Gloria Swanson first rose to fame starring in dozens of films in the silent film era of the 1920s. For her work in cinema, she nominated three times for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
After taking a lengthy break from Hollywood after the peak of her acting career, Swanson famously made a return to the world of film when she appeared in Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard. That performance earned her a Golden Globe and is widely regarded as one of her best roles.
Swanson was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 27, 1899. And raised in a military family that moved around quite a bit as her father repeatedly reassigned to different bases.
When she was still a young schoolgirl, Swanson developed a crush on actor Francis X. Bushman. It was because of this little bit of childhood puppy love that Swanson’s aunt took her to tour the actor’s Chicago studio.
When she was 15, Gloria offered a small walk-on role as a film extra. And thus kicking off her life’s career in the spotlight. Swanson has then given a job working in California for Keystone Studios doing comedy shorts alongside Bobby Vernon.
She was soon recruited by Paramount, where she signed to a seven-year contract. From that point on, she was an international superstar. In 1919, she appeared in the Cecil B. Demile’s film Male and Female. She followed that up with roles in the box-office hits The Affairs of Anatol in 1921 and Beyond the Rocks in 1922.
In 1923, she gave a critically-acclaimed performance in the movie Zaza. Two years later, she received more praise for her role in 1925s Madame Sans-Gene. That same year, she signed with United Artists, becoming one of the industry’s first pioneering female filmmakers. She went on to produce and star in the groundbreaking 1928 film Sadie Thompson. And earned her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
Swanson made the jump to talkies when she starred in 1929s The Trespasser, which earned her another Academy Award nod. Unfortunately, not everything she touched turned to gold as 1929s Queen Kelly considered to be a major box-office flop. Albeit one that would later remembered as an iconic classic of the era of silent films.
In the 30s, Swanson’s success began to wane. She wouldn’t be very active for the next couple of decades. But as we already mentioned, her appearance in 1950s Sunset Boulevard would mark her triumphant comeback. That being said, she would only make another three films after that. But she would later star in a handful of TV shows and acted in stage and road productions.
While Gloria certainly had one heck of a professional career, her stabs at love proved to be less successful. She married 6 times and struggled to maintain her romantic relationships. Join Facts Verse as we attempt to determine about Gloria Swanson. And why she couldn’t quite seem to find lasting love throughout her life and career.
Swanson married Wallace Beery on her 17th Birthday on the 27th of March, 1916. But this marriage seemed to be doomed from the start as by their wedding night she already felt as if she had made a huge mistake.
Gloria had little appreciation for Beery’s home or his family. Beyond that, he repulsed her as a lover. After becoming pregnant with his child, she discovered that her husband running around with other women and had fired from his job at Keystone Pictures.
She then started taking pills that Beery had given her. He claimed that they supposed to help with morning sickness, but in reality, they meant to abort the baby. After the fetus died, Swanson fell unconscious and had to taken to the hospital.
After she recovered, Swanson filed for divorce, which finalized in December of 1918.
Herbert K. Somborn
Swanson married then-president of Equity Pictures, Herbett Somborn, on December 20, 1919. The couple had one daughter together, Gloria Swanson Somborn, who was born on the 7th of October 1920.
In 1923, they adopted a 1-year-old baby boy named Sonny Smith who later renamed Joseph Patrick Swanson.
Somborn and Swanson’s marriage quickly fell apart, and at their divorce proceedings, Herbert accused her of cheating on him with 13 men, including Marshall Neilan and Cecil B. Demille. The scandal that ensued led to Swanson having a ‘morals clauses’ added to her Paramount Studios contract.
The couple’s divorce finalized on September 20, 1923.
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Henri de la Falaise
While filming Madame Sans-Gene, Swanson met and fell in love with Henri, Marquis De La Falaise, who hired on to serve as her translator during the production of the film. Even though Falaise was a Marquis and was a blood-relative of the wealthy Hennessy cognac family, he had little wealth to speak of himself.
