One Smart Girl – Deanna Durbin (1921-2013)

DeannaDurbinMar37Bar none, the best summer job I ever had was as a tour guide at Universal Studios. It was such a thrill running around that famed and historic lot where so many legendary talents had worked. To walk in the footsteps of Lon Chaney, Tod Browning, John Ford, Erich Von Stroheim, Irving Thalberg, James Whale, Alfred Hitchcock and a million other greats was heaven for a film history nut like me. Of course, we were told about all these people and many more during our tour guide training classes, but one surprising name really stuck out for me – Deanna Durbin. I had never really heard of her before and apparently neither had my classmates. Her name elicited quizzical looks and when we were told she “saved” the studio by doing something called 100 Men and a Girl, everyone suddenly became Beavis & Butthead with all the maturity and wit of a group of 14 year-olds. Fortunately, over time I matured (well, not really), but I was able to learn more about who this Deanna Durbin person was and I was both charmed and fascinated by this remarkable lady. Personally, I have always enjoyed digging into the stories of those who, although in their day were world-famous, are not as well-remembered today. There are some amazing people awaiting rediscovery and Deanna Durbin is definitely one of them. Yes, as it turns out, she did “save” the studio and a whole lot more, becoming for a period one of the most popular and famous stars in the entire world. And then she happily left it all behind her. Garbo, as it turns out, wasn’t the only one who turned her back on Hollywood, Deanna Durbin did it too and never looked back.

Now, word has come down that Deanna Durbin has died at the age of 91 in France, where she had lived in peace and quiet for more than six decades. The moment I heard this news I was suddenly transported back to my tour guide days and began giggling again over 100 Men and a Girl jokes. (I guess at heart I’ll always be 14.) Ultimately, the more mature side of me took over and I thought a brief retrospective of this extraordinary person was in order. If you have never heard of Deanna Durbin, please allow me to introduce her. You’ll like her.

And, as this is principally an architecture blog, I will intersperse her biographical sketch with a series of Maynard L. Parker photographs of Durbin’s beautiful, but sadly now lost, Brentwood Heights estate @ 421 North Saltair Avenue, designed by the highly talented and highly regarded Alan G. Siple in 1942.

Siple Durbin 1

In 1942, The Architectural Digest did an extensive layout of the new Deanna Durbin – Vaughn Paul residence in Brentwood Heights. All photos by Maynard L. Parker.
Siple designed a charming English Colonial for Durbin.

Deanna Durbin was born Edna Mae Durbin in Winnipeg, Ontario, Canada on December 4, 1921. When she was one year old her family moved to Los Angeles where her father became involved in the stock and real estate markets. At an early age, friends and family members began to take notice of the child’s remarkable singing voice, a voice that continued to grow stronger and more resonant as she headed into her teenage years. By the time she was ten years old, her older sister Edith convinced Durbin’s parents to invest in singing lessons for their talented offspring and for the next few years Durbin took weekly lessons from a local vocal coach named Ralph Thomas.

Siple Durbin 2

Siple pulled out all the stops in designing the Durbin residence. Note the variety of materials used including brick and shingles. Lacy wrought-ironwork gives the house a New Orleans feel. The stonework on the patio is beautiful but does not lend itself well to bare feet!

In 1935, MGM announced plans to make a film based on the life of Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink and were looking for a young girl who could sing to play the legendary contralto as a child. Through Thomas, Durbin was brought to the attention of talent agent Jack Sherrill who in turn took Durbin to MGM to test for the role. The studio was suitably impressed and signed her to a six-month contract while details were worked out on the upcoming production.  Before production could get underway, however, Madame Schumann-Heink died and the project was dropped.  Now MGM found itself in a dilemma: A few months earlier they had signed another promising young singer named Judy Garland. Both Durbin and Garland were unknown and untested, and the studio realized they only needed one of them. Which one, however, was not clear. While trying to figure out what to do with the girls, the studio put them both in a short film entitled Every Sunday (1936), in which they performed a contest, with Durbin singing classical and Garland singing jazz, to draw crowds to a weekly concert in the park. The short was essentially not just a contest on film it was a test to see which girl the studio would keep. In the end, it was Garland who was chosen and Durbin’s contract was not renewed. On the surface, it appeared that Durbin’s promising young start had come to nothing, but across town events were developing at another studio that would ultimately change the course of Durbin’s life and career.

