Between 1919 and 1921, Gloria Swanson starred in a series of wildly popular films for director Cecile B. De Mille in which the iconography of Hollywood glamour was formally codified. The titles of these films carry the whiff of scandal and decadence: Don’t Change Your Husband (1919), For Better, For Worse (1919), Male and Female (1919), Why Change Your Wife? (1920). In truth, each of the DeMille-Swanson films were neat little morality tales where virtue and tradition triumphed.
The visual language of glamour was characterized by stunning women sheathed in one gorgeous outfit after another, placed within elegant sets that defy practicality in favor of a dream-like universe. In De Mille’s Swanson movies, the decadent bathrooms were prominently featured. The massive sunken tubs, marble walls and floors, made audiences gasp with disbelief and pleasure. The symbol of the roaring twenties, according to Hollywood, was a bathroom fit for a queen.
Swanson’s elaborate costumes often weighed close to her petite 90lb. frame. But Swanson soldiered on bearing her burden with nary a complaint. For the sake of authenticity, De Mille accessorized his leading lady in wildly expensive jewels that only added to the fearsome weight Swanson carried with such regal posture.