A Year in Books/Day 223: Swanson on Swanson

  • Title: Swanson on Swanson
  • Author: Gloria Swanson
  • Year Published: 1980/This Edition: 1981 (Random House/Pocket Books)
  • Year Purchased: Mid-1990s
  • Source: Antique Barn, Ohio State Fair
  • About: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”-George Bernard Shaw. Every Hollywood memoir should come with the preceding GBS quote as a disclaimer. That, or the generic perception is reality. Either will do. With that out of the way, we could get down to the important business of enjoying good Tinseltown autobiographies for what they are: damn fun entertainment. Underneath the ego and the stage-managed pathos, these one-person exercises in reputation preservation usually contain heaping amounts of self-deprecation, humor, and memorable industry anecdotes, with the self-subjects somehow, through a strange, magical process, coming across as down-to-earth and larger than life; normal and privileged; lucky and talented; flawed and beautiful. Gloria Swanson’s long, varied life was worthy of the plots of the silent films she dominated. Her version of herself, however carefully presented, contains all of those elements and dozens of others. Amid a life of peculiar adventures and grand achievements, the strict accuracy of her self-story is entirely immaterial: her undeniable boldness and grandeur, charm and intelligence, and unquenchable quest for success in every field that would have her is what is important. She was a feisty fighter with genuine talent, a surprisingly solid business mind, and one of the chicest wardrobes of the 20th century. Her memoir of life in Hollywood and beyond is better than most.
  • Motivation: Gloria freaking Swanson. I repeat: Gloria freaking Swanson.
  • Times Read: 3 or 4
  • Random Excerpt/Page 97: “All the girls at Court Corinne began to watch me with new eyes. They must have thought if lightning could strike a little shrimp with a turned-up nose and horse teeth and a mole on her chin, it could strike anywhere. I instantly became for them someone they should know. Four or five a day, on the average, they came over to show me clippings or invite me to parties. Only Bea La Plante had any idea that the very mention of Triangle was enough to drive me up the wall.”
  • Happiness Scale: 9

    Actress Gloria Swanson from Who's Who on the S...

    Actress Gloria Swanson from Who’s Who on the Screen, published by Ross Publishing Co., 1920 http://www.archive.org/details/whoswhoonscreen00silvgoog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9 thoughts on “A Year in Books/Day 223: Swanson on Swanson

    • I think for most people it’s all about Sunset Boulevard. It is such a fantastic movie, and she is first-rate in it, so I don’t blame you. I specialize in silent movies, thus my preference for that period.


      • Hmm. There are so many. I will recommend three, all readily available, just to make it easier. They are:

        1-Don’t Change Your Husband (1919). Directed by Cecil B. DeMille.
        2-Sadie Thompson (1928). Directed by Raoul Walsh. Swanson was nominated for an Oscar.
        3-Queen Kelly (1929). Directed by Erich von Stroheim. This film was never properly finished, but von Stroheim’s silent films are always decadent, crazy-wonderful things to behold. The drama that went into making this film is legendary.

        4-Madame Sans-Gene (1924). Directed by Leonce Perret. This one is harder to come by, but it worth watching.

        Also, she sang in most of her early talkie pictures. They are worth checking out, too.


  1. Pingback: Gloria 1/31- January 3 « Le Art Studio

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