Gloria got pregnant with Henri’s child before her divorce with Somborn had finalized. This situation only added to the public controversy that she was contending with. And threatened to put an abrupt end to her film career.
Swanson ended up getting an abortion, but she would later say she regretted doing so. Swanson and the Marquis exchanged wedding vows on January 28, 1925, shortly after Gloria’s marriage to Somborn had dissolved.
After taking four months to recover from having that abortion, the couple returned to the states as European nobility. Swanson then held the prestigious title of Marquise. Upon their return to the country, the couple were welcomed with a lavish celebration that included parades in both LA and New York City.
Once again, however, Swanson’s marriage not made to last, as this union too ended in divorce in 1930. Despite splitting up, Swanson and Henri would remain close friends. He would prove to be one of the biggest allies in her efforts to aid scientist refugees fleeing the Nazis in the second world war.
Swanson’s Affair With Joseph P. Kennedy
While Swanson still wed to Henri, she engaged in a rather lengthy affair and later married the father of JFK, Joseph P. Kennedy.
Kennedy first was her business partner, and after they started dating, their relationship considered an open secret in Hollywood. He took over all of her business and personal affairs and promised to make her millions, but that never happened as he left her after the film Queen Kelly proved to be a significant commercial failure.
After breaking up with Kennedy and still reeling from her failed marriage to Henry, Swanson struck up a relationship with the man who would become her fourth husband.
The two met by happenstance while in Paris while Swanson was being fitted by famed fashion designer Coco Chanel for her role in the 1931 film Tonight or Never.
Farmer was independently wealthy, although he didn’t seem to have ever been employed. Rumors began swirling that he was some kind of gigalo, but that has never been confirmed.
Not long after meeting him, Swanson discovered that she had a lump on one of her breast. She also came to realize that she had become pregnant. Gloria then expressed desire to break off her relationship with Farmer, but he didn’t want to let her break off their budding relationship.
When he found out about the pregnancy, he basically blackmailed her by threatening to go public with the news unless she married him. Obviously she didn’t want to do this, but despite her wishes and the objections of her friends who all seemed to despise the guy, the two got married on August 16, 1931.
Since her marriage to Henri yet to be finalized at the time, Swanson forced to remarry Farmer the following year. On August 5, 1932, Gloria gave birth to her daughter, Michelle Bridget Farmer. A little over a year later, she and Farmer separated.
This well-off investment broker and Swanson met in October of 1944 while she was starring in A Goose for the Gander. They married on the 29th of January, 1945.
At first, Gloria thought that she finally going to be able to retire from acting by Davey’s side, but not long after they walked down the aisle cracks started to form in their marriage due to Davey’s rampant alcoholism.
He started acting erratically, and bitter accusations soon followed. Swanson and her young daughter Michelle went to AA meetings where they acquired pamphlets promoting the group. They then placed these all around the apartment where they and Davey lived. Instead of taking the hint and taking steps towards getting sober, Davey moved out.
Davey unsuccessfully filed for divorce, claiming that Swanson had been mentally cruel. A year later, he passed away and left the majority of his estate to the Damon Runyon Memorial Fund without paying Swanson a penny.
Swanson married her sixth and final husband in 1976.
Duffy was a writer who worked for the New York Post for many years as an assistant to the editor. He also authored or co-authored several books, including Lady Sings the Blues, a biography of Billie Holiday, Sugar Blues, a 1975 health book that is still in print to this day, and the English version of the George Ohsawa book You Are All Sanpaku.
The two met in the mid-60s and moved in together shortly after striking up a romance. The couple bonded over a shared enthusiasm for macrobiotic diets and enjoyed traveling the world together speaking about nutrition.
They remained happily married until Swanson’s death in 1983. Duffy passed away of cancer in 2002.
At the very least, it looks like Gloria Swanson finally found true love with her sixth husband, but in order to get to that point, it appears as if she went to hell and back to find it. Still, she likely never regretted some of those failed marriages because at least she got children out of it.
What are some of your fondest memories of Gloria Swanson – and were you aware that she considered royalty after marrying Henri de la Falaise? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section down below.
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