Thursday, December 31, 2015

How Gloria Swanson Broke Into The Movies

The first time I took notice of Gloria Swanson she was playing a version of herself in Airport '75. I recognized her as the actress that Carol Burnett lampooned on her eponymous television variety show. A few years later when I became vegan I read how Ms. Swanson had been a vegetarian since 1928 and helped to promote her husband's book Sugar Blues (William Dufty). But it wasn't until I moved to Los Angeles that I became familiar with her career as an actress - first in silent films and then in her iconic role as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard.

Swanson began her career in early Charlie Chaplin and Mack Sennett comedies. By 1919 she was working for Paramount Pictures and with director Cecil B. DeMille. Stardom followed with films such as romantic lead in such films as Don't Change Your Husband (1919), Male and Female (1919) (based on a play by J.M. Barrie), Why Change Your Wife? (1920), Something to Think About (1920), The Affairs of Anatol (1921) and Beyond The Rocks (with Rudolph Valentino). By 1926, she was making independent films as a part owner of United Artists including Sadie Thompson (a huge hit famously remade as Rain starring Joan Crawford) and Queen Kelly (the infamous unfinished film directed by her Sunset Boulevard co-star Eric Von Stroheim).

How Gloria Swanson Broke Into The Movies continues after the
WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of How I Broke Into The Movies by Gloria Swanson.

How I Broke Into The Movies Gloria Swanson picture
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How I Broke Into The Movies by Gloria Swanson
Right click to open the image in a new tab.

Aside from the WORLD INTERNET PREMIERE of Gloria Swanson's essay, I've also uploaded Killer Bees, a 1974 ABC Movie Of The Week considered her last true acting role. (Despite being touted as her television debut, Ms. Swanson had been working in the medium since 1948 when she hosted The Gloria Swanson Hour.) She stars in Killer Bees (produced by Aaron Spelling) with a pre-Charlie's Angels Kate Jackson and Edward Albert.

Killer Bees is considered in the public domain.

In 1957, Swanson performed Those Wonderful People In The Dark written
for a musical version of Sunset Boulevard she was shopping around.
Swanson held numerous backer auditions and performed the numbers
at cocktail parties, but the show didn't progress any further than that.

A cross-dressing Gloria Swanson in
Mack Sennett's The Danger Girl 1916

These musical tracks are recordings Swanson made for her films
The Trespasser (1929), Indiscreet (1931) and Perfect Understanding (1933)

How I Broke Into The Movies was published in 1930 and contains articles on the title theme written by movie stars of the day like John Gilbert, Al Jolson, Greta Nissen, Will Rogers, and 55 other notable actors. The previously published articles are:

A short film in which Swanson dispenses advice to the lovelorn.
Credits imply it was the first of a series that never materialized.

Follow Michael,'s board Gloria Swanson on Pinterest.

The CBS Radio Network broadcast Sunset Boulevard on September 17, 1951
with the film's stars recreating their roles.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Gwen Verdon in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes

After the 1953 success of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw, United Artists bought the rights to But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, the 1927 novel written as a sequel to the original 1925 book by author Anita Loos.

Jeanne Crain was signed to do the movie (retitled Gentlemen Marry Brunettes) with Richard Sale directing and Mary Loos (his wife and niece to the book's author) writing the screenplay. The novel's continuing adventures of storyline was dropped in favor of a completely new story about the Jones sisters rise to showgirl prominence in Paris. When Jane Russell's contract with Howard Hughes expired in 1954, she and her husband, Robert Waterfield, decided to form their own production company Russ-Field. The couple was courted by United Artists and offered a six picture deal - with the caveat that Jane star in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.

Jane didn't like the idea of doing the sequel nor did she like the script but she agreed because United Artists allowed Russ-Field to join Sale and his company, Voyager, as producer although they had little say in the project. Among their concerns were the film's big Cinemascope and Technicolor budget (with Travilla gowns and location shoots) and how they were going to bring in the customers. Jane liked her co-star Jeanne Crain immensely but she was also aware that Crain was no Marilyn Monroe at the box-office; this left UA dependent on Russell to make the picture a financial success.

Ultimately Jane was greatly disappointed in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes and considered it a mess. And after viewing it, I can see she was right. Her pixie haircut makes Russell look old, the cannibal/blackface production number of Ain't Misbehavin' is just too weird for words and Crain is no foil for Russell. Inexplicably Russell plays the dumb showgirl and Crain the smart one; the film might've worked better had the parts been switched to more closely resemble the Gentlemen Prefer Blondes chemistry. Audiences of the day agreed with Russell's opinion and the (jukebox style) musical did poorly at the box-office when it was released in the fall of 1955.

Amidst all of this Gwen Verdon was hired to play a sexy French maid and had one scene in which her sexy moves were considered too obscene; the scene was cut and re-shot with a non-musical performer. This 25 seconds is the only glimpse left of Ms. Verdon's sexy moves in the 1955 film.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Watch and Wear: Oscar Micheaux

Oscar Micheaux was an African-American film director and author. At the time of their release, his black cast films were categorized as race movies and played only theaters that catered to African-American audiences. This post is to introduce you to his work rather than his biography - which can be read (in short) on his Wikipedia page. Many of his films and books can be viewed and read (respectively) and downloaded from Posters from several of his films can be worn on crew d'tees t-shirts - the only Oscar Micheaux fashion available!


Within Our Gates, 1920, silent

Ten Minutes To Live, 1932

Lem Hawkins' Confession also released as Murder in Harlem, 1935

Swing, 1938

Lying Lips, 1939


Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer 1913

The Forged Note 1915

The Homesteader: A Novel 1917

crew d'tees Shirts

crew d'tees has created two t-shirts to honor the genius of this renaissance man and cinematic auteur.