Instead of hopping on a tour bus to be driven around, snapping photos and hoping to catch today’s stars in their bathrobes watering their front lawns, we were on a mission to find the homes of the past.
Let’s start with two of Clark’s wives…
Here is the house on Landale that Clark’s first wife Josephine Dillon lived in from her arrival in Hollywood until her death. Clark owned this property, paid the property taxes and let Josephine live there rent-free. He left her the house in his will.
After Clark’s widow Kay Williams sold the Encino ranch to developers in 1970’s, she moved into posh Beverly Hills to this house on the affluent Roxbury Drive with her three children.
She had some nice neighbors: Roxbury Drive was once home to stars such as Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Elizabeth Montgomery, Rosemary Clooney, Warner Baxter and more.
Two of Clark’s leading ladies…
Jean Harlow’s house on N. Palm Drive. This was the last home of Jean, who left this rented house for the hospital in 1937 and never returned to it. Rita Hayworth owned it in the 1950’s as well. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio later lived a few houses down.
Lana Turner’s house on Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills. This house is famous for being the place where Lana’s daughter Cheryl stabbed her mother’s boyfriend, mobster Johnny Stompanato, to death on April 5, 1958. Bedford Drive also had its share of famous residents, including Clara Bow, Jeanette MacDonald, Stan Laurel, Greta Garbo and Frank Sinatra.
Bela Lugosi’s house on Outpost Drive (as I mentioned before, the friend who accompanied me is a classic horror fan). When the house was built in 1935, it was known as the “All Steel” house for having a steel frame, making it “termite free.” Johnny Depp owned it at one point as well.
Charlie Chaplin’s house on Summit Drive. This home was known as the “Breakaway House” because Chaplin commissioned studio carpenters to build it on the cheap. It looks like it has been added on to, but apparently the original structure is still the backbone of the house.
On to Santa Monica…
The Santa Monica Pier
Not too far from the Santa Monica Pier is a stretch of gorgeous beach property located on what is now the Pacific Coast Highway. This once extremely private area was referred to as “Rolls Royce Row” by columnists and was not accessible to the general public. Odd to think that now, since it currently faces a busy six lane highway! Along this road lived Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in the last years of his life (with Sylvia Ashley), Marion Davies, Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg, and Cary Grant with roommate Randolph Scott.
The most impressive on this street was this beach house William Randolph Hearst built for his mistress Marion Davies in 1929. It had 34 bedrooms, 55 bathrooms and 3 separate guest houses, as well as a tennis court and swimming pool. Clark, alone and later with Carole, was a guest on many occasions.
After Marion sold it in 1947, it operated as a small hotel called Oceanhouse. In 1956, it became the exclusive Sand and Sea Beach Club. Unfortunately the main house was badly damaged in an earthquake in the 1990’s and it soon fell into severe disrepair. The majority of the property had to be torn down, leaving only one guest house and the original pool. In 2009,the property opened to the public as the Annenberg Community Beach House.
As it looked when Marion lived there. The remaining guest house is in the top right corner.
The guest house today. Usually, it is open to the public but a wedding was being held there the day we visited so we could not go in.
The pool today.
Just down the street is Norma Shearer’s gorgeous home. Newlyweds Norma and Irving Thalberg had this home built in the late 1920’s.
Because Irving was not a well man and often could not sleep, Norma had the entire house soundproofed so he couldn’t hear the ocean. Irving died of pneumonia in this very house in 1936. Norma moved out in 1942 but couldn’t bring herself to sell the property until 1961. Clark often visited this home to see Irving on MGM related-matters and attend Norma’s many parties.
What’s amazing to me is how far back the ocean is from the original picture and now. Now, there is quite a long stretch of beach between the house and the ocean. This picture from the 1930’s, you can see that the house’s backyard was the ocean!