Gloria Swanson
American actress
Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson was an American actress, singer and producer, who is best known for her role as Norma Desmond, a faded silent film star, in the critically acclaimed film Sunset Boulevard (1950). She was one of the most prominent stars during the silent film era as both an actress and a fashion icon, especially under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille, made dozens of silents and was nominated for the first Academy Award in the Best Actress category.
Biography
Gloria Swanson's personal information overview.
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Photo Albums
Popular photos of Gloria Swanson
News
News abour Gloria Swanson from around the web
NEW YORK FASHION WEEK; A Bond Forged in Tragedy
NYTimes - over 5 years
''IT started out as the most exciting morning of my life,'' said the maternity designer Liz Lange, who, long before the date, had circled Sept. 11, 2001, on her calendar. Her first fashion show, under the tents of Bryant Park, was scheduled for 9 a.m. that day. ''It was crazy,'' she said. ''Everything was happening at once. We were using pregnant
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Book review: 'Raoul Walsh,' by Marilyn Ann Moss - Washington Post
Google News - over 5 years
But “The Thief of Bagdad,” with Douglas Fairbanks in full splendor as an astonishingly witty and vibrant early-action hero, remains one of the most famous and popular of all silents, and Walsh played opposite Gloria Swanson in an early setting of W
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Comic Strip returns with Tony Blair on the run in Channel 4 film noir comedy - The Guardian
Google News - over 5 years
Blair takes refuge with Thatcher – played as a cross between Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis – whom he discovers at home watching old newsreels of the Falklands war. The pair are shown sharing a post-coital cigarette. "I'm so in love with you," she
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Theatrical brilliance from Lebanon - The Independent
Google News - over 5 years
Monocle magazine has anointed the city with fashion-cred in short online films about local subjects such as the Esquire bookshop; Tyler Brulée's interview with the doyenne of Christian Beirut, Lady Yvonne Cochrane, recalls Gloria Swanson in Sunset
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Normal Theater this weekend: 'Baby Jane', 'Sunset Boulevard' - WJBC News
Google News - over 5 years
And Gloria Swanson, after William Holden tells here she used to be big in pictures, telling us “I am big, it's the pictures that got small”. These are moments meant for the big screen, in a darkened movie theater, sitting among all those other souls
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5 Great Films With Street Names in Their Titles - ABC News
Google News - over 5 years
LA's Sunset Boulevard is where aging silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) lives in her garish mansion, dreaming of a comeback, and it's where writer Joe Gillis (William Holden) narrates from the great beyond while lying face-down in her
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More TV Shows Are Filming in New York City
NYTimes - over 5 years
New York has played many roles on television recently. On “Blue Bloods,” the CBS drama about several generations of a crime-fighting family, the city’s landmarks have been showcased, with the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Square Park proving to be particularly popular repositories for killers disposing of bodies. On
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RIFF; 'Magically Resistant to the Ego-Bloating Properties of Hollywood Life'
NYTimes - over 5 years
Harriet Daimler, the protagonist of Iris Owens's 1973 novel, ''After Claude,'' has a knack for eviscerating self-satisfied urban types. After rolling her eyes at a slender girl passing a joint ('' 'I'm wrecked,' she bragged, as though it took a special talent to get stoned''), Harriet utters a relatable prayer: ''Lord, spare me these dimpled
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Pegg perfect pick for jazz-age flapper in 'Modern Millie' - Washington Observer Reporter
Google News - over 5 years
I met the young actress in person, and I can testify she's bubbly, outgoing, vivacious and, in a manner that would make Gloria Swanson proud, adaptable to a "thoroughly modern" era remembered for its carefree living and lost generation
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Raysa Bonow, pioneering producer of feminist TV shows; at 80 - Boston Globe
Google News - over 5 years
From Hollywood came Gloria Swanson and Robert Mitchum. Television personality David Frost was on the show, as was newspaper columnist Art Buchwald and humorist SJ Perelman. Ms. Bonow's social life, meanwhile, centered mostly around work associates and
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Wallace Beery's William Kesling Designed Residence For Sale - Huffington Post
Google News - over 5 years
He was the first husband of the famous Gloria Swanson, star of "Sunset Boulevard," and was later married to Rita Gilman. William Kesling's architectural style showcases his love of Hollywood, curved forms, straight lines, and art deco aesthetics
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New to Market - Curbed SF
Google News - over 5 years
Wallace Beery--star of silents The Lost World and Robin Hood, Oscar winner for talkie The Champ, one-time husband of Gloria Swanson--liked architect William Kesling so much that, according to the Silver Lake News, he had Kesling build two streamline
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Gloria Swanson
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1983
    Age 83
    After Swanson's death, there were a series of auctions from August to September 1983 at William Doyle Galleries in New York of the star's furniture and decorations, jewelry, fashion collection, career and personal memorabilia.
