Day 324 of Colourisation Project – March 27
Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.
Though they may not know much about her, most people will surely remember her for her portrayal of Norma Desmond in the critically acclaimed 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, a role which overshadowed the true story of her life.
As one Hollywood director put it, “Norma Desmond is more famous than most famous actors.”
Ironically few older actresses in Hollywood wanted the role. Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo and Mary Pickford all declined the role as it depicted the story of a reclusive, aged, and demented silent movie star who falls in love with a much younger screenwriter, as she vainly seeks to make a comeback.
However, Gloria Swanson then aged 50, defined what it meant to be a movie star. She made the role her own and in doing so perhaps blurred the lines between reality and fiction. Born this day, March 27, 1899, Swanson was making her own historic comeback after a virtual 16-year absence from the screen saying, “I don’t let age bother me. Whenever I am a year older, everyone else is too.”
One of the most prolific and prominent stars of the silent movie era, Swanson appeared in nearly 70 films before Sunset Boulevard yet her career seems defined by this one character that refuses to fade away. People still confuse the fictional role with the real actress.
Three-times nominated for an Academy Award, Swanson gained her greatest triumph in Sunset Boulevard, winning several honors for her portrayal of Norma Desmond but the Academy Award always eluded her.
Perhaps part of the film’s enduring appeal is because it is a powerful critique of the Hollywood studio system and the nature of celebrity, something that Swanson reflects on in her autobiography, Swanson on Swanson. Published in 1980 it became an instant national best seller.
Gloria Swanson died in 1983 in New York City from a heart ailment, aged 84.
She has 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6750 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6301 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.