Siple Durbin 3

The Entrance Hall. All interior decorating was executed by the venerable firm of W. & J. Sloane.

Producer Joseph Pasternak had been the head of European operations for Universal Pictures until the threat of war had brought his operation to a close. Forced to return to the States, Pasternak and director Henry Koster had been given a two-year production deal by studio chief Carl Laemmle Jr.. Before they could even be set up in offices, however, Laemmle sold Universal to a syndicate of investors. The sale came at a time when the studio was struggling through a major financial crisis so serious that it was, in fact, teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. To cut costs, the new owners were anxious to cancel any deals made by the previous owners and they immediately sought to nullify the Pasternak agreement. The agreement, however, could not be abrogated, and the new vice president in charge of production, Charles E. Rogers, reluctantly assigned Pasternak and Koster office space and ordered them to come up with an idea for a low-budget film.  Koster suggested the title Three Smart Girls, and from there they built a story. As it turned out, the story was the easy part. Finding the right girl was another matter altogether. As Pasternak later wrote, “We needed a twelve-year-old girl with the indefinable charm of the girl who was once rightly called America’s sweetheart. That’s all. The plain fact was, everybody told us, there was no such creature.”  After searching fruitlessly for some time, Pasternak and Koster were considering changing the story to Three Smart Boys when Rufus LeMaire, Universal’s talent scout, informed him that he had found just the right girl and brought them a print of Every Sunday. Pasternak and Koster were thrilled with both girls, but after being informed Garland wasn’t available, they readily agreed they had found their perfect girl in Deanna Durbin. Pasternak recalled that Durbin on screen, “had a sweetness without being arch or cloying; she was a natural; she was pretty; she was wholesome; and she sang beautifully with a skill and ability far beyond her years.”

Siple Durbin 4

Although you have to look to spot any books in the “Library,’ it was nonetheless quite a charming space.

The fourteen-year-old Durbin was immediately signed to a contract at $125 a week and Koster personally took it upon himself to coach her in acting lessons in the weeks prior to shooting. The production of the low-budget film generated very little interest around either the Universal lot or Hollywood in general, yet Pasternak and Koster both knew something special was in the works. It wasn’t until the studio executives saw the first rough-cut of Three Smart Girls that, they too, knew they had a real find on their hands. As a result, Rogers increased the film’s meager budget and, although it was ostensibly about three smart girls, it was obvious that one of them, Durbin, had the makings of a star and scenes were rewritten to bolster her role. The plot of the film centered around three sisters’ efforts to keep their beloved father from marrying a shameless gold digger. Along the way, Durbin managed to find time to sing “My Heart Is Singing,” “Someone to Care For Me,” and “Il Bacio.” When it went into previews in December of 1936, audience members reacted with the same delight the studio executives felt about Durbin and suddenly a buzz began around Hollywood that long-suffering Universal might have discovered a new star. During this same period, Durbin was invited to sing at a party for Universal executives and their guests. One of those in attendance was comedian Eddie Cantor whose program on NBC was one of the most popular shows on radio. Cantor was so impressed by the teenaged songstress that he invited her to be a guest on one of his upcoming programs. Her appearance reportedly generated 4,000 fan letters. Cantor brought her back again and again until she became a regular on the program at the munificent salary of $1,000 a week.

Siple Durbin 5

The living room featured a piano that was actually used regularly.

Released on New Year’s Day 1937, Three Smart Girls became the studio’s highest grossing film of the year, bringing in a desperately needed $1,600,000 to Universal’s badly depleted coffers. The film was such a success that it spawned two sequels with Durbin, Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939) and Hers To Hold (1943). In 1948, the film was remade by MGM as Three Daring Daughters with Jane Powell in the Durbin role. To capitalize on the great success of Three Smart Girls, Universal quickly launched another Pasternak/Koster/Durbin vehicle, One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), which went on to even greater success than the first film. Depression-era audiences couldn’t seem to get enough of the pretty teenager with the angelic soprano voice who solved problems for the adults around her. Over the next few years, Universal churned out a series of popular Deanna Durbin films, films that were so successful that they are credited with single-handedly lifting the entire studio out of bankruptcy. It was estimated by at least one source that, by 1938, the Durbin pictures alone were generating seventeen percent of the studio’s total gross profits.

