Ready for Her Close-Up
Publication Year: 2013
Gloria Swanson: Ready for Her Close-Up shows how a talented, self-confident actress negotiated a creative path through seven decades of celebrity. It also illuminates a little-known chapter in American media history: how the powerful women of early Hollywood transformed their remarkable careers after their stars dimmed. This book brings Swanson (1899-1983) back into the spotlight, revealing her as a complex, creative, entrepreneurial, and thoroughly modern woman.
Swanson cavorted in slapstick short films with Charlie Chaplin and Mack Sennett in the 1910s. The popularity of her films with Cecil B. DeMille helped create the star system. A glamour icon, Swanson became the most talked-about star in Hollywood, earning three Academy Award nominations, receiving 10,000 fan letters every week, and living up to a reputation as Queen of Hollywood. She bought mansions and penthouses, dressed in fur and feathers, and flitted through Paris, London, and New York engaging in passionate love affairs that made headlines and caused scandals.
Frustrated with the studio system, Swanson turned down a million-dollar-a-year contract. After a wild ride making unforgettable movies with some of Hollywood's most colorful characters--including her lover Joseph Kennedy and maverick director Erich von Stroheim--she was a million dollars in debt. Without hesitation she went looking for her next challenge, beginning her long second act.
Swanson became a talented businesswoman who patented inventions and won fashion awards for her clothing designs; a natural foods activist decades before it was fashionable; an exhibited sculptor; and a designer employed by the United Nations. All the while she continued to act in films, theater, and television at home and abroad. Though she had one of Hollywood's most famous exit lines--"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"--the real Gloria Swanson never looked back.
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
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...“This time,” she said, she wanted “a long, exciting life,” so she set her sights on a newlywed couple making love in the summer of 1898 and “willed” herself into existence, arriving “from infinity” on March 27, 1899.1Joseph and Adelaide Klanowsky Swanson had begun their marriage a year earlier in a modest second-floor apartment behind Lincoln Park ...
2 Funny Girl
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...les, looking for a new beginning. Packed deep in Gloria’s trunk was a letter of introduction to Mack Sennett, an acquaintance she wasn’t sure she wanted. Her experience at Essanay had not made her any more im-pressed with funny movies or the people who made them. Now, how-ever, she had another role to consider: breadwinner for her shrinking ...
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...her budding fame decided the question: she liked being famous. How-ever, she wanted to make serious pictures. Everyone told her this was unlikely: “In those days, once you were a villain with a black moustache you were branded. Once you played butlers you played butlers for the rest of your life.”1 Swanson determined that her best chance was to ap-...
4 The Lions’ Den
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...swanson always rememBered Her first sCene for CeCil B. demille. She was in costume, packing a trunk, with lights and cameras trained on her. Suddenly a noise of whistles and car horns erupted, and people started dancing, hugging, and shouting for joy: the war was over. The euphoria on the lot seemed like a good omen to Gloria, who was also ...
5 In the Family Way
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Swanson right at its center. The studio sent Gloria and her grandmother Bertha to New York for the film’s premiere at the palatial Rivoli Theatre on Broadway, even springing for a private drawing room on the train east. The days of Swanson having whole railcars to herself were not far off.Hungry for self-improvement, Gloria read thirty-seven Haldeman-...
6 The Great Moment
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...woman in her mid-’50s with flaming red hair and emerald eyes who had come to California to create a movie scenario for Gloria Swanson. British novelist Elinor Glyn was part of Adolph Zukor’s plan to hire prominent authors to write for the screen. Glyn had produced the most notorious book in recent memory: Three Weeks chronicled a young man’s erotic ...
7 Her Gilded Cage
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...would not be satisfied seeing her in frumpy clothes or cheap settings, they looked to control costs another way. Her newest picture was a re-tread, an unused episode from The Affairs of Anatol featuring Wallace Reid and Elliott Dexter as friends both in love with Swanson. Sam Wood fleshed it out with a week’s shooting. Then FPL gave it the enigmatic title ...
8 East Coaster
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She felt bruised by DeMille’s betrayal and angry at Paramount’s unwill-ingness to see her as anything other than a clotheshorse. Lasky and com-pany had manipulated her; now they would get a taste of their own medicine. Before Gloria dealt with her female trouble, she intended to take care of some movie business. She presented herself to Walter ...
9 French Idyll
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...eryone around her knew it. She was on fire for Madame Sans-Gêne, a project Forrest Halsey had found with a great role for her that cried out to be shot in Paris. The studio agreed: a high-profile period picture, made in cooperation with the company’s French office, could be a very good idea. Paramount wanted to develop demand for its stars in Europe as a ...
10 American Royalty
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...amount was eager to have Swanson home, to show her fans she was ready to make movies and to show her on her new husband’s arm. If two divorces was nothing to brag about, all was forgiven when the actress acquired an attractive, titled Frenchman as Husband #3. Gloria, still deli-cate, was much less excited about returning to the States: she had some ...
11 Declaration of Independence
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...mount had offered her to stay varied widely, but all the numbers were jaw-dropping. While she finished her last Paramount picture, Swanson tried to learn her new business. In addition to selecting her upcoming projects, as a one-fifth partner in United Artists she was suddenly im-mersed in a flood of details and decisions relating to the company’s on-...
12 Let It Rain
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...most was a juicy part in a great story. She hoped to show her fans and detractors alike the kind of picture she was capable of making. If The Love of Sunya had not been an adventurous choice, now she would err in the Swanson’s salary for her first UA picture was a hefty $150,000: if she had stayed with Paramount, however, she would have made twice that ...
