Actress and Film Producer. 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, making dozens of silent films and being nominated for the first Academy Award in the Best Actress category. Born Gloria May Josephine Swanson in Chicago, Illinois, her father was a soldier in the US Army and came from a strict Swedish Lutheran family. She moved frequently due to her father's career and spent a large portion of her childhood in Puerto Rico. While visiting one of her aunts in Chicago, she toured Essanay Studios and was asked to come back and work as an extra. She then quit school to work full-time at the studio, making her film debut in 1914 as an extra in "The Song of Soul" and went on to appear in eight other films for Essanay. In 1916 she moved to California with her mother and appeared in 13 Mack Sennett's Keystone comedies, and three years later she signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with legendary film director and producer 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). In the space of two years, she rocketed to stardom and was one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. In 1922 she starred in "Beyond the Rocks" with her long-time friend Rudolph Valentino. She continued to make costume drama films for the next few years and was so successful that Paramount was afraid of losing her and gave in to many of her whims and wishes. During the pinnacle of her success, audiences went to her films not only for her performances, but also to see her extravagant wardrobe, that featured beads, jewels, peacock and ostrich feathers, and other exclusive custom-fitted pieces of the day. 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. In 1925 she starred in the French-American "Madame Sans-Gene," directed by Leonce Perret, in which filming was allowed for the first time at many of the historic sites relating to the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. While it was well received at the time, no prints are known to exist. After a four months residency in France, she returned to the US as European nobility, now known as the Marquise. She received a huge welcome home with parades in both New York City, New York and Los Angeles, California. She appeared in a 1925 short produced by Lee DeForest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process and continued making films for Paramount, including "The Coast of Folly" and "Stage Struck" (both 1925). 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. Her first independent film, "The Love of Sunya" (1927) was directed by Albert Parker and based on the play "The Eyes of Youth," by Max Marcin and Charles Guernon. Produced by and starring her, it co-starred John Boles and Pauline Garon. The production was marred by several problems, mainly a suitable cameraman to deal with the film's intricate double exposures, as she was not used to taking charge, and filming took place in New York. The production had been a disaster and she believed its success would be mediocre at best. She then returned to Hollywood and filmed the controversial "Sadie Thompson" (1928), based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, which she produced and co-wrote. A controversial move, the profanity was removed and a few other changes from the original story, and it was marketed as a morality movie. The film was a success, and was her only silent independent film to do well at the box office, making one million dollars during its US run. The film made the top 10 best pictures of the year list and she was nominated for the Best Actress in a Leading Role and the film was nominated for Best Cinematography. It also proved to be one of her last financially successful films. In 1929, with the advent of the talkies, she appeared in "The Trespasser" (1929, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best actress), "What a Widow!" (1930), "Indiscreet" (1931), "Perfect Understanding" (1933), and "Music in the Air" (1934). During this time, she had an ongoing three-year affair with the married Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (who had become an investor in Hollywood movie studios), the father of future US 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, but after the disastrous unfinished film "Queen Kelly" (1929), he left her and her finances were in worse shape than when he came into her life. Her film career began to decline and in 1938 she moved to New York City, where she began an inventions and patents company called Multiprizes, which kept her occupied during the years of World War II. The company's sole purpose was to rescue Jewish scientists and inventors from war-torn Europe and bringing them to the US. She was able to help many escape, and some useful inventions came from the enterprise. In 1941 she made an unsuccessful film for Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) Pictures called "Father Takes a Wife." She then began appearing in the theater, touring with "A Goose for the Gander," "Reflected Glory," and "Let Us Be Gay." In 1948 she starred in her own television show "The Gloria Swanson Hour." She also devoted her time to 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 in movies. In 1950 she starred in "Sunset Boulevard" in her most remembered role as 'Norma Desmond' which earned her another Academy Award nomination for Best Actress as well as winning the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. After her success with "Sunset Boulevard," she starred on Broadway in a revival of "Twentieth Century" (1951) with Jose 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 in Manhattan, New York City. Through the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s, she appeared on many different talk and variety television shows such as "Dr. Kildare," "Burke's Law," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "My Three Sons," "Ben Casey," "The Beverly Hillbillies," and "The Carol Burnett Show." She was twice the "mystery guest" on television's game show "What's My Line." In 1974 she appeared in the television horror film "Killer Bees." Her final screen appearance was as herself in "Airport 1975." In 1980 she published her autobiography "Swanson on Swanson." She was married six times and divorced five times, first to actor Wallace Beery (1916 to 1919), then Equity Pictures Corporation president Herbert Somborn (1919 to 1922), French aristocrat Henri de la Falaise de la Coudraye (1925 to 1930), Michael Farmer (1931 to 1934), William Davey (1945 to 1946), and author William Duffy (1976 until her death). She died in New York City from a heart ailment at the age of 84. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for motion pictures and another for television. (bio by: William Bjornstad)
Maurice Somborn in entry for Herbert K Somborn and Gloria Swanson, "California, County Marriages, 1850-1952"
She was married six times and divorced five times, first to actor Wallace Beery (1916 to 1919), then Equity Pictures Corporation president Herbert Somborn (1919 to 1922), French aristocrat Henri de la Falaise de la Coudraye (1925 to 1930), Michael Farmer (1931 to 1934), William Davey (1945 to 1946), and author William Duffy (1976 until her death)
1940 Federal Census (Assembly District 15, Manhattan, New York City, New York, New York, United States):
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