Gloria Swanson defined what it meant to be a movie star, but her unforgettable role in Sunset Boulevard overshadowed the true story of her life. Now Stephen Michael Shearer sets the record straight in the first in-depth biography of the film legend.
Swanson was Hollywood’s first successful glamour queen. Her stardom as an actress in the mid-1920s earned her millions of fans and millions of dollars. Realizing her box office value early in her career, she took control of her life. Soon she was not only producing her own films, she was choosing her scripts, selecting her leading men, casting her projects, creating her own fashions, guiding her publicity, and living an extravagant and sometimes extraordinary celebrity lifestyle.
She also collected a long line of lovers (including Joseph P. Kennedy) and married men of her choosing (including a French marquis, thus becoming America’s first member of “nobility”). As a devoted and loving mother, she managed a quiet success of raising three children. Perhaps most important, as a keen businesswoman she also was able to extend her career more than sixty years.
Her astounding comeback as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard catapulted her back into the limelight. But it also created her long-misunderstood persona, one that this meticulous biography shows was only part of this independent and unparalleled woman.
“Shearer succeeds brilliantly in not missing a moment of 1920s Hollywood starlet Gloria Swanson's gilded, imperfect life. … Shearer's riveting, weighty biography is a powerful paean to the silent movie era, its renowned stars and directors, and to Gloria, who was as famous for her acting as for her liveried butlers, generous gifts, and extravagant Parisian shopping sprees.” —Publishers Weekly
"In this excellently detailed account of actress Gloria Swanson’s life, we see a young starlet grow into the unforgettable ‘Norma Desmond’ from Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. … With a glimpse into the lives of the full range of film stars, an examination of the tribulations in Hollywood through World War II, and a complete look at Swanson’s robust life, this well-written title is sure to please any reader with a passion for classic Hollywood movies." —Library Journal
“Reveals the passion, the ego and the insecurities that propelled the movie queen through a seven-decade Hollywood career in which she was a remarkably modern woman years ahead of her time: producing her own movies, choosing her scripts and leading men on-screen and off, becoming a flamboyant Hollywood magnate and blowing a fortune indulging her libido. … Stephen Michael Shearer exposes the demons that drove the egocentric screen siren.” —The Daily Express (UK)
“Stephen Shearer… is to be lauded for his scholarship and the depth of his research.” —New York Journal of Books
“A comprehensive biography of Swanson, who was not only one of film's biggest stars in her day but an astute and successful businesswoman.” —Tampa Bay Times