WHY GLORIA SWANSON IS ALWAYS BROKE

This article was originally published in Theatre Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 5. Ed. Arthur Hornblow. New York: Theatre Magazine Company, 1919. p. 304.

Gloria Swanson as she appeared in DON'T CHANGE YOUR HUSBANDALTHOUGH Gloria Swanson appreciates the honor of playing the leading feminine rôles in productions, she has discovered that there are certain difficulties also in the work. Her first appearance was in "Don't Change Your Husband," and she is next to be seen in "For Better, For Worse."

In both of these pictures she has had the rôle of a wealthy woman of society, and that is where the trouble comes in. She is beginning to wish that just for once she might be allowed to play a poor waif of the streets. Here is Miss Swanson's reason:

"YOU see," she said, "since I have been working for Mr. DeMille I am always broke. Before I came to him I had plenty of money to do with as I pleased, but I haven't it any more. I have to economize on all sorts of little things. And I don't like it."

"All my salary goes for clothes or furniture. I buy much more expensive clothes than I should; much more expensive than I ever did before. And I am always buying chairs and pictures and things for my home. I used to be quite satisfied with the simpler things in garments and house furnishings. Where I will finish I don't know--probably in the poor house. Unless some one takes me in charge and curbs my wild extravagance I shall become a State charge."

"IN both of the pictures I have made so far I have been a rich woman--rich even to millions. And as Mr. DeMille loves realism and refuses to do anything half way, he has made me wear gowns that are just simply gorgeous."

"The gowns I wear in the pictures are much more elaborate and beautiful than I could ever afford. Before I wore them I never desired them. But just as soon as I see myself in one of them, and wear it around the stage for a while, I begin to get discontented. I want to own gowns like that. And zing! my salary has vanished before I am aware of it!"

"It's mighty hard to wear a robe costing say a thousand dollars, all day long and then go to the dressing room and put on my comparatively poor best. I can understand the poor cloak model, who wears wondrous creations all day long and then has to put on a simple, little cheap dress."

Gloria Swanson and Elliot Dexter in FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE"IN the new picture, "For Better, For Worse," I have worn about twenty-five or more different gowns, and I know that they all cost a lot of money. When I have them on I am in heaven. Every woman loves to be dressed up in expensive creations. Part of the enjoyment I get out of the work is due to the fact that I can dress in these expensive clothes. And during the day I am a queen, garbed in all the wonders of the costumer's art; then we quit work, and I am nothing but a poor actress again, in my simple little dresses. It's really pathetic. I think it's quite sad."

"THE same thing is true of my home. Now I have a perfectly delightful bungalow, furnished quite nicely and just to my taste. I used to think that no place on earth would be so utterly satisfying to me as this is."

"But after I had taken a look at one of Mr. DeMille's settings the germ of discontent jumped at me and bit me hard. There was one setting in the new picture that was only used for a few scenes, and it had about sixty thousand dollars worth of rugs and draperies in it. Such rugs! It felt like a sacrilege to walk on them! And the furniture and little ornaments around the tables and desks were worth so I am told, about thirty thousand dollars."

"Now after a day like that, walking around in such splendor, toying with a paper knife that costs a thousand dollars, drinking out of a jade cup worth five hundred, sitting in a chair three hundred years old and worth another bug sum, and walking on ten thousand dollar rugs, my little home seemed very shabby. I actually cried one night at my poverty. Yet I used to be one of the most contented and happy girls alive. This DeMille man is spoiling me."

"The natural consequence is, of course, that I have become extravagant. I am buying gowns that before I never would have thought of affording, and I can't resist anything particularly beautiful in the way of furniture or curios."

"THAT'S why I'm always broke these days. I have noticed that this is true of other people, too. Elliot Dexter, who used to be a modest man, and smoked Fatimas, has taken to Pall Mall's, now that he has been a screen millionaire so long. And he has bought a new and expensive car, and his clothes--well, I don't know anything about men's clothes, so I can't say. But I can see a glint in his eye that shows he, too, is discontented with poverty after being a make-believe millionaire, and heaven knows what will happen to him. The other day I even saw him reading a book on 'Socialism, the Poor Man's Hope.' It is terrible, terrible. How will it ever end?"

SO spake Gloria. Whether she meant it or not I can't say. There was a twinkle in her eye which seemed to dictate that she was exaggerating a bit. So you film fans, the next time you see a Cecil B. DeMille picture, as you look at the expensive settings, the expensive gowns and the expensive jewelry, remember their cost in human happiness. Remember that Gloria Swanson is eating her heart out, all because of these riches she cannot have, and that Elliot Dexter is near desperation and perhaps crime.

THERE was a big bank robbery in Los Angeles recently, and the police, while they were unable to catch the robbers, secured descriptions of them. One was a tall, handsome man and the other was a very beautiful woman. Both of them were well masked and heavily cloaked.

Could it have been Gloria Swanson and Dexter Elliot?

Who knows?

FURTHER STUDIES:

Purchase Books about Gloria Swanson

Purchase Gloria Swanson movies on DVD or VHS

Purchase Gloria Swanson posters

Home · Theatre Links · Script Archive · Bookstore · Email · © 2002 TheatreHistory.com