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Gloria Swanson, an ultimate star, a Kennedy floozy and a Warhol wart

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The first time we met Gloria May Josephine Swanson thisclose was outside the stage door of the Booth Theater. She has just finished a Wednesday matinee of Butterflies are Free and was a delight. She was tiny, talented and tossed out autographed photos as frequently as she carried a red carnation. We loved to watch Gloria; Joseph P. Kennedy loved to fuck her in an open Hollywood secret.
Swanson’s bestselling autobiography was published in 1980, but there’s a new look at GS: Stephen Michael Shearer’s Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, $29.99), a first in-depth biography of the film legend, from a fresh point of view, and using materials only recently made available through the Harry Ransom Center archives in Austin, Texas.
Most people so closely associate Swanson with her role in Sunset Boulevard that they assume it reflected her actual life. Shearer's book will set the record straight on how she really spent her twilight years. Swanson’s stardom in the 1920s earned her millions of fans and millions of dollars.
Realizing her box-office value early in her career, Swanson took control of her life. Soon she was not only producing her own films, she was choosing her scripts, selecting her leading men, casting her projects, creating her own fashions, guiding her publicity, and living an extravagant and extraordinary lifestyle. She was scandalous, flamboyant, quotable, unpredictable and fans couldn’t get enough of her.
She also collected a long line of lovers and married men of her choosing (including a Marquis, thus becoming America’s “first” royalty). As a devoted and loving mother, she managed to successfully raise three children. Perhaps most importantly, as a keen businesswoman, she was also able to continue her career for more than sixty years, and her astounding comeback in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard not only catapulted her back into the limelight, but it also created her long misunderstood persona.
In this comprehensive biography, Shearer tells the life story of the woman who defined what it is to be a movie icon.


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