Friday, May 4, 2012

Hollywood at Home: Rudolph Valentino's Falcon Lair


I've been wanting to do a series on the fabulous estates of our glamorous Hollywood stars for some time now. Perhaps my interest, fascination began when I was just a kid growing up in southern California on one particular weekend while our family was doing the touristy things around Los Angeles including a visit to Grauman's Theatre and a drive up to the Hollywood sign.  After a few hours of driving up and down Sunset we managed to find enough nerve to talk our dad into stopping off at one of those busy intersections where an over zealous crowd was eagerly purchasing those cheesy star house tour maps.

If anyone has found themselves navigating one of those old Hollywood home maps, it's not easy. Especially if you're not all that familiar with the steep roads that wind around and up into Benedict Canyon or how Bel Air, Studio City, Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, Holmby Hills and West Hollywood have changed since most of those maps were first printed.  Let's face it! If you are able to locate even five of the estate addresses provided you're very lucky. The only two that I remember are Lucille Ball's large estate which takes up an entire corner and the Falcon Lair estate in all it's grandeur, nestled at the top of a winding road in Benedict Canyon. (For you Lucy fans, I'll be featuring two of her homes in a future post!)

Several years ago while visiting a friend in Los Angeles, I brought up Falcon Lair, how I would love to see it again and before I knew it we were off on a motorbike, spending the entire afternoon (without a star map or proper address) trying to find it.  We never did locate it that day and upon returning home I found out that the main house had been torn down.  I was so sad to hear that, the fact that anyone would purchase the property with the intention of bulldozing it, one of the very first large estates, designed in the Wallace Neff style but lived in by of one of Hollywood's most famous silent stars, Rudolph Valentino before the eccentric heiress, Doris Duke took up residence years later.

'Falcon Lair' can be seen on each side of the main gate. To the left is the servants quarters above the garage. The metal pennant can be seen flying above the main house with it's specially designed V and a falcon. (As it appeared while Valentino was in residence in 1925)

Falcon Lair as it appeared recently via Google Earth. The staff apartment, garages are intact, look the same as well as the gate lamps and the "falcon Lair' signs. The iron gate has been replaced with heavy wooden gates. (The original mailbox is too cute) The garage which was accessed from inside the estate was large enough to house five of Valentino's cars as well as a large gas tank so he didn't ever have to fill up at some gas station during one of his regular drives.  As his career skyrocketed, Rudy did all that he could to avoid large crowds, situations where he would be approached.

Another view of the staff quarters and garage as you approach Falcon Lair coming up from Cielo Drive below. One of the reasons the apartment was built at the front entrance was to house Rudolph's full time security guards who also acted as gate attendants.  

Falcon Lair: How it came to be.

Located at 1436 Bella Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. (At the time the estate was built the address was just 2 Bella Drive). The estate was designed  in the popular "California Style" in 1924.  Upon completion the estate was initially occupied by Realtor George E. Read. At that time the property which sat on over 8 acres of land with it's main entrance on Bella Drive providing access to a large garage and a detached main house at 4700 sq ft. The initial design also included large horse stables with a separate entrance now known as 10051 Cielo Drive. When Rudy bought Falcon Lair, Cielo Drive was not yet named as it was a rarely used dirt road, well hidden in Benedict Canyon. (More on that famous street a bit later.)

It should be noted that when Falcon Lair was built, Benedict Canyon was pretty isolated other than Doug Fairbanks and Mary Pickfords grand Pickfair estate further down the canyon. Then the large and popular Beverly Hills Hotel that still sits at the base of Benedict Canyon, the land behind and above it was just starting to be bought up, developed little by little for the Hollywood elite to build mega compounds, take advantage of the isolation, fantastic views of Los Angeles down below.  Soon after Falcon Lair was built, Harold Lloyd would build his huge, extravagant "Green Acres" mansion just down the hill. (I'll be writing on it a bit later) Corinne Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Tom Mix would also build huge estates just down the hill from Valentino's compound. John Gilbert was one of Rudy's first neighbors, though, having already discovered the untouched beauty of Benedict Canyon in 1923. But I don't want to get ahead of myself here.

A side view of the main house and its retaining walls as it appeared during the 1920's-1990's.

A view of the property at Whitley Heights where Rudy resided before taking up residence at Falcon Lair. This photo would have been taken after Rudy relocated and obviously before it was bulldozed to make way for the new Hollywood Freeway. (Such a shame!),

In 1924, silent actor Rudolph Valentino was married to his second wife, costume and set designer Natasha Rambova. The two were spending a lot of time traveling abroad where they were buying up antiques as fast as they could find them in between their work back in Hollywood. Rudolph was very interested in medieval armory and Spanish sculpture, while Natasha was busy purchasing tapestries, paintings and furniture. They where living in Rudolph's Whitley Heights home at that time which they quickly realized they had outgrown. Not only were they having to keep most of their recent purchases in storage, Rudolph wanted a home with land where he could ride and board his horses, a place where he could build kennels, a proper dog run for his beloved German Shepard's, a Spanish greyhound and his Italian mastiffs.  


