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Gloria Swanson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson photographed by Nickolas Muray (1922).jpg
Swanson in 1922
Glory May Josephine Swanson

(1899-03-27)March 27, 1899
DiedApril 4, 1983(1983-04-04) (aged 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting placeChurch of the Heavenly Rest, New York City, New York, U.S.
Other namesGloria Mae
EducationHawthorne Scholastic Academy
  • Actress
  • producer
Years active1914–1983
m. 1916; div. 1918)
m. 1919; div. 1923)
m. 1925; div. 1930)
Michael Farmer
m. 1931; div. 1934)
William Davey
m. 1945; div. 1946)
m. 1976)
Autograph Gloria Swanson.svg

Gloria May Josephine Swanson (March 27, 1899 – April 4, 1983) was an American actress and producer. She starred in dozens of silent films and was nominated three times for an Academy Award as Best Actress. She was born in Chicago and raised in a military family that moved from base to base. Her school girl crush on Essanay Studios actor Francis X. Bushman led to her aunt taking her to tour the actor's studio when they were living in Chicago. The then 15-year-old Swanson was offered a brief walk-on for one film as an extra. As a result of the walk-on, she was offered $13.25 a week as a recurring film extra, so she quit school to begin what would become her life's career in front of the cameras. Swanson was soon hired to work in California for Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios comedy shorts opposite Bobby Vernon. She was eventually recruited by Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount Pictures, where she was put under contract for seven years.

In 1925, Swanson joined United Artists as one of the film industry's pioneering women producers. She hired Raoul Walsh in 1927 to direct Sadie Thompson about the travails of a prostitute living in American Samoa. Her performance in the lead role earned Swanson a nomination for Best Actress at the first annual Academy Awards. George Barnes was nominated for his cinematography of the film. In 1929, Swanson made her debut sound film with her performance in The Trespasser, which earned her a second Academy Award nomination. Personal problems and changing tastes saw her popularity wane during the 1930s and she ventured into theatre and television. After not having acted in a film for nine years, she was hailed for her comeback role in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe Award and a nomination for an Academy Award. In 1995, the film was chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." She only made 3 more films after Sunset Boulevard, but guest starred on several television shows, and acted in road productions of stage plays.

She was married six times and was the mother of three children. Among the men she had extra-marital affairs with were businessman (and later U. S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom) Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and actor Herbert Marshall. In his divorce filing, her second husband Herbert K. Somborn accused her of having affairs with 13 men. Swanson was a vegetarian and health food advocate, whose sixth husband William Dufty was also a health advocate, as well as being the ghost writer of her autobiography Swanson on Swanson. In 1980, Swanson sold the bulk of her archives to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Early life

She was born Gloria May Josephine Swanson in a small house in Chicago in 1899, the only child of Adelaide (née Klanowski) and Joseph Theodore Swanson, a soldier. She attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. She was raised in the Lutheran faith. Her father was a Swedish American and her mother was of German, French, and Polish ancestry.[1][2] Because of her father's attachment to the U.S. Army, the family moved frequently. She spent some of her childhood in Key West, Florida, where she was enrolled in a Catholic convent school,[3] and in Puerto Rico and where she saw her first motion pictures.[4]


1914–1918: Essanay/Keystone/Triangle

Bobby Vernon with Gloria Swanson and Teddy the Dog in Teddy at the Throttle
Bobby Vernon with Gloria Swanson and Teddy the Dog in Teddy at the Throttle

Her family once again residing in Chicago, the adolescent Gloria developed a crush on actor Francis X. Bushman and knew he was employed by Essanay Studios in the city. Swanson would later recall that her Aunt Inga brought her at age 15 to visit Bushman's studio, where she was discovered by a tour guide. Other accounts have the star-struck Swanson herself talking her way into the business. In either version, she was soon hired as an extra.[5]

The movie industry was still in its infancy, churning out short subjects, without the advantage of today's casting agencies and talent agents promoting their latest find. A willing extra was often a valuable asset. Her first role was a brief walk-on with actress Gerda Holmes, that paid an enormous (in those days) $3.25. That first non-credited film is believed to have been in the 1914 The Song of Soul.[6] The studio soon offered her steady work at $13.25 (equivalent to $338 in 2019) per week. Swanson left school to work full-time at the studio.[7] In 1915, she co-starred in Sweedie Goes to College with her future first husband Wallace Beery.[8]