Siple Durbin 6

The dining room.

The Deanna Durbin phenomenon generated fan clubs worldwide and also brought about a merchandising bonanza with Deanna Durbin dolls, pajamas, hats, dresses, songbooks, and other such items, which netted the actress some $100,000 a year in royalties.  From the late thirties and into the forties, Durbin’s income increased exponentially until she became the highest-salaried female in the United States, earning, at her peak, nearly $500,000 per year. In 1938 she was honored, along with Mickey Rooney, with a special “juvenile” Academy Award that was presented, “for their significant contribution in bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players, setting high standards of ability and achievement.” As Durbin continued to grow into womanhood, producer Pasternak carefully orchestrated each step and in 1939, when she received her first screen kiss (from Robert Stack) in First Love, the event made headlines the world over. Two years later, she made the transition to full adulthood on celluloid with It Started with Eve.

Siple Durbin 7

Master bedroom.

Siple Durbin 8

Master Bedroom.

1941 proved a watershed year for Durbin and it marked the beginning of the end of her unprecedented rise to stardom. That year, much to the objection of all around her, including Pasternak and Universal, she decided to get married to cameraman Vaughn Paul. That same year, Pasternak left Universal for MGM and, without his expert guidance, Universal suddenly began to flounder in knowing how to properly handle their top-rated star. Over the next few years they placed her in one misfire after another most dramatically in 1944’s Christmas Holiday. With such a cheerful title, audiences were expecting a warm holiday romp with their singing do-gooder, instead, they were shocked to find a dark and depressing film noir with Durbin appearing as a singer in a seedy nightclub and married to an escaped killer played by none other Gene Kelly. The film was a rare Durbin flop at the box office, although she personally believed it was the best acting she had ever done. Durbin’s fans were still reeling from her 1943 divorce from Vaughn Paul when she married her producer on Christmas Holiday, Felix Jackson on June 13, 1945, a man considerably older than Durbin.

Siple Durbin 9

The Recreation Room was the most charming room in the house.

Siple Durbin 10

Recreation Room.

Siple Durbin 11

Recreation Room.

Durbin continued making films for Universal for the next three years, but after the failures of Something in the Wind (1947); Up in Central Park and For the Love of Mary (both 1948) she dramatically announced, at age twenty-seven, her retirement from motion pictures. Durbin did not mourn the loss of her screen career, having never felt comfortable with all of the publicity and the constant exposure that came with worldwide stardom. In 1949, she divorced Jackson and the following year married producer Charles Henri David. With her third marriage Durbin achieved what she had secretly dreamed of during her years as an international celebrity, “to live as a nobody.” The pair moved to France, settling in the village of Neauphle-le-Chateau, where she remained in blissful retirement for more than six decades.


Posted in Brentwood, Interesting People, Lost Hollywood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Garbo Rocks – A Great Blog!

GR1My friend Allison is an amazing lady on about 1,000 different levels. Not long ago did something so unbelievably cool and so unbelievably unexpected it makes my head hurt – she went to an auction and came back the owner of a collection of old record albums. But these aren’t just any old record albums. They were the personal records of none other than Greta Garbo! And they are vintage Rock ‘N Roll too!

When we think of Garbo we think lofty and unattainable. We assume she spent her days in faraway, weighty thoughts that only a rarefied few could ever possibly understand, yet here is something each and everyone has – a music collection. Whether or not it is on our iPads or still in “ancient” form on CDs we all have a music collection. This collection, mundane as it may be because of its commonality, is in fact not common at all but rather one of the most unique and telling things about us. It’s very personal. What type of music we enjoy is a window into our very souls. Imagine what we can learn about the mysterious Garbo by what music she grooved to up there in her Campanile apartment overlooking the East River.

