Born 1899 in Chicago, American actress and producer Gloria Swanson made her film debut in 1914 as an extra in The Song of Soul for Essanay. She reportedly asked to be in the movie just for fun.
In 1916, Swanson moved to California to appear in Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies opposite Bobby Vernon. With their great screen chemistry, the pair became popular. In 1919, Swanson signed with Paramount Pictures and worked often with Cecil B. DeMille, who turned her into a romantic lead in such films as Don’t Change Your Husband (1919), Male and Female (1919), Why Change Your Wife? (1920), Something to Think About (1920), and The Affairs of Anatol (1921).
In the space of two years, Swanson rocketed to stardom and was one of the most sought-after actresses in Hollywood. She was a star in the silent film era as both an actress and a fashion icon. Throughout the 1920s, Swanson was Hollywood’s top box office magnet.
She first achieved fame acting in dozens of silent films in the 1920s and was nominated three times for an Academy Award as Best Actress, most famously for her 1950 return in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, which also earned her a Golden Globe Award.
In 1925, Swanson joined United Artists as one of the film industry’s pioneering women filmmakers. She produced and starred in the 1928 film Sadie Thompson, earning her a nomination for Best Actress at the first annual Academy Awards. Her sound film debut performance in the 1929 The Trespasser, earned her a second Academy Award nomination. After almost two decades in front of the cameras, her film success waned during the 1930s. Swanson received renewed praise for her comeback role in Sunset Boulevard (1950). She only made three more films, but guest starred on several television shows, and acted in road productions of stage plays.
Swanson was nominated for the first Academy Award in the Best Actress category. She also produced her own films, including Sadie Thompson and The Love of Sunya. In 1929, Swanson transitioned to talkies with The Trespasser. Personal problems and changing tastes saw her popularity wane during the 1930s when she moved into theater, and later television.
In 1960, Gloria Swanson was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures at 6750 Hollywood Boulevard, and another for television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard.
Shortly after returning to New York from her home in the Portuguese Riviera in 1983, Swanson died in New York City in New York Hospital from a heart ailment, aged 84.
As one of the greatest stars of early Hollywood, today, Swanson is most remembered for her portrayal of Norma Desmond in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard.
Take a look at these glamorous photos to see the beauty of young Gloria Swanson in the 1920s and 1930s.