Swanson's mother accompanied her to California in 1916 for her roles in Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios comedy shorts opposite Bobby Vernon and directed by Clarence G. Badger. They were met at the train station by Beery, who was pursuing his own career ambitions at Keystone.[9] Vernon and Swanson projected a great screen chemistry that proved popular with audiences. Director Charley Chase recalled that Swanson was "frightened to death" of Vernon's dangerous stunts.[10] Surviving movies in which they appear together include The Danger Girl (1916), The Sultan's Wife (1917), and Teddy at the Throttle (1917). Badger was sufficiently impressed by Swanson to recommend her to director Jack Conway for Her Decision and You Can't Believe Everything in 1918. Triangle had never put Swanson under contract, but did increase her pay to $15 a week. When she was approached by Famous Players-Lasky to work for Cecil B. DeMille, the resulting legal dispute obligated her to Triangle for several more months. Soon afterwards, Triangle was in a financial bind and loaned Swanson to DeMille for the comedy Don't Change Your Husband.[11]

1919–1926: Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount Pictures

Swanson in a production still from Don't Change Your Husband (1919)
Swanson in a production still from Don't Change Your Husband (1919)

At the behest of DeMille, Swanson signed a contract with Famous Players-Lasky on December 30, 1918, for $150 a week, to be raised to $200 a week, and eventually $350 a week.[12] Her first picture under her new contract was DeMille's World War I romantic drama For Better, for Worse.[13] She made six pictures under the direction of DeMille, including Male and Female (1919) in which she posed with a lion as "the Lion's Bride". While she and her father were dining out one evening, the man who would become her second husband, Equity Pictures president Herbert K. Somborn, introduced himself, by inviting her to meet one of her personal idols, actress Clara Kimball Young.[14]

Why Change Your Wife? (1920), Something to Think About (1920), and The Affairs of Anatol (1921)[15] soon followed. During her time at Famous Players-Lasky, eight of her films were directed by Allan Dwan. She appeared in 10 films directed by Sam Wood, including Beyond the Rocks in 1922 with her longtime friend Rudolph Valentino.[16] He had become a star in 1921 for his appearance in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but Swanson had known him since his days as an aspiring actor getting small parts, with no seeming hope for his professional future. She was impressed by his shy, well-mannered personality, the complete opposite of what his public image would become.[17]

In 1925, Swanson starred in the French-American comedy Madame Sans-Gêne, directed by Léonce Perret. 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 considered to be a lost film. During the production of Madame Sans-Gêne, Swanson met her third husband Henri, Marquis de la Falaise,[18] who had been hired to be her translator during the film's production. After a four-month 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. Swanson appeared in a 1925 short produced by Lee DeForest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process. She made a number of films for Paramount, including The Coast of Folly, Stage Struck and Fine Manners.[19]

1925–1933: United Artists

She turned down a one-million-dollar-a-year (equivalent to $14,700,000 in 2019) contract with Paramount to join the newly created United Artists partnership on June 25, 1925, accepting a 6-picture distribution offer from president Joseph Schenck. At the time, Swanson was considered the most bankable star of her era.[20] United Artists had its own Art Cinema Corporation subsidiary to advance financial loans for the productions of individual partners.[21] The partnership agreement included her commitment to a buy-in of $100,000 of preferred stock subscription.[22] Before she could produce films with United Artists, she fulfilled her existing agreement with Paramount for two more films.

Swanson Producing Corporation

The Swanson Producing Corporation was set up as the umbrella organization for her agreement with United Artists. Under that name, she produced The Love of Sunya with herself in the title role. The film was directed by Albert Parker, based on the play The Eyes of Youth, by Max Marcin and Charles Guernon. It co-starred John Boles and Pauline Garon. The production had been a disaster, with Parker being indecisive and the actors not experienced enough to deliver the performances she wanted. The film fell behind in its schedule, and by the time of its release, the end product had not lived up to Swanson's expectations. While it did not lose money, it was a financial wash, breaking even on the production costs.[23][24]

Gloria Swanson Productions

Swanson depicted on a Sadie Thompson lobby card (1928)
Swanson depicted on a Sadie Thompson lobby card (1928)