    More Details Hide Details In 1960, Gloria Swanson was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures at 6748 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1955 and 1957, Swanson was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film, and in 1966 the museum honored her with a career film retrospective, A Tribute to Gloria Swanson, which screened several of her films between May 12–18. A parking lot by Sims Park in downtown New Port Richey, Florida, is named after the star, who is said to have owned property along the Cotee River. In 1982, a year before her death, Swanson sold her archives of over 600 boxes for an undisclosed sum, including photographs, artwork, copies of films and private papers including correspondence, contracts and financial dealings to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The second-largest collection of Swanson materials is held in the family archives of Timothy A. Rooks. In the last years of her life Swanson professed a desire to see Beyond the Rocks, but the film was unavailable and considered lost. The film was rediscovered and screened in 2005.
  • 1980
    Age 80
    In 1980, she chaired the New York chapter of Seniors for Reagan-Bush.
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    Dufty ghost-wrote Swanson's best-selling 1980 autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, based on her early, sometimes handwritten drafts and notes.
    More Details Hide Details She personally revised the manuscript several times. They were prominent socialites, having many homes and living in many places, including New York City, Rome, Portugal, and Palm Springs, California. After Swanson's death Dufty returned to his former home in Birmingham, Michigan. He died of cancer in 2002.
  • 1976
    Age 76
    Swanson's final marriage occurred in 1976 and lasted until her death.
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  • 1975
    Age 75
    Her sixth husband and widower, writer William Dufty (1916–2002), was the co-author of Billie Holiday's autobiography Lady Sings the Blues, the author of Sugar Blues, a 1975 best-selling health book still in print, and the author of the English version of Georges Ohsawa's You Are All Sanpaku.
    More Details Hide Details Dufty was a book ghost-writer and newspaperman, working for many years at the New York Post, where he was assistant to the editor from 1951 to 1960. He first met Swanson in 1965 and by 1967 the two were living together as a couple. Swanson shared her husband's deep enthusiasm for macrobiotic diets and they traveled widely together to speak about sugar and food. They promoted his book Sugar Blues together in 1975 and also wrote a syndicated column together. It was through Sugar Blues that Dufty and Swanson first got to know John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Swanson testified on his behalf at his immigration hearing in New York which led to him becoming a permanent resident.
    In 1975, Swanson traveled the United States and helped to promote the book Sugar Blues written by her husband, William Dufty.
    More Details Hide Details In early 1980, Swanson's 520-page autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, was published by Random House and became a national best-seller. It was translated into French, Italian and Swedish editions. That same year, she also designed a stamp cachet for the United Nations Postal Administration. Swanson was a long-time member of the Lutheran church; her father was of Swedish Lutheran descent. In 1964, Swanson spoke at a "Project Prayer" rally attended by 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The gathering, which was hosted by Anthony Eisley, a star of ABC's Hawaiian Eye series, sought to flood the United States Congress with letters in support of school prayer, following two decisions in 1962 and 1963 of the United States Supreme Court, which struck down the practice as in conflict with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Joining Swanson and Eisley at the Project Prayer rally were Walter Brennan, Lloyd Nolan, Rhonda Fleming, Pat Boone, and Dale Evans. Swanson declared, "Under God we became the freest, strongest, wealthiest nation on earth, should we change that?"
