No one questions that Gloria Swanson was a blue-blooded movie star, but her instincts as an independent producer were questionable. After leaving Paramount to helm her own projects, her occasional hits were awash in a sea of pictures like Perfect Understanding, a bedroom comedy about a newlywed couple who strike a naive deal to forgo jealousy, no matter what. If audiences weren't shocked by a Pre-Code storyline ripe with adultery, questionable paternity, and a cheeky marriage contract stipulating "Never be husband and wife but lover and mistress", they were alienated to the idea of watching rich people flirt and cavort in the thick of the Great Depression. (Bad timing: the movie hit theaters the same week Roosevelt temporarily shuttered all the banks.) What remains is not only proof how Laurence Olivier's "good looks were positively blinding" (Swanson's words), but that in the hidden years between Sadie Thompson (1928) and Sunset Blvd. (1950) she was still a very capable screen presence. Don't miss her intense warbling of the original song " I Love You So Much I Hate You".
By Violet LeVoit