Well, we don’t have to imagine because Allison has taken her surreal purchase and turned into a sublime blog. It’s called Greta’s Records and thanks to Allison you can groove along with Garbo as she rocks out to the Beatles, Chubby Checker, Professor Longhair and a wide and eclectic variety of other vintage performers. You will “vant to be alone” for a long time exploring this fun, fascinating blog put together as only the brilliant Allison Anders can do. You may never look at Greta Garbo the same way again!

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Happy Trails for the Hilltop House Ruins?

HTH_FP_Befor_After_03_07_2013_11x17_PresentationFor those of you who have been following the saga  of Apple Valley’s once beautiful but now ruined Hilltop House here at Paradise Leased, which has recently come up for sale, I have an interesting update to share. My friend Steve Richard is an Apple Valley architect who has long wanted to see something done to preserve the historic 20 acre site. He even launched a Facebook page devoted to the house with much information and many pictures. When he saw how many others out there shared his interest he began formulating a plan for how this quintessential high desert landmark can once again be a credit to the community. What he came up with is quite exciting and certainly worth considering. While I still cling to the will o’ wisp that someone will come and magically bring the house back to its 1957 origins I am nonetheless most intrigued by his proposal to repurpose the property for the whole community to enjoy as hiking trail/view spots. I was even more impressed when Steve showed me the design ideas, which are far more encompassing and engaging than I at first thought. It really is an amazing concept that not only utilizes literally the whole of Bass Hill it still doesn’t overwhelm the dramatic Hilltop House ruins.



I am fascinated by this bold and exciting idea and it may be the very best of both worlds. After all, in the event someone does buy Hilltop House and let’s say, miracle of miracles, they put it back to the way it used to be, well, we can look at it from far away and be satisfied it’s there I guess. However, a much more believable scenario is that a buyer will not want to put Hilltop House back at all but rather bulldoze the ruins and in its place erect a ginormous and shiny new McMansion, something we will all have to look at from far away for a looong time. Or a big restaurant or such other garish commercial venture. Opening up the site as a public hiking trail is sounding better and better all the time!

Steve has helped put together a grassroots organization to raise the necessary funds to purchase the Hilltop House site called Apple Valley Legacy Trail Steering Committee. Be sure and check out their newly-launched website here. There’s much info/photos and details on how to contribute to make the dream a reality.

As you can see, I’ve been warming to the idea just writing about it. What do you think Newt Bass, that sly genius of a promoter of his beloved Apple Valley would think of it? More importantly, what do you think about it?

Posted in Apple Valley, Paradise Elsewhere, Paradise For Sale or Lease | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Before the Birdhouse – Some Early Mellenthin Homes

Mellenthin 16601853129_2239f41098_oIf you know anything about San Fernando Valley real estate then you know the name William Mellenthin (1896-1979) is a magic one. One of the Valley’s pioneer developers, Mellenthin was responsible for constructing literally hundreds of homes throughout Valley (and elsewhere) from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.   Like his later contemporary Joseph Eichler, Mellenthin built homes that were a cut above the standard cookie cutter tract house, homes that were high quality in both architectural design and in the materials used therein. Mellenthin knew what features to add to make a house attractive to prospective home buyers and he became renowned for his so-called “birdhouse” additions (dovecotes, to be technical) over the garage that were a hallmark of many of his structures.  Birdhouse houses became, and remain, an almost ubiquitous sight throughout the San Fernando Valley and could, I suppose, even be called the quintessential Valley home.


20_SR13023857_11_1360954450Having a dovecote as part of a house design was hardly anything new, but it was not particularly common in modern houses of the time. Mellenthin added the feature to what would otherwise be considered a traditional ranch-style house to give it a little extra pizzazz, which it apparently did based on his success and that of his many imitators. A true Mellenthin “Birdhouse” house is a hot item in San Fernando Valley real estate, particularly if one can be found in near original condition, which is quite rare. Mellenthin is so pervasive it is amusing to see “Mellenthin style” or “Mellenthin inspired” terms popping up in real estate ads for any house in the Valley with a dovecote or even just some birds sitting on the roof.