    Her last acting role, aside from playing herself in Airport 1975, was in the made-for-TV horror film Killer Bees (1974).
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  • 1973
    Age 73
    Swanson appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in 1973, doing a sketch where she flirted with Lionel Waggoner.
    More Details Hide Details The episode was called "Carol and Sis/The Guilty Man." In 1980, Swanson's autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, was published and became a commercial success. Kevin Brownlow and David Gill interviewed her for Hollywood (1980), a television history of the silent era. Swanson became a vegetarian around 1928 and was an 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 early age. He had refused conventional therapies and credited this kind of diet and healthy eating with his recovery.
  • 1971
    Age 71
    Her last major stage role was in the 1971 Broadway production of Butterflies Are Free at the Booth Theatre.
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  • 1966
    Age 66
    She made a notable appearance in a 1966 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, called "The Gloria Swanson Story", in which she plays herself.
    More Details Hide Details In the episode, the Clampetts mistakenly believe Swanson is destitute, and decide to finance a comeback movie for her – in a silent film.
  • 1964
    Age 64
    She acted in "Behind the Locked Door" on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964, and in the same year was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance in Burke's Law.
    More Details Hide Details She made a guest appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in the summer of 1970; a guest on the same show as Janis Joplin, who died later that year.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1956
    Age 56
    In 1956, Swanson made Nero's Mistress, which also starred Alberto Sordi, Vittorio de Sica and Brigitte Bardot.
    More Details Hide Details Her final screen appearance was as herself in Airport 1975. Although Swanson only made three films after Sunset Boulevard, she starred in numerous stage and television productions during her remaining years. She was active in various business ventures, traveled extensively, wrote articles, columns, and an autobiography, painted and sculpted, and became a passionate advocate of various health and nutrition topics. Swanson hosted one of the first live television series in 1948, The Gloria Swanson Hour, in which she invited friends and others to be guests. Swanson also later hosted a television anthology series, Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson, in which she occasionally acted. Through the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, Swanson appeared on many different talk and variety shows such as The Carol Burnett Show in 1973 and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to recollect her films and to lampoon them as well. She was twice the "mystery guest" on What's My Line.
  • 1952
    Age 52
    Swanson 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 the poorly received Three for Bedroom "C" in 1952.
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  • 1950
    Age 50
    After Mae West, Mary Pickford and Pola Negri all declined the role, Swanson starred in 1950's Sunset Boulevard, portraying Norma Desmond, a faded silent movie star who falls in love with the younger screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by William Holden.
    More Details Hide Details Desmond lives in the past, assisted by her butler Max, played by Erich von Stroheim. Her dreams of a comeback are subverted as she becomes delusional. There are cameos from actors of the silent era in the film, including Buster Keaton, H. B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson. Cecil B. DeMille plays himself in a pivotal scene. Some of the lines from the film have become pop-culture mainstays, including "The Greatest Star of them all"; "I am big; it's the pictures that got small"; "We didn't need dialogue, we had faces"; and "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." She received her third Best Actress Oscar nomination, but lost to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday.
    But it was not until 1950 when Sunset Boulevard was released (earning her yet another Academy Award nomination) that she achieved mass recognition again.
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  • FORTIES
  • 1946
    Age 46
    Swanson-Davey divorce was finalized in 1946.
    More Details Hide Details For the next thirty years Swanson would remain unmarried and able to pursue her own interests.
  • 1945
    Age 45
    In 1945, Swanson married William N. Davey and according to her after discovering Davey in a drunken stupor, she and daughter Michelle, believing they were being helpful, left a trail of Alcoholics Anonymous literature around the apartment.
