cover image Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star

Gloria Swanson: The Ultimate Star

Stephen Michael Shearer. St. Martin's/Dunne, $29.99 (528p) ISBN 978-1-250-00155-9

Shearer (Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr) succeeds brilliantly in not missing a moment of 1920s Hollywood starlet Gloria Swanson's gilded, imperfect life. Celebrated as "the movie star of all movie stars," film and fashion icon Gloria Swanson's rich, glamorous life included six marriages, myriad affairs, and a fortune all but squandered. Both charming and headstrong from the start, Gloria moved to California to become an actress at age 16, where she embraced a work hard, play hard mentality, raising three children while bankrolling lovers and husbands. Described by her daughter as "a very feminine woman with a masculine brain," Gloria was in control of her career and lifestyle early on. She segued into television and talkies, making a comeback with her critically acclaimed performance in Sunset Boulevard. Her not-so-secret affair with Joseph P. Kennedy was a passionate, complicated relationship, and left her finances a shambles. Shearer's riveting, weighty biography is a powerful paean to the silent movie era, its renowned stars and directors, and to Gloria, who was as famous for her acting as for her liveried butlers, generous gifts, and extravagant Parisian shopping sprees. (Aug.)