Edit
Gloria Swanson Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (6) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (32) | Personal Quotes (30) | Salary (31)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 27 March 1899Chicago, Illinois, USA
Date of Death 4 April 1983New York City, New York, USA  (heart ailment)
Birth NameGloria May Josephine Svensson
Height 5' 1" (1.55 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Gloria Swanson went to public schools in Chicago; Key West, Florida; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her film debut was as an extra in The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket (1915). From the following year on, she had leading roles in pictures for Keystone, then a year with Triangle, and, in 1919, a contract with Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille transformed her from a typical Mack Sennett comedienne into a lively, provocative, even predatory, star. She collected husbands (e.g., the indigent Henri de la Falaise) and lovers (e.g., Joseph P. Kennedy, father of President John F. Kennedy). Kennedy produced her Queen Kelly (1929), directed by Erich von Stroheim (it was von Stroheim's copy of this film that Swanson was watching as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950) when she leaped into the projection beam shouting, "Have they forgotten what a star looks like? I'll be up there again, so help me!"--ironic in that the butler-projectionist was, again, von Stroheim). She survived the switch to talkies, even learning how to sing for Music in the Air (1934), but her kinds of films were over with by that time. She returned to the stage in the 1940s ("Reflected Glory," "Let us Be Gay," "A Goose for a Gander"). She was a clothes designer and artist; she founded Essence of Nature Cosmetics; and she made television appearances through the 1960s and 1970s, doing cameos and pushing health foods. She received Best Actress nominations for Sadie Thompson (1928), The Trespasser (1929) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Svensson in Chicago, Illinois. She was destined to be perhaps one of the biggest stars of the silent movie era. Her personality and antics in private definitely made her a favorite with America's movie-going public. Gloria certainly didn't intend on going into show business. After her formal education in the Chicago school system and elsewhere, she began work in a department store as a salesclerk. In 1915, at the age of 18, she decided to go to a Chicago movie studio with an aunt to see how motion pictures were made. She was plucked out of the crowd, because of her beauty, to be included as a bit player in the film The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket (1915). In her next film, she was an extra also, when she appeared in At the End of a Perfect Day (1915). After another uncredited role, Gloria got a more substantial role in Sweedie Goes to College (1915). In 1916, she first appeared with future husband Wallace Beery. Once married, the two pulled up stakes in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to the film colony of Hollywood. Once out west, Gloria continued her torrid pace in films. She seemed to be in hit after hit in such films as The Pullman Bride (1917), Shifting Sands (1918), and Don't Change Your Husband (1919). By the time of the latter, Gloria had divorced Beery and was remarried, but it was not to be her last marriage, as she collected a total of six husbands. By the middle 1920s, she was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. It has been said that Gloria made and spent over $8 million in the '20s alone. That, along with the seven marriages she had, kept the fans spellbound with her escapades for over 60 years. They just couldn't get enough of her. Gloria was 30 when the sound revolution hit, and there was speculation as to whether she could adapt. She did. In 1928, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role of Sadie Thompson in the film of the same name but lost to Mary Pickford in Coquette (1929). The following year, she again was nominated for the same award in The Trespasser (1929). This time, she lost out to Norma Shearer in The Divorcee (1930). By the 1930s, Gloria pared back her work with only four films during that time. She had taken a hiatus from film work after 1934's Music in the Air (1934) and would not be seen again until Father Takes a Wife (1941). That was to be it until 1950, when she starred in Sunset Boulevard (1950) as Norma Desmond opposite William Holden. She played a movie actress who was all but washed up. The movie was a box office smash and earned her a third Academy Award nomination as Best Actress, but she lost to Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950). The film is considered one of the best in the history of film and, on June 16, 1998, was named one of the top 100 films of all time by the American Film Institute, placing 12th. After a few more films in the 1950s, Gloria more or less retired. Throughout the 1960s, she appeared mostly on television. Her last fling with the silver screen was Airport 1975 (1974), wherein she played herself. Gloria died on April 4, 1983, in New York City at the age of 86. There was never anyone like her, before or since.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson

