Gloria May Josephine Swanson (March 27, 1899 – April 4, 1983) was an American actress, singer, and producer best known for her role as Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star, in the critically acclaimed 1950 film Sunset Boulevard. She was also a star in the silent film era as both an actress and a fashion icon, especially under the direction of Cecil B. DeMille. She starred in dozens of silent films and 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 television.
Gloria May Josephine Swanson was born in a small house in Chicago in 1899 to Adelaide (née Klanowski) and Joseph Theodore Swanson, a soldier. She attended Hawthorne Scholastic Academy. Her father was from a strict Lutheran Swedish American family, and her mother was of German, French, and Polish ancestry.
Because of her father's attachment to the U.S. Army, the family moved frequently and Swanson ended up spending most of her childhood in Puerto Rico, where she learned Spanish. She also spent time in Key West, Florida. It was not her intention to enter show business, but on a whim one of her aunts took her to a small film company in Chicago called Essanay Studios for a visit and Swanson was asked to come back to work as an extra. After a few months as an extra working with others like Charlie Chaplin, and making $13.50 a week, Swanson left school to work full-time at the studio. Her parents would soon separate and she and her mother moved to California...
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