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Gloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson

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Indiscreet DVD "Obey Thy Impulse" is the new book written by Anthony Blake. Gloria Swanson... more info $6.98was $6.98 Buy Now

Sadie Thompson DVD This first film version of Somerset Maugham's classic story "Miss Thompson"... more info $29.95was $29.95 Buy Now

Queen Kelly DVD In 1928, after years of struggles within the studio system, Erich von Stroheim... more info $29.95was $29.95 Buy Now

Beyond The Rocks DVD This 1922 silent drama stars Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino, the biggest... more info $29.99was $29.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Gloria Josephine Mae Svensson, Gloria Mae Died: April 4, 1983
Born: March 27, 1899 Cause of Death: heart ailment
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A silent screen legend and the epitome of early Hollywood glamour, actress Gloria Swanson rose to great heights in the 1920s, only to struggle like many of her day did once the age of talkie films took hold. But unlike her silent film contemporaries, Swanson had a trick or two up her sleeve and delivered a powerful, Oscar-nominated performance as the delusional Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), widely considered to be the greatest film noir ever made. Prior to that triumph, Swanson had reigned supreme during the silent era as a top actress whose elaborate feathered boas and bejeweled headdresses were the height of fashion. She first achieved stardom in several of Cecil B. DeMille's bedroom farces like "Don't Change Your Husband" (1919) and "Why Change Your Wife?" (1920) before making a series of dramas that propelled her to the top. Mid-decade, Swanson became one of the most famous stars in the world thanks to roles in "Zaza" (1923), "Madame Sans-Gene" (1925) and "The Untamed Lady" (1926). Prompted to break out and produce her movies independently, Swanson staggered a bit with the production-plagued "The Love of Sunya" (1927), but rebounded with "Sadie Thompson" (1928) - her...

A silent screen legend and the epitome of early Hollywood glamour, actress Gloria Swanson rose to great heights in the 1920s, only to struggle like many of her day did once the age of talkie films took hold. But unlike her silent film contemporaries, Swanson had a trick or two up her sleeve and delivered a powerful, Oscar-nominated performance as the delusional Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), widely considered to be the greatest film noir ever made. Prior to that triumph, Swanson had reigned supreme during the silent era as a top actress whose elaborate feathered boas and bejeweled headdresses were the height of fashion. She first achieved stardom in several of Cecil B. DeMille's bedroom farces like "Don't Change Your Husband" (1919) and "Why Change Your Wife?" (1920) before making a series of dramas that propelled her to the top. Mid-decade, Swanson became one of the most famous stars in the world thanks to roles in "Zaza" (1923), "Madame Sans-Gene" (1925) and "The Untamed Lady" (1926). Prompted to break out and produce her movies independently, Swanson staggered a bit with the production-plagued "The Love of Sunya" (1927), but rebounded with "Sadie Thompson" (1928) - her last critical and financial hit until "Sunset Boulevard." Following the disaster that was "Queen Kelly" (1929), which was partially bankrolled by lover Joseph P. Kennedy, Swanson largely left the big screen in favor of Broadway and the small screen, where she stayed for the remainder of her career. Despite few hits for a large part of her career, Swanson remained until her death in 1983 a true Tinseltown legend.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Airport '75 (1975) Herself
2.
 Killer Bees (1974) Madame Van Bohlen; Maria
3.
4.
5.
 Nero's Mistress (1956) Agrippina
6.
 3 for Bedroom C (1952) Ann Haven
7.
 Sunset Blvd. (1950) Norma Desmond
8.
 Down Memory Lane (1949)
9.
 Father Takes a Wife (1941) Leslie Collier
10.
 Music in the Air (1934) Frieda [Hotzfelt]
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1915:
Became an extra at Essanay studios in Chicago
1915:
First acting role, "Elvira Farina"
1916:
Went to Hollywood with Wallace Beery; both hired by Mack Sennett's Keystone company
1917:
Followed Sennett when he left Triangle to join Paramount
:
Returned to Triangle; starred in dramas
1919:
Moved to Cecil B DeMille's unit at Paramount; began starring in series of sophisticated bedroom farces including "Don't Change Your Husband" and "Male and Female"
1922:
Teamed on screen with Valentino in "Beyond the Rocks"
1924:
First did her Chaplin impression on screen in "Manhandled"
1925:
Starred in "Madame Sans Gene", filmed on location in France
1926:
Left Paramount
1927:
Bankrolled by Joseph P Kennedy; formed own production company, with films released through United Artists
1927:
Experienced box office flop with "The Love of Sunya"
1928:
Received first Best Actress Academy Award nomination for title role in "Sadie Thompson"
1928:
Starred in the silent film "Queen Kelly", produced by Kennedy and directed by Erich von Stroheim; Swanson put together a version for release in Europe but it was a box office disappointment; footage later interpolated in "Sunset Boulevard"
1929:
Garnered second Best Actress Oscar nomination for "The Trespasser", her first talking picture
1933:
Went to Great Britain to star in "Perfect Understanding"
1934:
Played last starring role for seven years in the musical comedy "Music in the Air"; temporarily retired
1941:
Made a screen comeback in "Father Takes a Wife"
1950:
Resumed screen career with her signature role of Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard", directed by Billy Wilder; earned third Best Actress Academy Award nomination
1951:
Returned to Broadway in "Twentieth Century"
1951:
Made TV appearance in an episode of "Hollywood Opening Night"
1953:
Hosted and acted in the syndicated TV show "Crown Theater With Gloria Swanson" (aka "The Gloria Swanson Show")
1961:
Guest starred on "Dr. Kildare"
1966:
Appeared in an episode of the CBS sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies"
1967:
Made rare musical appearance as a guest on "The Carol Burnett Show" (CBS)
1970:
Succeeded Eileen Heckart in the role of the overprotective mother of a blind man in the comedy-drama "Butterflies Are Free" on Broadway; later toured with the play
1974:
Acted in final film, "Airport 1975"
1974:
TV-movie debut, "Killer Bees" (ABC)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Some sources list 1897 as the year of Ms. Swanson's birth.

