★ American actress Gloria Swanson was born on this day in 1899. One of the most prominent stars during the silent film era, she worked with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino, and starred in dozens of films throughout the 1910s and 1920s. During her heyday, she was not only an actress but a fashion icon, with audiences watching her films to see both her performance and her extravagant wardrobe. Frequently wearing pieces of haute couture and favouring ornamentation such as beads, jewels, and peacock and ostrich feathers, Swanson’s fashion, hair styles and jewels set many trends, and she became one of the most famous and photographed women in the world.
Although she successfully transitioned to talkies in 1929 with The Trespasser, after several flops in the early 1930s her film career began to decline and she moved to New York City in 1938, where she later began an inventions and patents company called Multiprises. During the years of World War II, this company had the sole purpose of rescuing Jewish scientists and inventors from Europe and bringing them to the United States. Throughout the 1940s, Swanson occupied herself with painting, sculpting, clothing and accessories design, writing a newspaper column and advocating for various political causes, as well as work in theatre, radio, and television, along with occasional big screen appearances.
Swanson’s iconic role as Norma Desmond in the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard (1950) earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and saw her achieve widespread stardom once again, but she turned down most of the film offers she subsequently received as ‘pale imitations of Norma Desmond’. Making only three more films over the next two decades – Three for Bedroom ‘C’ (1952), Nero’s Mistress (1956), and an appearance as herself in Airport 1975 (1974) – she instead starred in numerous stage and television productions until her death in New York City on 4th April 1983, aged 84.