    More Details Hide Details Davey quickly packed up and left.
  • 1941
    Age 41
    Swanson made another film for RKO in 1941 ("Father Takes a Wife"), began appearing in the legitimate theater, and starred in her own television show in 1948.
    More Details Hide Details She threw herself into painting and sculpting, writing a syndicated column, touring in summer stock, engaging in political activism, radio and television work, clothing and accessories design and marketing, and making occasional appearances on the big screen.
  • 1940
    Age 40
    Swanson was a staunch Republican and supported the 1940 and 1944 campaigns for president of Wendell Willkie, and the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater.
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  • THIRTIES
  • 1938
    Age 38
    Although she made the transition to talkies, as her film career began to decline, Swanson relocated permanently to New York City in 1938, where she began an inventions and patents company called Multiprises, which kept her occupied during the years of World War II.
    More Details Hide Details This small company had the sole purpose of rescuing Jewish scientists and inventors from war-torn Europe and bringing them to the United States. She helped many escape, and some useful inventions came from the enterprise.
  • 1934
    Age 34
    Swanson and Farmer divorced in 1934, after she became involved with married British actor Herbert Marshall.
    More Details Hide Details The media reported widely on her affair with Marshall. After almost three years with the actor, Swanson left him once she realized he would never divorce his wife, Edna Best, for her. In an early manuscript of her autobiography written in her own hand decades later, Swanson recalled: "I was never so convincingly and thoroughly loved as I was by Herbert Marshall."
  • 1932
    Age 32
    Because of the possibility that Swanson's divorce from La Falaise had not been final at the time of the wedding, she was forced to remarry Farmer the following November, by which time she was four months pregnant with Michelle Bridget Farmer, who was born on April 5, 1932.
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  • 1931
    Age 31
    After the marriage to Henri and her affair with Kennedy were over, Swanson married Michael Farmer (1902–1975) in August 1931.
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  • 1930
    Age 30
    This marriage ended in divorce in 1930 Soon after, Henri remarried, to actress Constance Bennett.
    More Details Hide Details While still married to Henri, Swanson had an affair with the married Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future President John F. Kennedy, for a number of years. He became her business partner and their relationship was an open secret in Hollywood. He took over all of her personal and business affairs and was supposed to make her millions. Unfortunately, Kennedy left her after the disastrous Queen Kelly and her finances were in worse shape than when he came into her life. Two books have been written about the affair.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1929
    Age 29
    On March 29, 1929, at the bungalow of Mary Pickford at United Artists, Swanson, Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, John Barrymore, Dolores del Río and D.W. Griffith met to speak on the radio show, The Dodge Brothers Hour, to prove they could meet the challenge of talking movies.
    More Details Hide Details To try to recover from the Queen Kelly fiasco, Swanson jumped into making talkies, including The Trespasser (1929), What a Widow! (1930), Indiscreet (1931), Perfect Understanding (1933), and Music in the Air (1934). The Trespasser tells the story of a "kept woman" who maintains a lavish lifestyle. The film stars Swanson, Robert Ames, Purnell Pratt, Henry B. Walthall, and Wally Albright. The movie was written and directed by Edmund Goulding and released by United Artists, and earned Swanson an Academy Award nomination in her talkie debut. Swanson sang the song "Love, Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere" written by Goulding and Elsie Janis. The Trespasser was filmed simultaneously in a silent and a talking version, and was a smash hit. The Trespasser was an important film for Swanson, following the disastrous Queen Kelly and the hit Sadie Thompson, and garnered Swanson her second Oscar nomination. Sadly for Swanson, The Trespasser proved to be one of her only two hit talkies, the other being Sunset Boulevard, made over 20 years later. Subsequent follow-ups like What a Widow!, Indiscreet, Tonight or Never, Perfect Understanding, and Music in the Air all proved to be box-office flops. Despite the disappointments following The Trespasser, Swanson was well remembered by Billy Wilder, a writer on Music in the Air, when he was casting the part of Norma Desmond in his masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (1950).
