Sunset on Sunset Boulevard

Circa 1923: American silent screen star Gloria Swanson (1897 – 1983) in a scene from an unknown film.

The following is an excerpt from “Wills of the Rich & Famous: A Fascinating Glimpse at the Legacies of Celebrities”  by Herbert E. Nass, Esq.

March 27, 1899
Chicago, Illinois

April 4, 1983
New York Hospital
New York, New York

The only child of Joseph and Adelaide Svensson, Glo­ria May Josephine Svensson was born in Chicago in 1899. Gloria Svensson adopted the name “Swanson,” and she became the glittering goddess of Hollywood’s roaring twenties. Ms. Swanson summed up her larger-­than-life presence in films with her famous line in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard: “I am big. It’s the movies that got small.”

By the time of her death, Gloria Swanson had been married six times and divorced five times. Her last mar­riage was in 1976 to writer William Dufty, but he re­ceives nothing under her Will. Early in her career, she was also romantically linked with a Boston financier and patriarch of an American political dynasty, Joseph P. Kennedy.

Her six marriages produced two daughters, Gloria Daly and Michelle Amon, and she adopted a son, Joseph, who predeceased her in 1977. She named her two daughters and her attorney as executors of her Will. Her Will divides her estate to give 40 percent to each of her daughters and 10 percent to each of the surviving daughters of her pre­deceased son as follows:

… I give, devise and bequeath all the rest residue and remainder of my Estate, real, personal or mixed and wherever situated as follows:
(a) Forty percent (40%) to my daughter, GLORIA S. DALY of…New York City…
(b) Forty percent (40%) to my daughter, MICHELLE AMON of Neuilly, 92200 France…
(c) Ten percent (10%) to my granddaughter CHRISTINA SWANSON and ten percent (10%) to my granddaughter PATRICIA SWANSON.

However, a subsequent codicil to the Will executed in 1981 inexplicably drastically changes the disposition of the residuary estate, providing that daughter Gloria would receive the odd percentage of 13 13 of her mother’s estate outright, and the other 26 23 of her 40-percent share was to be held in trust for the benefit of Swanson’s other daughter, Michelle. Daughter Michelle continued to receive 40 percent of her mother’s estate outright.

Swanson was known for her extravagance and lavish lifestyle. It is reported that she earned $8 million between 1918 and 1929 and that she spent nearly all of that. When she died at the age of eighty-four, her gross estate was in excess of $1,440,000 according to papers filed with the New York court.

The first article of the Will directs that Swanson’s cremation be private and confined to members of her family only and that there be “no public funeral or display of any sort.” Dead in her eighties, the shining star of the twenties guarded her image until the very end.

/s/ Gloria Swanson

Will dated March 4, 1981
Codicil dated September 11, 1981
Residing at 920 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York

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