Gloria
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Swanson, Gloria May Josephine
DATE OF BIRTH= Gloria Somborn
PLACE OF BIRTH= Michele Farmer
DATE OF DEATH= 1983-4-4

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