13 The Swamp
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...had ever met. The boyish, freckled, blue-eyed Irishman wore an ill-fit-ting suit, and his thick Boston accent made him seem more like “any average working-class person’s uncle” than the man who had been the youngest bank president in America.1 Paramount’s Robert Kane had sug-gested that Swanson discuss financing for her next picture with Ken-...
14 People Will Talk
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...1929, she had already spent more than $600,000 on Stroheim’s ver-tiginous vision of a convent girl’s coming of age. Swanson, however, was not a schoolgirl but a veteran performer and producer with almost fifteen years’ experience in the business. She shut down an expensive picture because, finally, she trusted her own judgment. She knew the ...
15 The Crash
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...tion to sound. She had a host of new opportunities to explore, includ-ing theater and the singing career that had been her childhood dream. However, the end of her thirtieth year also found her separated from her third husband and humiliated by a romantic rival. Swanson’s affair with Joe Kennedy was finally losing steam; the financial problems he had ...
16 Mad about the Boy
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...the luxury of mourning her losses for long: “It was as if the two men—through me, canceled each other out . . . I was completely on my own Swanson’s insecurity deepened as the Depression reached Hollywood. The large capital outlays required for the conversion to sound made the studios more reliant on Wall Street financing, and that meant fur-...
17 Perfect Misunderstanding
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...leisure—a lot more leisure than she expected. She left the country with her two children and her new husband as soon as her duties on Tonight or Never ended, sailing off without a word to Joe Schenck about her plans. No one would pressure her into having another abortion: she had mar-ried Michael Farmer so she could have her baby legitimately. When they ...
18 Reinventing Herself
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...ished with movies. She had once told Adolph Zukor that every artist should be compelled to leave California for three months a year. Now she knew it was time to pull up stakes, to go somewhere she could feed her imagination and leave behind the same old conversations about the same old business. So Swanson threw herself a farewell party, packed her ...
19 “You Used to Be Big”
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...in September 1948 about Sunset Boulevard, she was already getting tired of TV. She liked the idea of taking a lucrative break in California to do a movie bit for Brackett and Billy Wilder, the hottest producer-director team in Hollywood. Fifteen years earlier, Wilder had been a struggling writer on Music in the Air; now he had eight Oscar nominations and two ...
20 Dressing the Part
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...gloria swanson’s personal Creativity Had long Been visiBle in the way she chose and wore clothes. The child’s large bows and boys’ coats gave way to Paramount’s furs and feathered headdresses, then the sleek, modern styles of the 1930s and ’40s, yet Gloria never lost her fascination with fashion. In September 1950, she received the Neiman-...
21 Not Ready for Her Retrospective
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NBC-TV’s Ralph Edwards called her onstage in January 1957 for This Is Your Life: the guest of honor had figured out what was in store. One by one, figures from her past—including Jesse Lasky, Rod LaRocque, Lois Wilson, Mack Sennett, Francis X. Bushman, and Allan Dwan—paid trib-ute to Gloria’s long career in the entertainment industry. At fifty-eight, ...
22 Last Act
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...anyone, Coco Chanel’s life might have tempted her. So when word came that Katharine Hepburn was leaving the Broadway musical Coco, Gloria threw her beret in the ring: “Here I was, seventy years old, being offered a chance to do something I’d never done. What did I have to lose?”1 She faced down the footlights, singing Mickey Neilan’s “Wonderful One” and ...
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...writing an autobiography, she produced several drafts and recorded many, many hours of reminiscences over the years. The version in Swan-son on Swanson—for my money, the best Hollywood memoir ever writ-ten—is therefore only one story of her life, the one that satisfied her in deepened, strengthened, and often challenged by the thousands of docu-...
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Swanson produced many draft versions of her autobiography over many years. There are holographs as well as typescripts, notes, and lists, many annotated in her hand. I have referred to these in the notes as “GS manuscript,” indicating when relevant her efforts at revision or deletion. If the manuscripts are named, I have given their names. Swanson also recorded her memories on wire reels in the 1950s; these I have called “wire record-...
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Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. 2 reels. Released January 1915.Cast: Francis X. Bushman, Beverly Bayne, Thomas Commerford, Lester Cuneo, Joseph B. Totten, Betty Browne, Helen Dunbar, Richard Travers, Gerda Holmes.Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. Directed by Richard Foster Baker and/or E. Cast: Wallace Beery, Ben Turpin, Charlotte Mineau, Virginia Bowker....
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Abel, Richard. The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896–1914. Berkeley: University of ———. French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915–1929. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Affron, Charles. Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life. New York: Scribners, 2001.Alifano, Roberto. Tirando Manteca al Techo (Hurling Lard at the Ceiling). Buenos Aires: Proa Altman, Rick. Silent Film Sound. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007....
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Swanson at eight. Courtesy of Gloria Swanson Inc./Harry Ransom Center, The University Bathing Beauty. Courtesy of Gloria Swanson Inc./Harry Ransom Center, The University Teddy at the Throttle. Courtesy of Gloria Swanson Inc./Harry Ransom Center, The With Wallace Beery. Courtesy of Gloria Swanson Inc./Harry Ransom Center, The Beery as “Sweedie.” Courtesy George Eastman House Motion Picture Department ...
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The Sultan’s Wife, 1917. Gloria is whispering in the Sultan’s ear.With Bobby Vernon, Keystone Teddy, and Wallace Beery in Teddy at the Throttle, 1917.The Lion’s Bride, Male and Female, 1919. Publicity still by Karl Struss.Marooned on a desert island with Thomas Meighan in Male and Female, 1919.The Lion’s Bride, Male and Female, 1919. Publicity still by Karl Struss....
Page Count: 480
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Hollywood Legends Series