She engaged the services of director Raoul Walsh in 1927 and together they conceived of making a film based on W. Somerset Maugham's short story "Miss Thompson".[25] Gloria Swanson Productions proposed to film the controversial Sadie Thompson about the travails of a prostitute living in American Samoa, a project that initially pleased United Artists president Joseph Schenck.[26] As she moved forward with the project, association members urged Schenck to halt the production due to its subject matter. The members took further steps by registering their discontent with Will H. Hays, Chairman of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America.[27] Walsh previously had his own battles with the Hays office, having managed to skirt around censorship issues with What Price Glory?. [28] By bringing him to the table, literally over breakfast in her home, Hays and Swanson developed a working relationship for the film.[29] Hays was enthusiastic about the basic story, but did have specific issues that were dealt with before the film's release. The project was filmed on Santa Catalina Island, just off the coast of Long Beach, California. Gross receipts slightly exceeded $850,000 (equivalent to $12,500,000 in 2019) At the first annual Academy Awards, Swanson received a nomination for Best Actress for her performance and the film's cinematographer George Barnes was also nominated.[30]

Gloria Productions

By the end of 1927, Swanson was in dire financial straits, with only $65 in the bank.[31] Her two productions had generated income, but too slowly to offset her production loan debts to Art Cinema Corporation. Swanson had also not made good on her $100,000 subscription for preferred United Artists shared stock. She had received financial proposals from United Artists studio head Joseph Schenck, as well as from Bank of America, prior to engaging the services of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. as her financial advisor. He proposed to personally bankroll her next picture and conducted a thorough examination of her financial records.[32] Kennedy advised her to shut down Swanson Producing Corporation. She agreed to his plan for a fresh start under the dummy corporate name of Gloria Productions, headquartered in Delaware. Upon his advice, she fired most of her staff and sold her rights for The Love of Sunya and Sadie Thompson to Art Cinema Corporation.[33] Kennedy then created the position of "European director of Pathé" to put her third husband Henry de La Falaise on the payroll.[34]

Sound films were already becoming popular with audiences, most notably the films of singer Al Jolson, who had success with The Jazz Singer released in 1927 and The Singing Fool in 1928. Kennedy, however, advised her to hire Erich von Stroheim to direct another silent film, The Swamp, subsequently retitled Queen Kelly. She was hesitant to hire Stroheim, who was known for being difficult to deal with and who was unwilling to work within any budget. Kennedy, nevertheless, was insistent and was able to get Stroheim released from contractual obligations to producer Pat Powers.[35] Stroheim worked for several months on writing the basic script. Filming of Queen Kelly began in November.[36] His filming was slow, albeit meticulous, and the cast and crew suffered from long hours. Shooting was shut down in January, and Stroheim fired, after complaints by Swanson about him and about the general direction the film was taking. Swanson and Kennedy tried to salvage it with an alternative ending shot on November 24, 1931, directed by Swanson and photographed by Gregg Toland. The film was not released theatrically in the United States, but was shown in Europe and South America.[37]

Only two other films were made under Gloria Productions. The Trespasser in 1929 was filmed as a silent and later re-dubbed as a sound production. It earned Swanson her second Oscar nomination.[38] What a Widow! in 1930 was the final film for Gloria Productions, but was her first production originally filmed with sound.[39][40]

United Artists stars on the radio

Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks hosted the March 29, 1928 episode of the Dodge Hour radio program, originating from Pickford's private bungalow at United Artists, and broadcast to audiences in American movie theaters.[41] The brainchild of Joseph Schenck, it was a promotional come-on to attract audiences into movie theaters to hear the voices of their favorite actors, as sound productions became the future of commercial films. On hand were Swanson, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, John Barrymore, Dolores del Río and D. W. Griffith.[42]

Gloria Swanson British Productions Ltd.

