Sunday 29 June 2014

The Tyrannical Wallace Beery: Gloria Swanson – Part 2

For all those new to the odd and perhaps scandalous relationship between Wallace Beery and Gloria Swanson, check out part 1. If not let’s catch up with the story: 

As I said before, despite the age difference, Hollywood, family and arguments, Swanson and Beery were finally marriage. It was on the couple’s wedding night that the marriage (according to Swanson) turned violent.  Swanson claims during their first night together and with her mother in an adjoining room, Beery raped her. Beery had apparently spent a couple hours drinking at a local bar and was drunk when he went up to bed that night. This is a segment of Swanson’s account of the night:     

 I was brushing my hair when he came into the room. He gave me a look that made me turn away, but he didn’t say anything. Then he turned out the light and in the darkness pulled me to him. I gave a coquettish little command to stop that I thought would make him laugh. Still he said nothing. He turned me and pushed me backward until I fell on the bed. He fell beside me, and there was nothing romantic about the way he began to repeat that I was driving him crazy.
He was raking his hands over me and pulling at my nightie until I heard it rip. I pleaded with him to stop, to wait, to turn on the light. His beard was scraping my skin and his breath smelled. He kept repeating obscene things and making advances with his hand and tongue while he turned his body this way and that and awkwardly undid his buttons and squirmed out of his clothes.
Then he forced my body into position and began hurting me, hurting me terribly. I couldn’t stand it. I begged him to stop, to listen to me, and finally when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I screamed. He told me to be quiet, not to wake the whole hotel, and he said it in a voice of quiet, filthy conspiracy. The pain became so great that I thought I must be dying. I couldn’t move for the pain. When he finally rolled away, I could feel blood everywhere.
The shocking events of that night made Swanson immediately regret her hastily marriage but could not foreseeably get out of it. After the honeymoon the Berry’s moved into Beery’s parent’s house. They were apparently “icy and distant” and Swanson after only a fortnight after the wedding was seriously contemplating divorce. But nothing seemed to improve for the newlyweds, with Beery’s infidelities, drinking, debts and uncertain acting career compounding to make Swanson’s life unbearable. A month later Swanson found she was pregnant. Beery, still wanting to keep the marriage together for the sake of his career, told his wife everything would get better and appeared overjoyed at her news. A couple days later after suffering stomach pain, Beery gave Swanson a handful of tablets he claimed to have gotten from a pharmacy. The caused Swanson to be rushed to hospital and, near death and in excruciating pain, she was told she had lost her baby. When she recovered, she later found the pills were a method to induce a miscarriage and that Beery had knowingly aborted her child. 
A scene from Teddy at the Throttle (1917)
After this incident the pair separated. Swanson, trying to ignore her failed marriage through herself into film work appearing in several more Sennett shorts before signing with Paramount in 1919. She and Beery only appeared in one more film together Teddy at the Throttle (1917). The movie sadly seem to imitate life as Beery, in his typical villain role, had to tie Swanson up and place her on train tracks. According to Swanson, Beery deliberately used excessive force when making those scenes and even left deep marks on her arms.  The pair eventually divorced in 1919 to allow Swanson to marry her next husband, Herbert K. Somborn.

Most sources for the marriage between Swanson and Beery, have admittedly been either unreliable or probably biased. Swanson’s autobiography Swanson on Swanson plays a large part in constructing the past events. This information could be prejudiced but I can’t believe Swanson would fabricate rape and a forced abortion. Likewise, Parson’s account of their early relationship is also problematic. She was known to have special relationships, deals and partialities towards or against certain personalities and, in addition, the article was written over fifteen years after the events occurred. Perhaps – like most publicity driven tales in Hollywood – when attempting to understand the events one has to accept the fact of weighing up biased evidence against biased evidence.  As both Swanson and Beery have passed away nothing more can be known except the small bits of history, articles and an autobiography they left behind.   
Beery also from Teddy at the Throttle (1917)

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