  • 1928
    Age 28
    Produced in 1928–29, the film starred Swanson in the title role, with Walter Byron and Seena Owen.
    More Details Hide Details It is the story of Prince Wolfram, betrothed to the mad Queen Regina V of Kronberg. On maneuvers (as punishment for consorting with other women), he spies Kelly walking with the other students of a convent. Enthralled by her beauty, he kidnaps her that night from the convent, takes her to his room and professes his love for her. When the Queen finds them together the next morning, she whips Kelly and throws her out of the castle. Queen Regina then puts Wolfram in prison for his refusal to marry her. Kelly goes to German East Africa to visit her dying Aunt, and is forced to marry the disgusting Jan. The Aunt dies after the wedding, and Kelly refuses to live with Jan, becoming the head of her aunt's brothel. Her extravagances and style earn her the name Queen Kelly.
  • 1927
    Age 27
    The film premiered at the grand opening of the Roxy Theatre 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 and published in Life magazine.) The production had been a disaster and Swanson felt its success would be mediocre at best.
    More Details Hide Details On the advice of Joseph Schenck, Swanson returned to Hollywood, where Schenck begged her to film something more commercial. She agreed but ended up filming the more controversial Sadie Thompson instead. Feeling she would never have as much artistic freedom and independence as she had at that moment, Swanson decided she "wanted to make my Gold Rush. " Schenck pleaded with her to do a commercially successful film like The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. Swanson felt it was too formulaic, and decided to call on director Raoul Walsh, who was signed with Fox Film Corporation at the time. Walsh had been known for bringing controversial material to film, and at their first meeting suggested the John Colton/Clemence Randolph play Rain (1923), based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham in 1921 titled Miss Thompson. She had seen Jeanne Eagels perform the role twice, and enjoyed it.
    In 1927, she decided to turn down a million dollar a year contract with Paramount to join the newly created United Artists, where she was her own boss and could make the films she wanted, with whom she wanted, and when.
    More Details Hide Details Her first independent film, The Love of Sunya, was directed by Albert Parker, based on the play The Eyes of Youth, by Max Marcin and Charles Guernon. Produced by and starring Swanson, it co-starred John Boles and Pauline Garon. It is the story of a young woman granted the ability to see into her future, including her future with different men. The story had been filmed previously as Eyes of Youth starring Clara Kimball Young (that production was also directed by Albert Parker and was responsible for the discovery of Rudolph Valentino by June Mathis). The production was marred by several problems, mainly a suitable cameraman to deal with the film's intricate double exposures, as Swanson was not used to taking charge, and filming took place in New York.
  • 1925
    Age 25
    Swanson's third husband was the French aristocrat Henri, Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudraye, whom she married on January 28, 1925 after the Somborn divorce was finalized.
    More Details Hide Details Though Henri was a Marquis and the grandson of Richard and Martha Lucy Hennessy from the famous Hennessy Cognac family, he was not rich and had to work for a living. He was originally hired to be her assistant and interpreter in France while she was filming Madame Sans-Gêne (1925). Swanson was the first film star to marry European nobility, and the marriage became a global sensation. She conceived a child with him, but had an abortion, which, in her autobiography, she said she regretted. Later, Henri became a film executive representing Pathé (USA) in France through Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who was running the studio. Many now assume he was given the position, which kept him in France for ten months a year, to simply keep him out of the way.
    Their divorce, finalized in January 1925, was sensational and led to Swanson having a "morals clause" added to her studio contract.
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    Swanson appeared in a 1925 short produced by Lee DeForest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process.
    More Details Hide Details She made a number of films for Paramount, among them The Coast of Folly, Stage Struck and Fine Manners.
