Notorious Women #7: Gloria Swanson

What makes a woman crazy about an automobile? I can only speak for myself. I grew up in the country surrounded by a dairy farm and five brothers. To me, cars were freedom. When I was fourteen years old, as an exchange student in Ecuador, I learned how to drive in a Toyota Land Cruiser high in the Andes Mountains, where they mark driver error with small white crosses. My fifteen-year-old Ecuadorian brother was my instructor. I never wanted to get out of that car again. Go back to the series introduction and catch up with the full story! Okay, are you back and loving the Notorious Women as much as I am?

Gloria Swanson

In 1916, movie star Gloria Swanson was a mere seventeen years old, and her fiance, Wallace Beery, was teaching her to drive. She just loved it and compared it to the thrill she got horseback riding as a kid. She describes how she came to make the film The Danger Girl for Keystone: "One morning when I was driving to work, I found myself answering some command from deep inside me and started putting on speed until I heard Wally screaming in the seat beside me. I tore past the Keystone gates and almost missed the turn into our lot across the street. I roared up to the bungalow, jumped on the brake, and stopped on a dime. notorious-women-gloria-swanson "When the dust settled, half a dozen people ran out of the building. They couldn’t believe it was Baby Gloria behind the wheel. They hadn’t had such a shock since they first saw me smoke a cigarette." Someone joked that it would be a funny way to start a movie, and within the week, a rough script was ready.

From the Sublime Bentley to the Downmarket Toyota

Like many other Hollywood actors of her generation, Gloria was a wealthy woman and had money to burn, which she spent with abandon on clothes, houses, and lavish cars. Gloria owned a 1929 Model A Ford station wagon, a 1920s-era Leach, a 1949 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, a 1963 Bentley S3, a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow III, a 1970 Vauxhall Viva, and a 1970 Toyota Corona Mark II, which was a replacement for one of her chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce cars. Her most famous car was a Lancia upholstered with leopard skins, which likely inspired the leopard-upholstered 1930 Isotta-Fraschini that belonged to her most famous character, Norma Desmond, in the 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard.
Images in this series are reprinted courtesy of Revs Institute for Automotive Research, Naples, Florida, as well as;;; and Wikipedia.

Collect the whole set!

#1: Bertha Benz: history's first recorded road trip
#2: Alice Ramsey: first cross-country drive by women
#3: Anita King: "speeding sweetheart of the silver screen"
#4: Bebe Daniels's need for speed
#5: Movie Queens
#6: Mechanical Girls of the 1920s
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