Perfect Understanding was a 1933 sound production comedy filmed by Gloria Swanson British Productions Ltd. and the only film produced by this company. Made entirely at Ealing Studios, it co-starred Laurence Olivier as Swanson's on-screen husband. United Artists bought back all of her stock with them, in order to provide her financing to make this film, and thereby ending her relationship with the partnership. [43] The film was panned by the critics upon its release and failed at the box office.[44]

1938–1950: Creating new paths

When she made the transition to sound films as her career simultaneously began to decline, Swanson moved permanently to New York City in 1938. Swanson starred in Father Takes a Wife for RKO in 1941.[45] She began appearing in the stage productions and starred in The Gloria Swanson Hour on WPIX-TV in 1948.[46] Swanson threw herself into painting and sculpting and, in 1954, published Gloria Swanson’s Diary, a general newsletter.[47] She toured in summer stock, engaged in political activism, designed and marketed clothing and accessories, and made personal appearances on radio and in movie theaters.[45]

1950 – 1977: Later career

Sunset Boulevard

With director Billy Wilder during the filming of Sunset Boulevard
With director Billy Wilder during the filming of Sunset Boulevard

The film Sunset Boulevard was conceived by director Billy Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett, and came to include writer D. M. Marshman Jr. They bandied about the names of Mae West and Mary Pickford for the lead role of Norma Desmond. It was director George Cukor who suggested Swanson, once such a valuable asset to her studio that she was, "...carried in a sedan chair from her dressing room to the set.”[48] The storyline has faded silent movie star Desmond falling in love with the younger screenwriter Joe Gillis, played by William Holden. Desmond lives in the past, assisted by her former-director-turned-butler Max, played by Erich von Stroheim, who personally disliked the role and only agreed to it out of financial need.[49] A clip from Stroheim's Queen Kelly was used for the scene where Desmond and Gillis are watching one of her old silent movies, and she declares, "... we didn't need dialogue, we had faces".[50]

As Gillis sits on the side next to Desmond, she plays bridge with a group he refers to as "the Waxworks": actors Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner and Anna Q. Nilsson. During the scene leading up to Cecil B. DeMille's cameo, where Max chauffeurs Desmond to the studio, her Isotta-Fraschini luxury automobile was towed from behind the camera because Stroheim had never learned to drive.[51] At the studio, Desmond's dreams of a comeback are subverted and she threatens to kill herself, but instead fatally shoots Gillis. She becomes totally delusional by the time the police and news media arrive. Max sets up studio lighting towards her on the staircase and directs her down towards the waiting police and news cameras, where she looks directly into the camera and says, "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."[52]

Swanson so enjoyed making the movie that she later stated, "I hated to have the picture end ... When Mr. Wilder called ‘Print it!’ I burst into tears...”[53] She was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award, but lost out to Judy Holliday.[54]

In 1995, the Library of Congress chose Sunset Boulevard as one of four Wilder films, "to be preserved in the permanent collection of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as culturally, historically, and aesthetically important". The other three films were Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and Double Indemnity.[55]

Final films

Swanson received several acting offers following the release of Sunset Boulevard, 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. Nationally syndicated columnist Suzy called it "one of the worst movies ever made."[56] In 1956, Swanson made Nero's Mistress, which starred Alberto Sordi, Vittorio de Sica and Brigitte Bardot.[57] Her final screen appearance was as herself in Airport 1975.[57]

Television and theatre

Swanson with Fred MacMurray in the promo of My Three Sons (1965)
Swanson with Fred MacMurray in the promo of My Three Sons (1965)

Swanson hosted The Gloria Swanson Hour, one of the first live television series in 1948 in which she invited friends and others to be guests. Swanson later hosted Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson, a television anthology series in which she occasionally acted.[58]

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 movies and to lampoon them as well. She was twice the "mystery guest" on What's My Line. She acted in "Behind the Locked Door" on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1964 and, in the same year, she was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her performance in Burke's Law.[59] 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.[60] She made a notable appearance in a 1966 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, titled "The Gloria Swanson Story", in which she plays herself. In the episode, the Clampetts mistakenly believe Swanson is destitute and decide to finance a comeback movie for her – in a silent film.[61]

After near-retirement from movies, Swanson appeared in many plays throughout her later life, beginning in the 1940s. Actor and playwright Harold J. Kennedy, who had learned the ropes at Yale and with Orson Wells' Mercury Theatre, suggested Swanson do a road tour of "Reflected Glory", a comedy that had run on the Broadway stage with Tallulah Bankhead as its star.[62] Kennedy wrote the script for the play A Goose for the Gander, which began its road tour in Chicago in August 1944.[63][64][65]

