Beverly Hills

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.

Josephine Dillon's house

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.

Kay Williams Gable's house

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.

Jean Harlow's N. Palm Dr home

in 1937

Jean Harlow Palm Dr house

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.

Lana Turner's Bedford Dr house

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.

Bela Lugosi Outpost Dr house

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.

Charlie Chaplin's house on Summit Dr

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.

Beach view of "Rolls Royce Row"

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.

Marion Davies Santa Monica beach house

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.

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

Marion Davies beach house in Santa Monica

The pool today.

Marion Davies beach house pool in Santa Monica

Just down the street is Norma Shearer’s gorgeous home. Newlyweds Norma and Irving Thalberg had this home built in the late 1920’s.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

 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.

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica
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!

Norma Shearer's Santa Monica house


Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

Norma Shearer

Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg's house in Santa Monica

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If you’ve read any biography of Clark or Carole, you’ll come across a mention of a certain Photoplay Magazine article titled “Hollywood’s Unmarried Husbands and Wives”. This seemingly innocent article caused quite an earthquake among the studios. It lists Hollywood couples who conduct themselves as if they are married—but they aren’t!  The article scolds:

And that, it seems, would point a lesson to the unique coterie of Hollywood’s unwed couples—Bob Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, who could get married if they really wanted to; George Raft and Virginia Pine, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable and the other steady company couples who might swing it if they tried a little harder. You can’t take your happiness with you.

 For nobody, not even Hollywood’s miracle men, has ever improved on the good old-fashioned, satisfying institution of holy matrimony. And, until something better comes along, the best way to hunt happiness when you’re in love in Hollywood or anywhere else—is with a preacher, a marriage license and a bagful of rice.

You can read the article  in its entirety here as it is the latest addition to the ever-growing Article Archive.

This article and the resulting public uproar sped up the marriage plans of Clark and Carole (much to MGM’s urging) and led to their March 1939 nuptials.

What became of the other couples mentioned in the article?

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Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck felt the pressure from the studio as well and were married on May 13, 1939 after months of speculation. Close friends of Clark and Carole, their union seemed happy for many years. But apparently not always. Barbara filed for divorce, supposedly tired of Bob’s cheating, and it was granted on February 21, 1951. Barbara never remarried. Bob married actress Ursula Theiss in 1954 and they had two children.

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George Raft and Virginia Pine (pictured with her daughter Joan) never did make it to the altar. I’m not sure when exactly they broke up, but I do know that by late 1939 George and widowed Norma Shearer were the hot couple of the moment. And after their breakup, George courted Clark’s ex-wife Ria for a bit!  By 1942, George was hot and heavy with Betty Grable. Despite his many high profile romances, he remained married to Grace Mulroney from 1923 until her death in 1970.

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Gilbert Roland became Constance Bennett’s husband #4 in April of 1941. Their marriage lasted until 1946, and they had two daughters. She married an Army Colonel two days after her divorce from Gilbert was final. Gilbert remarried in 1954.

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Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard were a complicated pair. Together for a few years,  they remained mum on their relationship status and seemed to be unmarried and living together. Charlie sent shockwaves through the gossip columns when he called Paulette his wife at the premiere of his film “The Great Dictator”  in 1940. But they never could produce a marriage certificate and no reporter could dig one up either. Supposedly, this inability to prove she was married to the man she was living with is what caused Paulette to be eliminated from consideration for her dream role, Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”. Married or not, by 1942, they were through. Charlie married 17-year-old Oona O’Neill  in 1943 and they had eight children.Paulette went on to marry actor Burgess Meredith in 1944 and writer Erich Remarque in 1958. She also dated Clark after her separation from Meredith in 1948.