    In 1925, Swanson starred in the French-American Madame Sans-Gêne, directed by Léonce Perret.
    More Details Hide Details Filming was allowed for the first time at many of the historic sites relating to Napoleon. While it was well received at the time, no prints are known to exist, and it is unfortunately considered to be a lost film. During the production of Madame Sans-Gêne, Swanson met her third husband Henri, Marquis de la Falaise, who had been hired to be her translator during the film's production. After a four months residency in France she returned to the United States as European nobility, now known as the Marquise. She got a huge welcome home with parades in both New York and Los Angeles.
  • 1923
    Age 23
    During their divorce Swanson wanted another child and in 1923 she adopted a baby boy, Sonny Smith (1922–1975), whom she renamed Joseph Patrick Swanson.
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  • TEENAGE
  • 1919
    Age 19
    She married Herbert K. Somborn (1881–1934), then president of Equity Pictures Corporation and later the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant, in 1919; they had a daughter, Gloria Swanson Somborn (October 7, 1920 – December 28, 2000).
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    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 (1919), Male and Female (1919) with the famous scene posing as "the Lion's Bride" with a real lion, Why Change Your Wife? (1920), Something to Think About (1920), and The Affairs of Anatol (1921).
    More Details Hide Details In the space of two years, Swanson rocketed to stardom and was one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. She later appeared in a series of films directed by Sam Wood. She starred in Beyond the Rocks (1922) with her long-time friend Rudolph Valentino. (Long believed to be a lost film, Beyond the Rocks was rediscovered in 2004 in a private collection in The Netherlands and is now available on DVD.) Swanson continued to make costume drama films for the next few years. So successful were her films for Paramount that the studio was afraid of losing her and gave in to many of her whims and wishes. During Swanson's heyday, audiences went to her films not only for her performances, but also to see her wardrobe. Frequently, ornamented with beads, jewels, peacock and ostrich feathers, and other extravagant pieces haute couture of the day, one would hardly believe Swanson was barely five feet (1.52 m) tall. Her fashion, hair styles, and jewels were copied around the world. She was the screen's first clothes horse and was becoming one of the most famous and photographed women in the world.
  • 1916
    Age 16
    Swanson moved to California in 1916 to appear in Mack Sennett's Keystone comedies opposite Bobby Vernon.
    More Details Hide Details With their great screen chemistry, the pair became popular. Director Charley Chase recalled that she was "frightened to death" of Vernon's dangerous stunts. Conquering her fears, however, she often cooperated with Vernon. Surviving films in which they appear together include The Danger Girl (1916), The Sultan's Wife (1917), and Teddy at the Throttle (1917).
  • 1914
    Age 14
    Swanson made her film debut in 1914 as an extra in The Song of Soul for Essanay.
    More Details Hide Details She reportedly asked to be in the movie just for fun. Essanay hired her to feature in several movies, including His New Job, directed by and starring Charlie Chaplin. Swanson auditioned for the leading female role in His New Job but Chaplin did not view her as leading lady material and cast Swanson in the brief role of a stenographer.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1899
    Born
    Gloria May Josephine Swanson was born in a small house in Chicago in 1899 to Adelaide (née Klanowski) and Joseph Theodore Swanson, a soldier.
    More Details Hide Details She attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. Her father was from a strict Lutheran Swedish American family, and her mother was of German, French, and Polish ancestry. Because of her father's attachment to the U.S. Army, the family moved frequently and Swanson ended up spending most of her childhood in Puerto Rico, where she learned Spanish. She also spent time in Key West, Florida. It was not her intention to enter show business, but on a whim one of her aunts took her to a small film company in Chicago called Essanay Studios for a visit and Swanson was asked to come back to work as an extra. After a few months as an extra working with others like Charlie Chaplin, and making $13.50 a week, Swanson left school to work full-time at the studio. Her parents would soon separate and she and her mother moved to California.
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