Trespasser, The (1929): Swanson’s First All-Talk Movie, Directed by Goulding

Gloria Swanson received her second Best Actress Oscar nomination for The Trespasser, her first all-talking picture, well directed by melodrama specialist Edmund Goulding (who later remade this film with Bette Davis).

The Trespasser was produced as both a silent and sound version for a budget of  $725,000. 

Swanson plays Marion Donnell, a secretary who marries the son (Robert Ames) of a domineering millionaire (William Holden). The father-in-law bullies Swanson into giving up his son, and she agrees, withholding the fact that she’s pregnant.

Later, Swanson enters her ex-husband’s social class via an inheritance. Unfortunately, he’s remarried to Kay Hammond, who is crippled and thus more needy and dependent on him.   Swanson gives up the man she loves, left only with her child and a bank account.

For the sake of her child, she later sends the boy to live with her ex and his wife. The wife dies, and the film ends with Swanson reunited with her ex-husband.

Swanson proved that her voice was “right” for the talkies, but her career declined due to poor choice of vehicles and changing tastes.

She enjoyed a major comeback in 1950, starring in Billy Wilder darker than noir, Sunset Boulevard, for which she received her third and last Best Actress nomination.

The Trespasser was one of Swanson’s only two hit sound films, after the disastrous Queen Kelly (1929) and the hit Sadie Thompson (1928).

She made a major comeback as Norma Desmond in the 1950 Sunset Boulevard, directed by Billy Wilder, who cast her based on the recommendation of George Cukor.

Gloria Swanson as Marion Donnell
Robert Ames as Jack Merrick
Purnell Pratt as Hector Ferguson
Henry B. Walthall as Fuller
Wally Albright as Jackie
William Holden as John Merrick Sr.
Blanche Friderici as Miss Potter
Kay Hammond as Catherine ‘Flip’ Merrick
Mary Forbes as Mrs. Ferguson
Marcelle Corday as Blanche