Swanson also toured with Let Us Be Gay. After her success with Sunset Boulevard, she starred on Broadway in a revival of Twentieth Century with José Ferrer, and in Nina with David Niven. Her last major stage role was in the 1971 Broadway production of Butterflies Are Free at the Booth Theatre. Swanson appeared on The Carol Burnett Show in 1973, doing a sketch wherein she flirted with Lyle Waggoner. The episode was titled "Carol and Sis/The Guilty Man."[66]

In 1980, Swanson's autobiography Swanson on Swanson, ghost written by her husband William F. Dufty,[67] was published and became a commercial success. Kevin Brownlow and David Gill interviewed her for Hollywood, a television history of the silent era.[68]

Personal life

Swanson in her New York City apartment (1972)
Swanson in her New York City apartment (1972)

Swanson was a vegetarian and an early health food advocate[69] who was known for bringing her own meals to public functions in a paper bag. In 1975, Swanson traveled the United States and helped to promote the book Sugar Blues written by her husband, William Dufty.[70]

Swanson's autobiography Swanson on Swanson was ghost written by her husband William Dufty in 1980 and published by Random House.[71] The same year, she designed a stamp cachet for the United Nations Postal Administration.[72]

She was a pupil of the yoga guru Indra Devi and was photographed performing a series of yoga poses, reportedly looking much younger than her age, for Devi to use in her book Forever Young, Forever Healthy; but the publisher Prentice-Hall decided to use the photographs for Swanson's book, not Devi's. In return, Swanson, who normally never did publicity events, helped to launch Devi's book at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1953.[73]

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 mandatory school prayer, following two decisions in 1962 and 1963 of the United States Supreme Court, which struck down mandatory prayer as conflicting with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[74] 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?"[74]

Marriages and relationships

Wallace Beery

Wallace Beery and Swanson married on her 17th birthday on March 27, 1916, but by her wedding night she felt she had made a mistake and saw no way out of it. She didn't like his home or his family and was repulsed by him as lover. After becoming pregnant, she saw her husband with other women and learned he had been fired from Keystone. Taking medication given to her by Beery purported to be for morning sickness, she aborted the fetus and was taken unconscious to hospital. Soon afterwards, she filed for divorce, which was not finalized until December 13, 1918.[75][76] Under California law in that era, there was a one-year waiting period after a divorce was granted before it became finalized and either of the parties could remarry.[77]

Herbert K. Somborn

She married Herbert K. Somborn on December 20, 1919.[78] He was at that time president of Equity Pictures Corporation and later the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant. Their daughter, Gloria Swanson Somborn, was born October 7, 1920.[79] In 1923, she adopted 1-year-old Sonny Smith, whom she renamed Joseph Patrick Swanson after her father.[80] During their divorce proceedings, Somborn accused her of adultery with 13 men, including Cecil B. DeMille, Rudolph Valentino and Marshall Neilan.[81] The public sensationalism led to Swanson having a "morals clause" added to her studio contract.[82] Somborn was granted a divorce in Los Angeles, on September 20, 1923.[83]

Henri de la Falaise

My marriage to Henri gave me the only real peace and happiness I had ever known—or have ever known since. Of my five marriages this one came the nearest to being what I, in my haus-frau heart, have always wanted a marriage to be. He was then and he remains in memory a more delightful companion than any I have known.[84]

Gloria Swanson, 1950

Swanson's third husband was French aristocrat Henri, Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudraye, whom she married on January 28, 1925 after the Somborn divorce was finalized. Though Henri was a Marquis and the grandson of Richard and Martha Lucy Hennessy from the famous Hennessy Cognac family, he had no personal wealth.[85] They met in 1925 when he was hired to be her assistant and interpreter in France during her filming of Madame Sans-Gêne.

She conceived a child with him before her divorce from Somborn was final, a situation that would have led to a public scandal and possible end of her film career. She subsequently had an abortion, which she later regretted.[86] He became a film executive representing Pathé (USA) in France.[33] This marriage ended in divorce in 1930.