Although he was described in several 1930’s news articles as a “wealthy architect,” I haven’t been able to determine if Mellenthin was formally trained/certified in that profession. In fact, my sense is he probably wasn’t. In 1935, it was stated that he was celebrating his fifteenth year as a builder, but city, census and other records have his profession through the 1920’s as being a bond salesman. I wonder if Mellenthin dabbled in home building as a side job until the Great Depression put an end to his days as a bond dealer. That same Depression, however, should have also put an end to any ambitions as a home builder for the duration, but I find it fascinating that Mellenthin’s building success began and grew right out of the depths of the economic disaster that was putting an end to the careers of so many other architects/developers. Whether he was a “wealthy architect” or not, he assuredly must have been wealthy at least to some degree as he had the capital to invest at a time when many others didn’t. Mellenthin was able to use the downturn to his advantage and was able to buy land and materials cheaply and hire the best workmen to construct his homes.

CA Modern 1

Note how BIG Mellenthin’s name is and how small Leo F. Bachman’s, the actual architect’s, name is.

I’m also intrigued, and would love to get the answer from one of our wise Paradise Leased readers, as to whether or not the famous Mellenthin Birdhouse houses were in fact actually designed by Mellenthin himself or if he utilized the services of an obviously unsung in-house architect at the William Mellenthin Co.  Mellenthin was clearly very good at public relations and somewhere along the way the actual architect may have been lost in the shuffle. A perfect example of this are the early Mellenthin homes. There were more than 100 of them, but buried in the details is the fact they were designed by Leo F. Bachman, a competent Los Angeles designer of the period. This information should in no way mitigate the important contribution Mellenthin made to Valley development, but likewise Bachman should be given credit where credit is due on his designs, which were interesting and fairly diverse. As you will see by the below examples, the homes were generally done in what was touted at the time as “modern” California Monterey, but he got a Colonial in there as well. And…nary a birdhouse in sight. That must have been his bosses idea! So without further ado, please enjoy a sampling of pre-Birdhouse Mellenthins from 1936.

THE BARKER BROS. BUDGET HOME. 1936                                                          12018 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

Barker Bros. 1

(Mott Studios)

Mellenthin partnered up with the venerable Barker Bros. Department Store to create 1936’s “Budget House” as both a showcase for Mellenthin’s budget friendly home designs and Barker Bros. budget friendly furnishings.

Is the small home hard to furnish, difficult to make interesting and individual on a limited budget? Not at all, when regard for design, color and proportion are used in its planning, say decorators of Barker Brothers’ Hollywood who have just completed the interior decoration of a distinctive model home at 12018 Laurel Terrace Drive in San Fernando Valley.

Barker Bros. 3

(Mott Studios)

A generously sized living room is furnished in maple, with much modern comfort apparent. The color scheme comprises browns, yellow and white with tomato red for accent notes. There are off-white walls, deep brown broadloom floor covering and white Venetian blinds.

Barker Bros. 2

(Mott Studios)

A small dining-room is equally distinctive.

Barker Bros. 4

The house itself is of modern colonial style, and interior furnishings have been planned to carry out the feeling of simple informality expressed in the architecture.

This model home is attracting crowds of interested visitors daily.

12018 LT

(Google Earth)

NEILL DAVIS RESIDENCE. 1933                                                                                    2172 Moreno Drive, Moreno Highlands

Davis 1

(Mott Studios)

Although he was known for his San Fernando Valley homes, Mellenthin built houses throughout the Los Angeles area. Here is an example of one his larger and earlier homes, built for Neill Davis, State Secretary of the Building-Loan League in Silverlake. I find the design of this hillside home particularly pleasing with its L-shape creating a nice courtyard nestled into the hillside with big outdoor fireplace and other rustic elements. The second-floor Monterey balconies on both sides of the house are noteworthy.

