“Gloria Swanson” by Steve Starr

Gloria Swanson

Part 5

Gloria established a successful line of cosmetics she named “Essence of Nature,” which were made of only natural ingredients, and promoted a line of clothing she designed called “Forever Young.” She continued to work on stage and television throughout the rest of her life. In 1960, the fantastic Eliot Elisofon photo published in Life Magazine of Swanson elegantly gowned and bejewelled, standing dramatically with arms outstretched amid the rubble of the demolished Roxy Theatre in New York, was the inspiration for the story of the 1971 Stephen Sondheim musical Follies. The magnificent Roxy had opened in 1928 with The Loves of Sunya, which starred Swanson in her first collaboration with Kennedy. She returned to Broadway in 1971 to appear in Butterflies Are Free. In 1974, she filmed a televison movie, Killer Bees, and in 1975, she played herself in Airport 1975. In 1976 she married for the sixth and final time to William Dufty, an author who collaborated on more than 40 books, and also wrote Sugar Blues about the dangers of sugar in the diet. Gloria never tired of promoting her own dietary ideas while traveling everywhere with her own pressure cooker and assortment of natural bread, herbs, and teas.

Gloria often visited Chicago, where she stayed at the Ambassador East Hotel. When the elevator operators were replaced with automatic cars, she was fearful of riding in them and began to stay instead at the Belden-Stratford Hotel. When her friend, orchestra leader Stanley Paul, invited Gloria to his suite in the Ambassador, knowing how fearful she was of automatic elevators, he met her in the lobby to escort her personally. While riding upwards, their car suddenly stalled for a minute. Gloria turned pale and froze with fear.

In her later years, the still glamorous star, a beautiful icon from the early days of film wrote “...all the puritanical hypocrisy of the 1920s even cost me a baby’s life, when I had to abort my child by the Marquis in 1925 to avoid scandal and save my career.” In 1980-1981 Swanson embarked on a grueling cross-country promotional tour for her autobiogaphy Swanson On Swanson. Her book received phenomenal reviews—“Sparkling...Movie stars’ memoirs don’t get any better” and “the most revealing book ever written by a movie queen.” Swanson said of herself and other Hollywood royalty: “We lived like kings and queens, and why not?”

Gloria Swanson died in her sleep April 4, 1983. The New York Times honored her with an editorial entitled “The Greatest Star of them All.”


  • Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson
  • The Films of Gloria Swanson by Lawrence J. Quirk
  • The New York Times Directory of the Film
  • Celebrity Register edited by Cleveland Amory with Earl Blackwell
  • Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger
  • Gods & Goddesses of the Movies by John Kobal
  • Stanley Paul
  • Francesca Vetrano
  • Gloria Swanson Web sites
Gloria Swanson

Photo of Steve Starr at the Whitehall Hotel, Chicago, January 28, 2006, taken by NBC News director Harold “Sandy” Whiteley.

About the Author

Steve Starr is the author of Picture Perfect—Art Deco Photo Frames 1926-1946 published by Rizzoli International Publications. A photographer, designer, artist, and chronicler of movie stars, he is the owner of Steve Starr Studios, specializing in original Art Deco photo frames, jewelry, and artifacts, and celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2006. Steve Starr’s personal collection of over 950 gorgeous Art Deco photo frame is filled with photos of Hollywood’s most elegant stars.

Starr’s column, “Starrlight,” on movie stars of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, appears in various publications, including the Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine, the Windy City Times, and Entertainment Magazine Online. View the studio at http://www.SteveStarrStudios.com where you can read “Starrlight” stories and enjoy letters, autographs, and photos from some of his favorite luminaries. Visit the Steve Starr Satellite Studio at the Ravenswood Antique Mart, 4727 North Damen Avenue in Chicago. You may e-mail Steve at ssschicago@ameritech.net or call him at (773) 463-8017 to learn more about his photography business, Starrgazers—Radiant Digital Photography, which is available for private functions and events.

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