In spite of the divorce, they remained close and he became a partner in her World War II efforts to aid potential scientist refugees fleeing from behind Nazi lines. In 1939, Swanson created Multiprises, an inventions and patents company. Henri de la Falaise provided a transitional Paris office for the scientists and gave written documentation to authorities guaranteeing jobs for them.[87] Scientist Richard Kobler, chemist Leopold Karniol, metallurgist Anton Kratky, and scientist Leopold Neumann, were brought to New York and headquartered in Swanson's apartment. The group nicknamed her "Big Chief".[88]

Joseph P. Kennedy

While still married to Henri, Swanson had a lengthy affair with the married Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future President John F. Kennedy. 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.[32] Kennedy left her after the disastrous Queen Kelly.[89]

Michael Farmer

After the marriage to Henri and her affair with Kennedy were over, Swanson became acquainted with Michael Farmer, the man who would become her fourth husband. They met by chance in Paris when Swanson was being fitted by Coco Chanel for her 1931 film Tonight or Never. Farmer was a man of independent financial means who seemed to not have been employed. Rumors were that he was a kept man. Swanson began spending time with him.[90] Swanson had a breast lump, she became pregnant, but was not yet divorced from Henry (or Henri). She wasn't interested in marrying Farmer, but he didn't want to break off the relationship. When Farmer found out she was pregnant, he threatened to go public with the news unless she agreed to marry him, something she did not want to do. Her friends, some of whom openly disliked him, thought she was making a mistake. They married on August 16, 1931 and divorced 2 years later.[91]

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.[92]

Herbert Marshall

Swanson and Farmer divorced in 1934 after she became involved with married British actor Herbert Marshall. The media reported widely on her affair with Marshall.[93][94][95] After almost three years with the actor, Swanson left him once she became convinced 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."[96]

William M. Davey

Davey was a wealthy investment broker whom Swanson met in October 1944 while she was appearing in A Goose for the Gander. They married four months later. Swanson had initially thought she was going to be able to retire from acting, but the marriage was troubled by Davey's alcoholism from the start. Erratic behavior and acrimonious recriminations followed. Swanson and her daughter Michelle Farmer began attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to cope and left AA pamphlets around the apartment.[97] Davey moved out. In the subsequent legal separation proceedings, the judge ordered him to pay Swanson alimony. In an effort to avoid the payments, Davey unsuccessfully filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. He died within a year, not having paid anything to Swanson, and left the bulk of his estate to the Damon Runyon Memorial Fund.[98] [99]

William Dufty

Swanson's final marriage occurred in 1976 and lasted until her death. Her sixth husband William Dufty, a book ghost-writer and newspaperman who worked for many years at the New York Post, where he was assistant to the editor from 1951 to 1960. He was the co-author (ghost writer) 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. He first met Swanson in 1965 and by 1967, the two were living together as a couple. Swanson shared her husband's enthusiasm for macrobiotic diets and they traveled widely together to speak about nutrition. They promoted his book Sugar Blues together in 1975 and co-authored a syndicated column.[100] It was through Sugar Blues that Dufty and Swanson first got to know John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Swanson testified on Lennon's behalf at his immigration hearing in New York, which led to him becoming a permanent resident.[101] Dufty ghost-wrote Swanson's best-selling 1980 autobiography, Swanson on Swanson[102] based on her drafts and notes, while she revised it several times.[103] 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.[102]

Political views

Swanson was a Republican and supported the 1940 and 1944 campaigns for president of Wendell Willkie and the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater.[104] In 1980, she chaired the New York chapter of Seniors for Reagan-Bush.[105]


Shortly after returning to New York from her home in the Portuguese Riviera, Swanson died in New York City in New York Hospital in April 1983 from a heart ailment, aged 84.[106][107] She was cremated and her ashes interred at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue in New York City, attended by only a small circle of family. The church was the same one where the funeral of Chester A. Arthur took place.[108]

After Swanson's death, there was a series of auctions from August to September 1983 at William Doyle Galleries in New York of the star's furniture and decorations, jewelry, clothing, and memorabilia from her personal life and career.