Valentino loved his horses, fancy cars and especially his dogs which roamed around his property freely at night to deter intruders, sightseers.

It was Rudolph's friend and Whitley Heights neighbor, Gloria Swanson that first told him about the secluded estate. He fell in love with it instantly, Natasha not so much. Their relationship had been on a downward spiral for some time with Rudy hoping that a new home where they would have plenty of room to hold their lavish parties, a place to spend more time outdoors might bring them back together. Rudolph even offered the entire estate to do whatever she pleased as long as he had a business office and masculine study. She wasn't interested, didn't feel they could make things work at this point so she set sail for Paris while Rudolph moved into the estate which he would soon name Falcon Lair after the screenplay The Hooded Falcon, written for him by his wife Natasha

The much smaller Whitley Heights estate owned by Valentino in the early to mid 1920s (Came to be known as Villa Valentino.) Where he resided with his 2nd wife Natasha until he moved to Falcon Lair. The house was at 6776  Wedgewood Place, Whitley Heights. The home has since been torn down to make way for the Hollywood freeway.

Rudolph posing in front of his Whitley Heights home, Villa Valentino during the early 1920's.

Rudolph paid $175,000 for Falcon Lair in 1925. $150,000 for the structures and main property they sat on then another $25,000 for the additional undeveloped acreage.  (Well, he actually got a loan for the estate which George Read would only accept after Rudy's boss, studio chief Joseph Schenck vouched for the loan to purchase the estate and property.) Rudy was making $550,000 a year with a new contract also giving him 45% of any future film profits.  He could certainly afford his new Shangra La and all of the renovations which would start immediately. He needed something to keep his mind off of his broken heart and Falcon Lair offered him plenty to do.


Valentino at his Falcon Lair stables

Upon taking residence, Rudolph was officially separated from Rambova but he wasn't lonely for long. Within a few short weeks a certain actress named Pola Negri could be seen coming and going down that winding driveway all hours of the day and night.  Of course she wasn't the only one trying to gain entry. Once Rudy's address got out, women made their way up Benedict Canyon in droves, hoping to get a glimpse of their idol or even worse, they would walk right up to his front door.  To gain some privacy back, Valentino had a very high concrete wall erected around the estate and his dogs were let loose at night to guard the property.  He also purchased the adjoining six 1/2 acres so that he could ride his horses without the worry of fans, neighbors ogling at him every morning.



Pola Negri and Rudolph enjoy the Arabian horses that he rode every morning around his vast estate.


Rudolph not only had a high concrete wall erected around the estate he had a second level added to the garage to use as the new staff quarters.  To the left of the main house is where more horse stables and the dog kennels were built. (The property already had large horse stables as well as proper staff housing with an attached garage for motorcars at the bottom of Benedict Canyon.) Once all of the renovations were complete, every wall was painted taupe. Obviously a color that Rudy adored since he painted every interior wall of the estate taupe to match as well as covering the gorgeous travertine tiled floors with taupe carpet, leaving only the main entryway and dining room tiles exposed. I'm sure the carpet complimented Rudy's vast collection of medieval swords, shields and armor quite nicely.  Oh, and the floor to ceiling portrait he had on display of himself dressed in full armor with a beautiful maiden sat adoringly at his feet. That of course was just one of the splendid things that would catch your eye as you walked through the 17th century Florentine, solid oak front doors.  

The Falcon Lair living room with it's hand carved furniture, many swords, armor and heavy oriental rugs and tapestries purchased during Valentino's travels.

To add to the richness, the library, den and main living room drapes were made of heavy red velvet.  The library shelves were loaded down with the likes of Dickens, Dumas and Goethe to name just a few. Throughout the estate you could find Gothic antiques, medieval weapons, a French throne, closets over flowing with Rudolph's vast collection of hand made suits, hats, shoes, riding clothes and jewelry. He lived like a mini Randolph Hearst, filling his secluded mecca to the brim.  As a matter of fact, if Rudolph had not died so suddenly I'm pretty certain his lavish lifestyle would have had him in a bind eventually.  But he had no worries about what his lavish spending might lead to during 1925. He was enjoying life behind his concrete walls, often entertaining his close friends Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks. 

The fountain was installed by Valentino as well as over 50 Italian Cypress trees and an Italian garden complete with imported European and Chinese plants and shrubs. 

Valentino in his den surrounded by his acquisitions which many visitors to Falcon Lair felt made the home feel more like a movie set than a place to relax.

Throughout 1925 Valentino invested several hundred thousand dollars into Falcon Lair, making it the show place he had dreamed of since first arriving in Hollywood.  Sadly, he would only be able to enjoy it for a year as he died suddenly in August of 1926.  

The estate was left to Valentino's siblings but so much was owed on it, borrowed against it that it was sold off along with it's contents to repay Rudolph's debts. Occasionally the original auction catalogs with a full listing of Valentino's estate items will go up for sale but unfortunately I've not been able to see one let alone purchase one. If I do I'll be sure to share the contents.

Rudy is ready for a bit of fencing at his beloved Falcon Lair.

