“It was a colonial mansion off Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills, jutting out on its own precipice at the top of the mountain with a twelve-car parking lot, a four car garage and a 360-degree view of Los Angeles. Its nine rooms were big, bright and airy, with bay windows and fireplaces everywhere. Everyone who sees this house loves it; Sharon Tate later rented it for a while when she first got pregnant, and she and Roman Polanski wanted to buy it. For Harry and me, two young people supposedly starting out in life, there was great, great excitement about living there.” – Patty Duke in Call Me Anna
Designed by M.J. Bussand for the Beverly Corporation and completed in 1942, the beloved hilltop residence of Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke at 1600 Summitridge Drive in BHPO was where she was living between 1966-1970 during her first marriage to director Harry Falk and at a significant point during her career as she struggled to break out of her Patty Duke Show image into adult roles. This challenge was why she campaigned so strongly to play the ill-fated “Neely O’Hara” in Fox’s big budget production of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls (1967), even submitting, in spite of the shiny Oscar on her mantel up on Summitridge, of having to do a screen test for the part. It was, in retrospect, the equivalent of scratching and clawing your way onto the Titanic. The reviews were nothing short of ghastly with virtually every critic trying to outdo the other in how badly they could damn this film to the fiery pits of Hollywood hell. “LOWEST RATING…A PIECE OF TRASH…MELODRAMATIC MISHMASH…INEPT…INANE…TASTELESS…ONE OF THE MOST STUPIFYINGLY CLUMSY FILMS EVER MADE…UNBELIEVABLY HACKNEYED”…and my personal favorite…”HAS NO MORE SENSE OF ITS OWN LUDICROUSNESS THAN A VILLAGE IDIOT STUMBLING IN MANURE.”
In Hollywood, however, only the box office matters and Valley of the Dolls, in spite of its vicious critical reception, became a box office sensation, in fact, it was no less than the biggest non-roadshow grossing film in the history of Twentieth Century Fox up to that time. Today, Valley of the Dolls has been given a new lease on life. In the succeeding years it has begun to build momentum and is frequently revived and appreciated by a whole new generation of filmgoers who were too young to have seen it originally. But why would anyone want to revive a bad movie? Quite simply because Valley of the Dolls is no run of the mill bad movie. Anyone with a camera and a roll of film can make a bad movie, but it takes a certain talent to make a really bad movie. And Valley of the Dolls is a really bad movie. It is truly, deeply, and completely bad. In fact, it is perfectly bad. And what makes it so bad in addition to its inept script, direction and acting, is the deadly seriousness by which it takes itself. This film was not made as a parody even though it contains virtually every old show business cliché in existence. No, the makers of this film thought they were creating a masterpiece. And this celluloid monstrosity was made not by a cheap sleaze ball operation or an Ed Wood-type director, but was a major motion picture from a major motion picture studio with a top flight producer, director and cast. And it was based not only on a best-selling book, but on what was the best-selling novel of all time. Now, that is special!
What else is special is the home where two of the stars of this cult/camp classic lived. 1600 Summitridge is as good as Valley of the Dolls was bad. It is as Duke described it, a really lovely home that is both beautiful and inviting and one cannot help but wonder what would have happened had Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski been able to buy 1600 Summitridge, but alas, it was not then for sale. Now, however, it is and has been listed at $6,500,000. The Redfin listing may be found by clicking here and the home’s website, which has many more pictures, is here.
The very talented Patty Duke managed to survive her descent into the Valley of the Dolls and went on to a long and highly successful career in films, television and the theater that continues unabated today. And if this post hasn’t convinced you go out and immediately rent Valley of the Dolls, then I am a complete and utter failure.
Well then, at least buy the house.