Spouse (6)

William Dufty (2 February 1976 - 4 April 1983) (her death)
George William Davey (29 January 1945 - 28 December 1948) (divorced)
Michael Farmer (9 November 1931 - 7 November 1934) (divorced) (1 child)
Henri de la Falaise (29 January 1925 - 9 November 1931) (divorced)
Herbert K. Somborn (20 December 1919 - 9 August 1922) (divorced) (1 child)
Wallace Beery (27 March 1916 - 1 March 1919) (divorced)

Trade Mark (1)

Her mole

Trivia (32)

Second husband Herbert K. Somborn ran Hollywood's legendary Brown Derby restaurant from 1926 until his death in 1934.
Godmother of director/writer Dirk Wayne Summers, and had signed to appear in The Great Sex War (1969), a film he was producing in Mexico. However, Swanson and her soon to be husband, William Dufty, took it upon themselves (without being asked) to rewrite the screenplay. The "changes" in the script that Swanson desired were not ones that Summers wanted to include, so they mutually released each other from their contracts. This did not impact their close relationship, apparently. Swanson accompanied Summers to Mexico for a location scouting trip.
Her last husband, William Dufty, was a well-known author of books and a few screenplays, such as Lady Sings the Blues (1972), the Billie Holiday story. It was Dufty, translator of "You Are All Sanpaku", by George Ohsawa, who was influenced by Swanson to take an interest in health and become involved in holistic-health related literature.
Met her third husband, the Marquis (or "Marquess") Henri de la Falaise, when he worked as her interpreter in France on Madame Sans-Gêne (1925).
Wrote her own autobiography in rebuttal to certain claims made by Rose Kennedy in her 1974 memoirs.
Mother of a biological daughter, Gloria, by her second husband, and also of an adopted son, Joseph Patrick, whom everyone thought (erroneously) was named for her lover at the time, Joseph P. Kennedy (father/founder of the Kennedy political clan).
Hated acting in slapstick comedy, which was pretty much all of her early career.
Was engaged to Marshall Neilan for some time in the 1920s.
One of her best friends was actress Lois Wilson.
Her performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950) is ranked #69 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Her performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950) is ranked #31 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
When she died, her book collection was sold to the Gotham Book Mart in New York City. All of the books were concerned with health and nutrition.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives." Volume One, 1981-1985, pages 776-778. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
Was very close friends with actor Dirk Benedict. She introduced him to macrobiotics. Dirk has said that she was like a mother to him. They met working on the play "Butterflies Are Free", where Swanson played Benedict's mother.
Cited Beyond the Rocks (1922) as one of her favorite films from her silent career.
During the early 1920s, she had a falling-out with close friend Blanche Sweet. The dispute was over a man, and Sweet never forgave her.
Claimed to have detested writing her autobiography.
She cited Madame Sans-Gêne (1925) (now lost) as her personal favorite of all her films.
Known for her extravagant lifestyle, it was reported that she earned $8,000,000 between 1918 and 1929 and spent nearly all of it. By the time of her death in 1983, her gross estate was valued at just over $1,440,000.
