All That Glitters: Joe Kennedy and Gloria Swanson

The mogul, the missus, the movie star, and the marquis

Kathy Copeland Padden
5 min readJun 3


We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!

Long before Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were dancing in the sheets, there was Joe Kennedy Sr. and silent screen superstar Gloria Swanson. The movie star and the mogul quickly cultivated a relationship, both professional and personal, that would change the course of their lives and careers, and not necessarily for the better.

Gloria Swanson and Joe Kennedy’s fateful first meeting took place on November 11, 1927. Romance was not a motivating factor, at least not for Gloria. Swanson wanted to pick Kennedy’s brains regarding her complicated finances, so Joe agreed to meet Gloria for lunch.

At the time, Swanson was one of the biggest names in Hollywood and among the first megastars of the motion picture industry. She oozed sex, sophistication, and glamour, and was one of the highest-paid stars of the silent era.

Swanson was also a member of United Artists, the production company formed by Tinseltown luminaries including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and D.W. Griffith. Gloria quickly discovered that complete financial, artistic, and technical control over one’s films sounds great in theory until you’re wearing a dozen different ill-fitting hats.

Charlie Chaplin was a babe

Since Kennedy had always wanted to find a way to tap into the profitable moviemaking business, a meeting with Swanson was fortuitous indeed. The movie star was his perfect “in” with the movers and shakers in this new but already obscenely profitable industry.

This meeting led to an affair that destroyed her marriage and finances, but it was also the harbinger of doom for Swanson career-wise, which was what she had hoped to avoid. All things considered, she would’ve been better off skipping lunch that day.

By the time Glo and Joe hooked up, Swanson was already on husband #3, a dude named Henry de la Falaise who happened to be a French marquis. Snagging a European noble was grabbing the brass ring of spouses for silent movie sirens. Of course, most of these titled yet…



Kathy Copeland Padden

is a music fanatic, classic film aficionado, and history buff surfing the End Times wave like a boss. Come along!