Gloria Swanson

Actor, Producer
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 ... Read more »
Born: 03/26/1899 in Chicago, Illinois, USA

Filmography

Actor (34)

Beyond the Rocks 2006 (Movie)

Theodora Fitzgerald (Actor)

Men Who Rate a "10" 1980 - 1981 (TV Show)

Actor

Airport 1975 1974 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Killer Bees 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times 1972 (Movie)

Narration (Narrator)

Johnny Carson Presents the Sun City Scandals 1970 - 1971 (TV Show)

Actor

Hedda Hopper's Hollywood 1959 - 1960 (TV Show)

Actor

Crown Theater With Gloria Swanson 1953 - 1954 (TV Show)

Actor

Hollywood Opening Night 1950 - 1953 (TV Show)

Actor

Sunset Boulevard 1950 (Movie)

Norma Desmond (Actor)

Tonight or Never 1930 (Movie)

(Actor)

The Affairs of Anatol 1921 (Movie)

(Actor)

Why Change Your Wife? 1919 (Movie)

(Actor)

Male and Female 1918 (Movie)

(Actor)

A Fool There Was (Movie)

The Sultan's Wife (Actor)

A Society Scandal (Movie)

Marjorie Colbert (Actor)

Father Takes a Wife (Movie)

Leslie Collier (Actor)

Her Husband's Trademark (Movie)

Lois Miller (Actor)

Her Love Story (Movie)

Princess Marie (Actor)

Hollywood (Movie)

(Actor)

Madame Sans-Gene (Movie)

Catherine Hubscher (Actor)

Manhandled (Movie)

Tessie McGuire (Actor)

Music in the Air (Movie)

Frieda Hertefeld (Actor)

My American Wife (Movie)

Natalie Chester (Actor)

Perfect Understanding (Movie)

Judy Rogers (Actor)

Prodigal Daughters (Movie)

Swifty Forbes (Actor)

Sadie Thompson (Movie)

Sadie Thompson (Actor)

Something to Think About (Movie)

Ruth Anderson (Actor)

The Gilded Cage (Movie)

Suzanne Ornoff (Actor)

The Impossible Mrs. Bellew (Movie)

Betty Bellew (Actor)

The Love of Sunya (Movie)

Sunya Ashling (Actor)

The Trespasser (Movie)

Marion Donnell (Actor)

Three for Bedroom C (Movie)

Ann Haven (Actor)

What a Widow! (Movie)

Tamarind Brooks (Actor)
Producer (4)

Perfect Understanding (Movie)

(Producer)

Sadie Thompson (Movie)

(Producer)

The Love of Sunya (Movie)

(Producer)

What a Widow! (Movie)

(Producer)
Wardrobe, Hair & Makeup (1)

Three for Bedroom C (Movie)

(Costume Designer)

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 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.

Relationships

Wallace Beery Actor

Husband
Reportedly got drunk on their wedding night and sexually assaulted Swanson; when she became pregnant, he allegedly poisoned her so she would have a miscarriage Separated after only a few months

George Davey

Husband
Separated after 45 days when Swanson discovered he was an alcoholic

Henri De La Falaise

Husband
He became involved with actress Constance Bennett (whom he later married) while Swanson was seeing Joseph P. Kennedy

William Dufty

Husband
Married 1976 until her death April 1983

Michael Farmer

Husband
Introduced by Noel Coward Married 1931 when Swanson discovered she was pregnant

Michelle Farmer

Daughter
born on April 5, 1932

Craney Gratz

Companion
playboy Swanson dated after moving to Southern California

Joseph Kennedy

Companion
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

Marshall Neilan

Companion
involved in the early 1920s Swanson's husband Herbert Somborn sued her for divorce based on her relationship with Neilan

Gloria Somborn

Daughter
died of brain cancer on December 11, 2000 at age 80

Herbert Somborn

Husband
Met when he was president of Equity Pictures Corporation; managed the famous Brown Derby restaurant from 1926 until his death Separated after about a year of marriage

Joseph Swanson

Son
adopted following divorce from Somborn

Milestones

1974

TV-movie debut, "Killer Bees" (ABC)

1974

Acted in final film, "Airport 1975"

1969

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

1967

Made rare musical appearance as a guest on "The Carol Burnett Show" (CBS)

1966

Appeared in an episode of the CBS sitcom "The Beverly Hillbillies"

1961

Guest starred on "Dr. Kildare"

1953

Hosted and acted in the syndicated TV show "Crown Theater With Gloria Swanson" (aka "The Gloria Swanson Show")

1951

Made TV appearance in an episode of "Hollywood Opening Night"

1951

Returned to Broadway in "Twentieth Century"

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

1940

Made a screen comeback in "Father Takes a Wife"

1934

Played last starring role for seven years in the musical comedy "Music in the Air"; temporarily retired

1933

Went to Great Britain to star in "Perfect Understanding"

1929

Garnered second Best Actress Oscar nomination for "The Trespasser", her first talking picture

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"

1927

Experienced box office flop with "The Love of Sunya"

1927

Bankrolled by Joseph P Kennedy; formed own production company, with films released through United Artists

1926

Left Paramount

1925

Starred in "Madame Sans Gene", filmed on location in France

1924

First did her Chaplin impression on screen in "Manhandled"

1922

Teamed on screen with Valentino in "Beyond the Rocks"

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"

1917

Followed Sennett when he left Triangle to join Paramount

1916

Went to Hollywood with Wallace Beery; both hired by Mack Sennett's Keystone company

1915

First acting role, "Elvira Farina"

1915

Became an extra at Essanay studios in Chicago

Returned to Triangle; starred in dramas

Bonus Trivia

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

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"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).

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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.

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