Honors and legacy

In 1960, Gloria Swanson was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 6750 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard.[109] 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, titled A Tribute to Gloria Swanson, which screened several of her movies.[110] In 1974, Swanson was one of the honorees of the first Telluride Film Festival.[111] 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. Upon her 1983 death, much of the remainder of her holdings were purchased by UT-Austin at an auction held at the Doyle New York gallery. An undisclosed amount on memorabilia was also gifted to the HRC Center between 1983–88.[112]


Swanson has been played both on television and in film by the following actresses:



Note: The list below is limited to New York/Broadway theatrical productions

Broadway credits of Gloria Swanson
Date Title Role Ref(s)
Jan 23, 1945 – Feb 03, 1945 A Goose for the Gander Katherine [118]
Mar 26, 1947 – Apr 19, 1947 Bathsheba [119]
Dec 24, 1950 – Jun 02, 1951 Twentieth Century Lily Garland [120]
Dec 05, 1951 – Jan 12, 1952 Nina Nina [121]
Sep 07, 1971 – Jul 02, 1972 Butterflies Are Free Mrs. Baker [122]



Short subject
Year Title Role Notes
1914 The Song of the Soul Unconfirmed [6]
1915 The Misjudged Mr. Hartley Maid [6]
1915 At the End of a Perfect Day Hands Bouquet to Holmes Uncredited [6]
1915 The Ambition of the Baron Bit part Essanay Film
starring Francis X. Bushman
1915 His New Job Stenographer Essanay Film
Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin
1915 The Fable of Elvira and Farina and the Meal Ticket Farina, Elvira's Daughter Credited as Gloria Mae
Essanay Film
1915 Sweedie Goes to College College Girl Wallace Beery played Sweedie in a series of shorts
Essanay Film
1915 The Romance of an American Duchess Minor Role Uncredited
Essanay Film
1915 The Broken Pledge Gloria Essanay Film [6]
1916 A Dash of Courage Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1916 Hearts and Sparks Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1916 A Social Cub Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1916 The Danger Girl Reggie's madcap sister Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1916 Haystacks and Steeples Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1916 The Nick of Time Baby Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1917 Teddy at the Throttle Gloria Dawn, His Sweetheart Uncredited
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1917 Baseball Madness Victor Film/Universal [127]
1917 Dangers of a Bride Keystone/Triangle
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1917 Whose Baby? Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1917 The Sultan's Wife Gloria Keystone/Triangle
with Bobby Vernon
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1917 The Pullman Bride The Girl Paramount-Mack Sennett
directed by Clarence G. Badger
1922 A Trip to Paramountown Herself Paramount [129]


Feature film credits of Gloria Swanson
Year Title Role Notes
1918 Society for Sale Phylis Clyne Triangle Film Corporation [130]
1918 Her Decision Phyllis Dunbar Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Jack Conway
1918 You Can't Believe Everything Patricia Reynolds Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Jack Conway
1918 Station Content Kitty Manning Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Arthur Hoyt
1918 Everywoman's Husband Edith Emerson Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Gilbert P. Hamilton
1918 Shifting Sands Marcia Grey Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Albert Parker
1918 The Secret Code Sally Carter Rand Triangle Film Corporation
directed by Albert Parker
1918 Wife or Country Sylvia Hamilton Triangle Film Corporation
directed by E. Mason Hopper
1919 Don't Change Your Husband Leila Porter Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1919 For Better, for Worse Sylvia Norcross Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1919 Male and Female Lady Mary Lasenby Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1920 Why Change Your Wife? Beth Gordon Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1920 Something to Think About Ruth Anderson Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1921 The Affairs of Anatol Vivian Spencer – Anatol's Wife Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Cecil B. DeMille
1921 The Great Moment Nada Pelham/Nadine Pelham Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1921 Under the Lash Deborah Krillet Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1921 Don't Tell Everything Marian Westover Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1922 Her Husband's Trademark Lois Miller Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1922 Her Gilded Cage Suzanne Ornoff Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1922 Beyond the Rocks Theodora Fitzgerald Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1922 The Impossible Mrs. Bellew Betty Bellew Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1922 My American Wife Natalie Chester Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1923 Prodigal Daughters Swifty Forbes Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1923 Bluebeard's 8th Wife Mona deBriac Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sam Wood
1923 Hollywood Cameo role Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount [139]
1923 Zaza Zaza Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1924 The Humming Bird Toinette Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Sidney Olcott
1924 A Society Scandal Marjorie Colbert Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1924 Manhandled Tessie McGuire Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1924 Her Love Story Princess Marie Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1924 Wages of Virtue Carmelita Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1925 Madame Sans-Gêne Madame Sans-Gêne Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Léonce Perret
1925 The Coast of Folly Joyce Gathway/Nadine Gathway Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1925 Stage Struck Jennie Hagen Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Allan Dwan
1926 The Untamed Lady St. Clair Van Tassel Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Frank Tuttle
1926 Fine Manners Orchid Murphy Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount
directed by Richard Rosson
1927 The Love of Sunya Sunya Ashling Swanson Producing Corporation/United Artists
directed by Albert Parker
1928 Sadie Thompson Sadie Thompson Gloria Swanson Productions/United Artists
directed by Raoul Walsh
1928 Queen Kelly Kitty Kelly/Queen Kelly Joseph P. Kennedy/United Artists
directed by Erich von Stroheim
1929 The Trespasser Marion Donnell Gloria Productions/United Artists
directed by Edmund Goulding
Released in two versions, one silent, and the other with sound
1930 What a Widow! Tamarind Brook Gloria Productions/United Artists
directed by Allan Dwan
1931 Indiscreet Geraldine "Gerry" Trent Feature Productions, Inc.
A DeSylva, Brown & Henderson Production
directed by Leo McCarey
1931 Tonight or Never Nella Vago Feature Productions, Inc./United Artists
directed by Mervyn LeRoy
1933 Perfect Understanding Judy Rogers Gloria Swanson British Productions, Ltd./United Artists
directed by Cyril Gardner
1934 Music in the Air Frieda Hotzfelt Erich Pommer Productions/Fox Film
directed by Joe May
1941 Father Takes a Wife Leslie Collier Osborne Marcus Lee/RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
directed by William Dorfman
1950 Sunset Boulevard Norma Desmond Charles Brackett/Paramount
directed by Billy Wilder
1952 Three for Bedroom "C" Ann Haven/costume designer Brenco Pictures Corporation/Warner Bros.
directed by Milton H. Bren
1956 Nero's Weekend (aka Nero's Mistress) Agrippina Les Films Marceau and Titanus/Manhattan Films International
directed by Steno
1974 Airport 1975 Herself Universal Pictures
directed by Jack Smight