The first film shown at the original Roxy Theatre at 153 West 50th Street, New York City, was Swanson's The Love of Sunya (1927) in March 1927, and she attended the premiere. At its demolition in 1961, she posed in its ruins as a final farewell.
She was the first star to win back-to-back Oscar nominations, for Sadie Thompson (1928) in 1929 and for The Trespasser (1929) in 1930.
A Republican, she was the head of the council for "Seniors for Reagan-Bush".
Upon her death, her remains were interred at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York City. Her location plot is the Columbium in the basement of the church on the left side of the wall towards the back of the room.
In 1964, she was one of many guest speakers at the Project Prayer Rally in Los Angeles, California.
Was considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939), which went to Vivien Leigh.
Gave birth to her 2nd child at age 33, a daughter Michele Bridget Farmer (aka Michele Farmer on April 5, 1932. Child's father was her 4th husband, Michael Farmer.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 21, a daughter Gloria Swanson Somborn on October 7, 1920. Child's father was her 2nd husband, Herbert K. Somborn.
Underwent an abortion in 1917 during her marriage to Wallace Beery. Swanson called it one of the biggest regrets of her life.
She was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6750 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Her father was of Swedish descent. Her mother was of Polish, German, and French ancestry.
Most biographers overlook her appearance on the ABC TV variety show The Hollywood Palace (1964). At the end of the first winter-spring season, series producers Nick Vanoff and William O. Harbach scheduled the show's host Gene Barry with guest stars Swanson and Buster Keaton to appear together in a comedy sketch. Keaton was at that time appearing in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Bringing famous Hollywood film stars onto the show was the producers' main goal. Getting Swanson and Keaton on the show was considered a coup and an opportunity to promote the film. The sketch starred Swanson as Cleopatra and Keaton as Marc Antony, staged on a stepped Roman platform terrace surrounded by a 20-inch-high parapet wall and Roman columns, with the pair falling in love. It was written by Joe Bigelow and Jay Burton, but director Grey Lockwood encouraged Swanson and Keaton to contribute any bits, routines and ideas that they wanted to, which they did. On the first day of rehearsal Swanson was on the stage, gazing up at the lighting fixtures overhead. She asked for lighting director Jack Denton to come to the stage, which he did, and Swanson began pointing out how she wanted which lights to focus on her and Keaton during the sketch--side light, key light, back light, which color gels to use, etc. Denton made sure that all of her suggestions were implemented. Keaton's idea was that the sketch should end with "Antony" and "Cleopatra" sitting on the parapet wall bench, join hands, and fall backwards out of sight over the wall. He and Swanson rehearsed the fall several times, and did the stunt themselves when it came time to actually shoot the scene for the show.
Was Daisy "Granny" Moses' favorite movie star in The Beverly Hillbillies TV series. In referring to Swanson, Granny would always say: "We's lookalikes, y'know".