"Whether Miss Swanson's tiny body, disproportionately large head, prognathous jaw, huge eyes, dished nose and enormous white teeth add up to great beauty or not is something fans have disputed for years. But nobody has ever disputed that here is a woman who looks like drama." --Richard Griffith, "The Movie Star"

A wag reportedly once described one of Swanson's most common facial expressions--eyes wide open with a kind of coy seduction, lips open yet somewhat pursed, her front teeth jutting forth--as looking like "a hungry rabbit lustily eyeing a piece of lettuce". Marion Davies did a memorable parody of this expression whenever her character, an aspiring film actress, was called upon to look glamorous in King Vidor's charming comedy, "Show People" (1928).

"We didn't need voices. We had faces." --Gloria Swanson in her most famous role as Norma Desmond, speaking about silent actors, in "Sunset Boulevard" (1950).

Swanson attempted to mount a stage musical version of "Sunset Boulevard" in the 1960s but the project came to naught. Various writers attempted to turn the material into a Broadway musical over the years until Andrew Lloyd Webber managed it in 1994.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Wallace Beery. Actor. Born in 1895; married in 1916; reportedly got drunk on their wedding night and sexually assaulted Swanson; when Swanson became pregnant, Beery allegedly poisoned her so she would have a miscarriage; separated after only a few months of marriage; divorced 1919; died in 1949.
companion:
Craney Gratz. Playboy Swanson dated after moving to Southern California.
husband:
Herbert K Somborn. Executive, restaurateur. Born in 1881; met Swanson when he was president of Equity Pictures Corporation; married in 1919; managed the famous Brown Derby restaurant from 1926 until his death; separated after about a year of marriage; divorced in 1922; father of Swanson's daughter Gloria; died in 1934.
companion:
Marshall Neilan. Director. Involved in the early 1920s; Swanson's husband Herbert Somborn sued her for divorce based on her relationship with Neilan.
husband:
Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudraye. French nobleman; born in 1898; met in 1924; married in 1925; became involved with actress Constance Bennett (whom he later married) while Swanson was seeing Joseph P Kennedy; divorced in 1930; died in 1972.
companion:
Joseph P Kennedy. Diplomat, executive, financier, producer. Born in 1888; involved in the late 1920s; produced three of Swanson's films including "Sadie Thompson" and "Queen Kelly"; later served as ambassador to Great Britain (1937-40); father of US President John F Kennedy and US Senators Robert F Kennedy and Edward M Kennedy; died in 1969.
husband:
Michael Farmer. Actor. European playboy; born in 1902; introduced by Noel Coward; married in 1931 when Swanson discovered she was pregnant; divorced in 1934; died in 1975.
husband:
William Davey. Married in 1945; separated after 45 days when Swanson discovered he was an alcoholic.
husband:
William Dufty. Writer. Author of "Sugar Blues"; married from 1976 until her death in 1983.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Gloria Somborn. Died of brain cancer on December 11, 2000 at age 80.
son:
Joseph Swanson. Adopted following divorce from Somborn.
daughter:
Michelle Bridget Farmer. Born on April 5, 1932.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Four Fabulous Faces: Swanson, Garbo, Crawford, Dietrich"
"Swanson on Swanson"
"The Films of Gloria Swanson" Citadel Press
"Gloria Swanson"
"Gloria and Joe: The Star-Crossed Love Affair of Gloria Swanson and Joseph P Kennedy"
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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