Davis 2

2172 Moreno

Oh no! They muddled it. What have they done to the balconies? (Google Earth)

HOWARD E. HENSEL RESIDENCE. 1934                                                                12255 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

Hensel 1

(Mott Studios)

For the Hensel house, Bachman discarded California precedents for a Williamsburg Colonial example. A modest little home of just two bedrooms and one bath made larger in appearance by its steeply pitched roof. Note how Bachman raised the roof, if you will, higher for the central core. This little charmer was built for the credit manager of the Lyon Van and Storage Company.

Hensel 2

12255 LT

(Google Earth)

MARY REEVES HUNTER RESIDENCE. 1934                                                          12304 Hillslope Street, North Hollywood

Hunter 1

(Mott Studios)

Here Bachman returned to the early California ranch house precedents with board and batten walls and wide terraces opening off either side of the living room. Notice how every single principal room of the house has access to a terrace.

Hunter 2

12304 Hillslope

(Google Earth)

JOHN J. KIELY RESIDENCE. 1935                                                                                6116 Fulton Avenue, North Hollywood

Kiely 1


One of the larger Mellenthin properties, the Kiely house was built on 2.8 acres, which was landscaped in citrus trees and other lush plantings. The estate included a 20×40 swimming pool with high and low diving boards, dressing rooms and showers. There was also a three room guest house as well as complete equestrian facilities including 5 box stalls and a corral. During the late 1930’s, the estate was home to popular radio star Kenny Baker.

Kiely 2


Kiely 3


Kiely 4


In 1965, the estate was demolished to make way for the 43-unit Fulton Chateau apartments.

6116 Fulton

(Google Earth)

THOMAS F. O’BRIEN RESIDENCE. 1935                                                                  12040 Laurel Terrace Drive, North Hollywood

O'Brien 1

(Mott Studios)

The O’Brien Residence was built for Deputy District Attorney Thomas F. O’Brien in 1935. The most notable feature of the O’Brien Residence is its interesting double fireplace separating the living room and sun room. Guest bedroom seems to be a very busy place, but it’s nice to have one.

O'Brien 2

12040 LT

(Google Earth)

As you can see by the current Google image, something strange has happened to the O’Brien house. It looks as if a section of the house was chopped off, a garage put up and a driveway added to another property. Guess is that O’Brien subdivided his property and cut off a section of his own home to do it. It might have been rebuilt altogether as city records show a 1941 completion date.

FLORENCE PAULSON RESIDENCE. 1934                                                                 3725 Mound View Avenue, North Hollywood

Paulson 1

(Mott Studios)

Another California Ranch, the Paulson house was part of a group of Bachman-designed and Mellenthin-built homes on Mound View. For a small, two-bedroom house, Bachman still managed to include two terraces and by stretching the house out, gave it the illusion of larger size. I think the way Bachman laid out the floor plan of this house was well done with a nice separation of public/private spaces.

Paulson 2

3725 Mound View

(Google Earth)

And for those of you keeping score at home I thought you’d enjoy a list of Mellenthin/Bachman homes from the 1933-1936 period. Unless otherwise noted, addresses are all North Hollywood (Studio City, Valley Village, etc.) And where possible I’ve added date of construction and original client. Do you have a Mellenthin original?