Personal Quotes (30)

I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment a star.
All creative people should be required to leave California for three months every year.
I think all this talk about age is foolish. Every time I'm one year older, everyone else is too.
I've given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can't divorce a book.
When I die, my epitaph should read "She Paid the Bills". That's the story of my private life.
[In 1922] I have gone through a long apprenticeship. I have gone through enough of being a nobody. I have decided that when I am a star, I will be every inch and every moment the star! Everybody from the studio gateman to the highest executive will know it.
[To her mother following her triumphant return to Hollywood in 1924 after making Madame Sans-Gêne (1925) in France] It's the saddest night of my life. I'm just 26. Where do I go from here?
[on her role in Airport 1975 (1974)] I was holding out for a picture I could take my grandchildren to see, something exciting and contemporary without senseless violence.
[on her pre-Cecil B. DeMille years as a comedienne working for Mack Sennett] I played my comedies like Duse [serious classical actress Eleonora Duse], which is probably why I was so funny.
It's amazing to find that so many people, who I thought really knew me, could have thought that Sunset Boulevard (1950) was autobiographical. I've got nobody floating in my swimming pool.
[on Marlene Dietrich] Her legs may be longer than mine, but unlike me, she doesn't have 7 grandchildren.
After 16 years in pictures I could not be intimidated easily, because I knew where all the skeletons were buried.
After seven years in one place, not to mention two marriages and 32 pictures, I felt I had earned a vacation.
After years of negotiating, I felt bitter and resentful about Mr. Lasky [Jesse L. Lasky] and Paramount and I knew I always would.
A crisis arose when several newspapers questioned whether my singing voice was real. I had not sung--they wanted to know why.
All they had to do was put my name on a marquee and watch the money roll in.
As Daddy said, life is 95 percent anticipation.
At 26, I felt myself a victim rather than a victor in the realm of pictures.
By the time I was 15, my mother had turned me into a real clotheshorse.
Every victory is also a defeat.
Hollywood has called me in turn "The Clothes Horse", "The Old Grey Mare"--and "Death of a Saleswoman". Since my comeback in Sunset Boulevard (1950), I'm glad to say they've thought up a new title: "Gloss".
[on Erich von Stroheim] The experience of working with him was unlike any I had had in more than 50 pictures. He was so painstaking and slow that I would lose all sense of time, hypnotized by the man's relentless perfectionism.
[In a 1965 interview with DeWitt Bodeen] The public didn't want the truth, and I shouldn't have bothered to give it to them. In those days they wanted us to live like kings. So we did--and why not? We were in love with life. We were making more money than we ever dreamed existed, and there was no reason to believe it would ever stop.
Two of the more trivial topics I never discuss are my marriage [of three weeks] to Wallace Beery and those frozen dinners which have become famous with my name on them.
[on being transported by police through a mob of fans to the premiere of The Trespasser (1929)] As I felt my feet leave the ground, I could tell that someone behind me was standing on my train, so I screamed for one of the horsemen to pick it up. I was now completely horizontal, face down, like a battering ram, and that is the way they carried me through the crowd and into the theater lobby.
Under God we became the freest, strongest, wealthiest nation on earth. Should we change that?
[on showing pictures of herself] You notice there are NO bathing beauty scenes? And I'll tell you why: I was never a Sennet bathing beauty. Those glossies that sometimes turn up were publicity stills that I unfortunately made as a favor when I had a free hour. And I've paid for it all of my life.
They won't ever let me forget Sunset Boulevard (1950). Maybe I shouldn't have done it. These people who watch the film now never heard of me. They weren't alive when I did silent films. They think I was Norma Desmond, and I keep telling them Norma Desmond was a creation, not a real character. I NEVER was Norma Desmond, and I don't know anyone who lived like that!
I haven't a very great sense of humor. When I see a comedy I laugh with the others. I'm sufficiently amused, but when it's over I have a feeling that I am not taking anything away with me. I don't think that comedy, unless it has a great deal of irony in it, corresponds to anything in life. It makes me feel vacant - just as though I had gone to a restaurant hungry and come away without eating.
[during the first screening of The Impossible Mrs. Bellew (1922)} Did we make that on location or in the studio?

Salary (31)

His New Job (1915) $3 .25/day
The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket (1915) $3 .25/day
Sweedie Goes to College (1915) $3 .25/day
The Romance of an American Duchess (1915) $3 .25/day
The Broken Pledge (1915) $3 .25/day
A Dash of Courage (1916) $65 /week
A Dash of Courage (1916) $85 /week
Hearts and Sparks (1916) $85 /week
A Social Cub (1916) $85 /week
The Danger Girl (1916) $85 /week
Haystacks and Steeples (1916) $85 /week
The Nick of Time Baby (1916) $85 /week
Teddy at the Throttle (1917) $85 /week
Dangers of a Bride (1917) $85 /week
The Sultan's Wife (1917) $85 /week
The Pullman Bride (1917) $85 /week
Society for Sale (1918) $150 /week
The Great Moment (1921) $2,500 /week
Zaza (1923) $6,500 /week
Sadie Thompson (1928) $150,000
The Trespasser (1929) $100,000
The Trespasser (1929) $50,000
What a Widow! (1930) $100,000
Indiscreet (1931) $250,000
Tonight or Never (1931) $250,000
Perfect Understanding (1933) $250,000
Perfect Understanding (1933) $150,000
Music in the Air (1934) $250,000
Father Takes a Wife (1941) $35,000
Sunset Blvd. (1950) $50,000
Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson (1952) $350 /week

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page