So, ok, how much did you know about Gloria Swanson?
Yesterday’s Monday Quiz was devoted to this great star best remembered for her astounding screen comeback as Norma Desmond in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard.
As mentioned, she was also a pioneer in the movie business, a woman who formed her own production company to spawn perhaps the best but perhaps most troubled silent movie ever made. This brought her into scandalous contact with the father of a U.S. president (initials, JFK). Swanson was an independent woman, a working feminist decades before the woman’s movement took formal shape.
Gloria Swanson is certainly well worth knowing more about. The inspiration for our Monday Quiz is her 1980 tome, Swanson on Swanson: An Autobiography. To refresh yourselves on the questions, just scroll down to yesterday’s blog. Here are the answers:
1) Answer: a) Montgomery Clift was the first choice for the young screenwriter role played by William Holden in Sunset Boulevard. Clift turned down the part because, wrote Swanson, he “objected to playing scenes of romantic involvement with an older woman.” The Norma Desmond character was supposed to have been 50, and although Swanson was that age when she made the movie, the producers ordered her appearance be aged slightly via makeup. Holden’s character was supposed to have been 25, but the actor was 31 when the picture was made. Holden was nervous that the still young-looking Swanson would appear too youthful onscreen. Thus the aging makeup.
2) Answer: b) False. Public confusion of the Norman Desmond character with the private Swanson was something that frustrated the actress for years. They think I am Norman Desmond, she often complained. I NEVER was Norman Desmond, and I don’t know anyone who lived like that!
3) Answer: Joseph Kennedy, the father of late President John F. Kennedy, was Swanson’s financial guru, business associate, production partner — and lover. But never her husband.
4) Answer: All except d) Henry King.
5) Answer: No question that Swanson was diminutive. Best estimate is that she stood all of a) 4-feet 11-inches.
6) Answer: a) True. Kennedy and Swanson has become increasingly close in their business dealings, and with each other. The lovemaking started after some time had elapsed since both Swanson and Kennedy were married to others. According to her autobiography, the first encounter occurred in a Palm Beach, Florida hotel room where Kennedy forced himself on her, moaning No longer, no longer. Now. Wrote Swanson: He was like a roped horse, rough, arduous, racing to be free. After a hasty climax he lay beside me, stroking my hair.
7) Answer: d) a pretty singing voice. This quality is NOT listed by Swanson as essential for a star. The big six are: beauty, personality, charm, temperament, style and the ability to wear clothes.
8) Answer: d) The Swamp.
9) Answer: a) 1924’s Manhandled. Directed by Allan Dwan, the movie was shot in New York City where Swanson got to ride a subway for the first time.
10) Answer: c) Airport 1975, part of a series of quasi-disaster epics from Universal Pictures hilariously spoofed in the Airplane films in the 1980’s. Swanson got to play pretty much herself, and gets the picture’s final line. Airport 1975, incidentally, included a number of fine classic performers in the cast including Martha Scott, Dana Andrews, Myrna Loy and Nancy Olson — who, as it happens, portrayed William Holden’s genuine love interest in Sunset Boulevard.