11923 Addison Street (1935) – Grace Mottram

505 South Arden Boulevard, L.A. (1936 Remodel of 1921 House) – Edward Sears, Jr.

4836 Ben Avenue – Pete E.F. Burns

4905 Ben Avenue (Alt. 12009 Huston) (1936) – C.A. Balch

4957 Ben Avenue (1935) – Louis Laughlin

4961 Ben Avenue (1935) – John Swallow

5119 Bluebell Avenue (Demolished) – Jack West

10717 Bluffside Avenue (Demolished) – Gertrude Michael

4516 Densmore Street, Encino (Demolished) – Ernest Pagano

4147 Dixie Canyon Drive (1934) – T.M. Bell

4147 Faculty Avenue, Lakewood Village (1935) – Melvin Diebele

4251 Faculty Avenue, Lakewood Village (1935) – Roy V. Schwab

4616 Fulton Avenue, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Southwest Development Corp.

4942 Gentry Street (1935) – C.B. Warren

4830 Gloria Street, Encino (Demolished) – Reeves Dutton

12003 Hartsook Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Francis King

12038 Hartsook Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Virginia Michael

12220 Hillslope Street (1936) – Frank Figgins

12241 Hillslope Street (1935) – Edward Churchill

12127 (12125) Holly Glen Place (1936) – Charlotte Harriss

12138 Holly Glen Place (1936) – Milton C. Brittain

11853 Kling Street (Demolished) – Chalmers O. Stout

475 La Mirada Avenue, San Marino (1936) – John Pierce

5601 Laurel Canyon Boulevard (Demolished) – Ward Groshong

12055 Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – J.D. Farquhar

12145 Laurel Terrace Drive (1935) – Isadore Gross

12180 Laurel Terrace Drive (1935) – H. Anderson

12305 Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – W.P. Esrey

12382 (12384) Laurel Terrace Drive (1934) – John McKeon

11902 Magnolia Boulevard (Demolished) – Sun Record Home Beautiful

644 South Mariposa Street, Burbank (1935) – William A. Godsoe

12113 Maxwellton Road (1935) – Alice Greenfield

3743 Mound View Avenue (1934) – Arthur N. Watson

3774 Mound View Avenue (1935) – R.H. Pearsall

3781 Mound View Avenue (1935) – Ira Rohland

3804 Mound View Avenue (Demolished) – Robert Fellows

3822 Mound View Avenue (1935) – Ralph Everson

11856 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Robert W. Stanhope

11941 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Sam Bevis

12039 Otsego Street, Laurelhurst (1936) – Roy Culverwell

11915 Riverside Drive (Demolished) – John Ewing

12940 Riverside Drive, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Helen White

16325 San Fernando Mission Boulevard, San Fernando (Demolished) – Judge Oda Faulconer

4053 Shady Glade Avenue (Demolished) – Helen L. White

4147 Shady Glade Avenue (1932) – Roy Atwell

3145 Silverado Drive, Moreno Highlands (1936) – O.W. Dickens

6253 Simpson Street (1935) – J.A. Ernst

14310 Valley Heart Drive, Van Nuys (Demolished) – Floyd L. Knudtson

2150 Valley Oak Drive, Hollywood – A.B. Hess

5667 Valley Oak Drive, Hollywood (1936) – Walter Ward

4727 Van Noord Street, Monterey Village (Demolished) – Southwest Development Corp.

12108 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Frederick H. Starr

12123 Viewcrest Road (1934) – C. Duncan Hutton

12152 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Carl L. Sutton

12205 Viewcrest Road (1936) – Clifford R. Gard

12230 Viewcrest Road (Demolished) – Kolia Levienne

12301 Viewcrest Road (1935) – Joseph LaShelle

1200 Viscano Street, Glendale (1926) – E.F. Franklin

10503 Whipple Street, Toluca Lake (Demolished) – Roy H. Henry

7223 Woodman Avenue, Van Nuys (Demolished) – John J. Schmitz

7218 Yarmouth Avenue, Encino (1935) – Virda Mann

Penprose 1

(Mott Studios)

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You’re Invited to Enjoy “The View From Santa Monica” Esther McCoy Lecture This Saturday!

MCoy1If you love Southern California’s historic modernistic architecture and you have not yet “met” Esther McCoy then you will be in for a treat. From 1950 up until her death in 1989, McCoy wrote and lectured extensively and brilliantly on the architecture and architects of California, most notably the great modernists such as Richard Neutra and R.M. Schindler. Her groundbreaking Five California Architects (Greene & Greene, Maybeck, Gill and Schindler) first published in 1960 remains a must read for any serious students of California architectural heritage. McCoy was also deeply involved with John Entenza and Arts & Architecture and it was she who literally wrote the book on the Case Study houses with Modern California Houses: Case Study Houses (1962).

I just learned that this Saturday (April 6) @ 12:00 Noon, author Susan Morgan, who has done so much to honor and further McCoy’s legacy, will be giving a presentation in Santa Monica at the Montana Branch Library, 1704 Montana Avenue, on McCoy entitled The View From Santa Monica. It sounds like it will be fascinating with lots of great images and heretofore little known details. If there is still any room left I highly suggest you head over there and attend. You’ll enjoy “meeting” Esther McCoy through her brilliant chronicler, Susan Morgan.