Year Title Role Notes Ref(s)
1948 The Gloria Swanson Hour Swanson as herself Variety show [46]
1950 The Peter Lind Hayes Show Swanson as herself Episode #1.1
sitcom show
1953 Hollywood Opening Night Episode: "The Pattern" [147]
1954–1955 Crown Theatre with Gloria Swanson Hostess 25 episodes [148]
1957 The Steve Allen Show Norma Desmond Episode #3.8 [149]
1961 Straightaway Lorraine Carrington Episode: "A Toast to Yesterday" [150]
1963 Dr. Kildare Julia Colton Episode: "The Good Luck Charm" [59]
1963–1964 Burke's Law Various roles 2 episodes [59]
1964 Kraft Suspense Theatre Mrs. Charlotte Heaton Segment: "Who Is Jennifer?" [59]
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Mrs. Daniels Episode: "Behind the Locked Door" [59]
1965 My Three Sons Margaret McSterling Episode: "The Fountain of Youth" [59]
1965 Ben Casey Victoria Hoffman Episode: "Minus That Rusty Old Hacksaw" [59]
1966 The Beverly Hillbillies Herself Episode: "The Gloria Swanson Story" [59]
1972 The Eternal Tramp Special Narrator aka Chaplinesque, My Life and Hard Times [151]
1973 The Carol Burnett Show Herself Episode #7.3 [66]
1974 Killer Bees Madame Maria von Bohlen Television movie [152]
1974 The Great Debate Herself Canadian interview show with James Bawden [153]
1980 Hollywood Herself Television documentary [154]

Awards and nominations

Awards and nominations of Gloria Swanson
Year Award Result Category Film or series Ref(s)
1929 Academy Award Nominated Best Actress Sadie Thompson [30]
1931 The Trespasser [38]
1951 Sunset Boulevard [155]
1951 Golden Globe Award Won Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Sunset Boulevard [156]
1964 Nominated Best TV Star – Female Burke's Law [59]
1951 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Won Best Actress – Foreign Film (Migliore Attrice Straniera) Sunset Boulevard [157]
1951 Jussi Award Won Best Foreign Actress Sunset Boulevard
1950 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Won Best Actress Sunset Boulevard [158]
1980 Career Achievement Award
1975 Saturn Award Won Special Award

See also


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Further reading

External links



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