In a series of wildly popular films Gloria Swanson made with Cecile B. De Mille between 1919 and 1921 the iconography of Hollywood glamour was formally codified.
The visual language of glamour—and it was purely visual, films were still silent—is characterized by stunning women wearing 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 pleasure.
Swanson’s 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 had to bear with a regal posture.
For an army brat raised on spartan outposts in Key West and Puerto Rico, Swanson’s rise to superstardom—she was as big as Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin—was a classic American dream, but played out in Hollywood, a peculiar universe in the process of inventing itself as the dream capital of the world.
But of course, the glamour machine that Swanson helped invent veiled some frightening scenarios. And Gloria Swanson’s hasty marriage to actor Wallace Beery was a gruesome nightmare. [Read more…] about Gloria Swanson’s Not So Hollywood Wedding Night