Posted in Architects, General Announcements, Santa Monica | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Who-Dunne-It – Can You Solve the Postcard Mystery?


(Borrowed with reverence from Edward Gorey’s Amphigorey Also.)

It’s never happened before but the ladies of Paradise Leased are stumped! As you may know, these gals pride themselves on knowing EVERYTHING, but here they have hit a brick wall. I haven’t seen them this depressed since Sanjaya was voted off American Idol. This has become a real crisis here and nothing I drink seems to help. Clearly, something needs to be done and I am therefore appealing to our super sleuthing Paradise Leased readers to solve this mystery and get the girls back to work. Here’s the mystery – a set of postcards showing the homes of Wallace Beery in Beverly Hills and Irene Dunne in Holmby Hills. While no one would ever get these two mixed up in a bar their houses seem to be another matter altogether.


Dunne, Irene 2

So did they simply both live in the same house at one time or another? Swapping mansions was, and remains, a favorite sport of movie stars. A logical explanation but an apparently incorrect one. No record I’ve ever seen has connected them to the same house. And I’ve seen a lot! Well then maybe they used the same architect who was lazy and just changed the dormers? Hey, it’s happened before. Check out these postcards.

Ray, Charles 1

scan0013 (2)

A perfect copy even down to the drain pipe!

Most people assume quite reasonably that Charles Ray and Betty Compson lived in the same house, but its not true. These are postcards of two entirely separate houses! Charles Ray’s house was located at 901 North Camden Drive in Beverly Hills and Betty’s was all the way over in Hollywood at 7315 Hollywood Boulevard. Now that’s a lazy architect! The house so nice they built it twice. Charles Ray’s home still stands, in altered form, but Betty’s, which was later rented by Sam Goldwyn, has gone the way of the Dodo.


Another card showing the questionable Dunne house.

But back to the question at hand. It turns out both Wallace Beery and Irene Dunne built houses at exactly the same time. But did they build exactly the same house? In 1935, Beery built a French Colonial mansion at the corner of Alpine Drive and Sunset Boulevards in Beverly Hills and Dunne constructed a French Colonial mansion at the corner of Parkwood and Faring Road in the Holmby Hills. Aha! Well, not quite.  Here’s what they looked like as built.


Beery’s looks like the card! (LAPL)


Dunne’s doesn’t. (LAPL)

As you can see, the “Loveable Ole Cuss” Beery’s place perfectly matched his postcard, but Dunne’s…well, no so much. No lazy architect here. In fact very busy ones. The Beery house @ 816 North Alpine Drive was designed by Max C. Drebin, a prolific designer of the period while Dunne’s was designed by the venerable Sumner Spaulding of Webber & Spaulding.

Dunne, Irene 1

Could Irene Dunne have rented Beery’s house then? No! swear the ladies of Paradise Leased (and do they swear). The place was all Wally’s until his death in 1949. Dunne needed not the Beery house. She lived on Faring until her passing in 1990. Plus, if you look carefully at the two cards, they are not quite exact. There are several notable differences including the dormers and the sidewalk, etc.

So what gives? I was fairly ready to chalk this up as a trick/mistake of the post card vendor, but again, problems. The “wrong” Dunne house was printed on cards by both Western Novelty and Tichnor Art. We’re confounded, baffled, befuddled and bewildered. We need the Awful Truth here. What do you think?

Oh, and “Get a life,” has already been suggested. Thank you.

These are the kind of weighty issues that keep us up nights at Paradise Leased.

Beery Dunne

Well, they both wore similar dresses. Is it inconceivable they lived in similar houses? And who wore it better?

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Save the Date – April 8, 2013 for Aaroe Architectural #21

e1364320233_28Here’s your invite to the latest presentation of Aaroe Architectural’s continuing education series, this one featuring top interior designer James Anthony Magni.  There’s a book signing afterwards too!

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