GLORIA SWANSON


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Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Svensson in Chicago, Illinois in 1899. At 15, she happened to tour a movie studio in Chicago, and asked to appear in a movie, and that gave her the acting "bug". She appeared in minor roles in slapstick movies for Essanay, but in 1916, she was hired by Keystone and then Triangle, and she starred in over 20 movies in 1916 to 1918. In 1919, she signed with Cecil B. DeMille, and starting making elaborate melodramas, rather than the light comedies she had been making. She also began wearing really wild outfits and accessories in her movies (practically costumes!). In 1928, she had one of her best remembered roles, as Sadie Thompson (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), directed by Raoul Walsh from the W. Somerset Maugham (the part would later be played by Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth). In 1929 she had a role in Trespasser (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film), and she starting filming Queen Kelly directed by Erich von Stroheim and produced by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (the father of the famous Kennedy brothers, with whom she had a long term affair). This was intended to be von Stroheim and Swanson's masterpiece, but they clashed over the way her character was portrayed, and there were massive cost overruns, and von Stroheim was fired, and an alternate ending was filmed, and that altered version had a limited release in Europe only (many years later a reconstructed version of von Stroheim's original vision was created [with still photos in part]). Swanson survived the transition to talking movies, but she could see her career was winding down, and she began acting more on stage, and painting, sculpting, and writing a syndicated column. After 1934, she only made one movie until 1950, when she took the lead role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for this film; screenwriter Charles Brackett says the role was intended for Swanson from the start, while director Billy Wilder says they first offered it to virtually every other leading silent actress!). The movie has a marvelous script (of a once famous silent actress having an affair with a much younger man, and dreaming of a "comeback" that will never come), and the casting of Swanson and Holden is perfect, and the additional casting of von Stroheim and DeMille add much to the movie. It is a virtually perfect movie! Swanson had six husbands over her life, marrying the first time on her 17th birthday (to Wallace Beery!) and the last time when she was 77, which lasted until she passed away in 1983 at the age of 84. In her day she was as big a star as Hollywood has ever known!
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