Rudolph admires his magnificent Falcon Lair from a balcony atop the main house.

Falcon Lair: 1926 and beyond.

In 1933, silent actor Harry Carey moved in to Falcon Lair for a short time. But he soon became spooked upon hearing clanking, footsteps all hours of the night so he exited for quieter, less haunted digs. Silent actor Henry Casey experienced the same thing. One by one, prospective buyers and renters vacated the eery estate, eventually leaving it vacant for a period of eight years.  (Throughout the years, there have been many stories of residents, guests and staff of Falcon Lair seeing Rudy's shadow sitting near his master suite window, seeing his shadow walking through his horse stables as well as odd noises, footsteps and different dogs running about the grounds.)

It was during this time that the hired gardeners and caretakers developed a scheme to profit off of Valentino's continued fame. They would scam the occasional fan that made the pilgrimage up the canyon in hopes of scoring anything once belonging to their idol.  A caretaker would slip them a note instructing them to meet him alone later that evening where he would sell anything from a random piece of clothing, a candlestick, hat pen, etc, claiming they were one of a kind pieces owned by Valentino. (They even sold feathers, claiming they were plucked from Rudy's favorite down pillow). Of course every time they were caught then fired another one would soon get wind of the easy money making scheme and it would start all over again.  (I wonder how many out there have a prized possession of Valentino's that was handed down to them by a love one that in fact is some old hand me down owned by Pee Wee Parsnip the gardener?

Harry Carey Sr. during the late 1920's at Falcon Lair. He couldn't handle the ghosts.

Falcon Lair was purchased then rented out from the late 30's through the 1950's. Some of the more famous renters were actor Edgar Bergen, actress Ann Harding and husband Werner Janssen, actress Gloria Swanson for a few months during 1951.  The mobster, Bugsy Siegel even rented the estate for a few months in the 1940's.

Around 1952, Gloria Swanson told her good friend, tobacco heiress Doris Duke about Falcon Lair. Duke, who had a large estate on the East coast was looking for a large, secluded estate near Hollywood so she would have a vacation home, a place close to her then boyfriend, jazz musician Joe Castro.  (Having lived at Falcon Lair for a short time as well as being a frequent guest of Valentino's while he resided there, she did find it for him as well, I wonder if Gloria let Duke know that the place was haunted and it didn't bring Rudy much luck? That Gloria, what a card!)

The eccentric heiress, Doris Duke would purchase Falcon Lair in 1952, reside there part time until her death in 1993.


A gorgeous view of Falcon Lair as it appeared once Doris Dukes renovations were complete. The house would remain virtually unchanged until the late 1990's, a wonderful reminder of the early days of Hollywood, perched high in the hills of Benedict Canyon.

Although Doris's relationship with Joe Castro didn't last, her love of Falcon Lair would. She used the estate as her only west coast home when not at her east coast farm, Duke Farms or her Hawaiian vacation compound she named Shangra La. Duke spared no expense on Falcon Lair, renovating, adding new buildings, landscaping, a swimming pool, furnishing it with her rare art and other antiquities. Her taste was as eccentric as Rudy's, purchasing Napoleon's war room then having it set up in one of the large dens at Falcon Lair.  Unlike Rudy, Doris spent money but she also invested her money wisely. Her inheritance was 30 million in 1925. At the time of her death, Doris had built her fortune up to a billion dollars.  She was smart when it came to money, investing but not so much when it came to her choices in men.  

Doris, suffering from several ailments and recovering from a recent knee replacement returned to Falcon Lair full time in 1993, accompanied by her beloved pugs and her 'companion', butler Bernard Lafferty.  She would pass away at the end of 1993 while at home at Falcon Lair.  The majority of her estate and Falcon Lair would go to her Doris Duke Foundation.  In 1998 the estate was sold through Christies auction house for 3.9 million.  You can view photos of her expensive furnishings, the interiors of Falcon Lair while she resided there by clicking HERE. Also, if you would like to see the long list of inventory from Doris Dukes personal papers, receipts throughout the time she owned Falcon Lair you can click HERE. The Duke estate and all records are kept through the Duke University Library. I did contact them to see if the folders could be accessed but I was informed that they haven't been loaded into PDF format yet, they can be seen by visiting the Duke Library for now. (You can still scan the provided lists and read all of the routine purchases, maintenance being done on Falcon Lair throughout the years.)

A very overgrown Falcon Lair in the 1980's.

When Falcon Lair was finally purchased again in 1998, the intention of the buyer was to restore it to it's original glory.  Of course after it had sat unoccupied again for over 5 years the original structures were in bad shape.  Realizing the restoration would cost millions it was soon decided that the lower, original stables and staff quarters, garage could be sold off with 3 acres, freeing up some money for the main project.  

The original stables that face Cielo Drive. The large copper loops that Valentino used to tie off his horses remain on the original stable doors.  

You can see part of the old Falcon Lair structures at the top of he hill. Far above the old stables, garage and staff quarters.


The large stables can be seen behind the concrete wall, iron fencing.


The original stables seen above are located at what is now 10051 Cielo Drive. Just recently they have been restored again, a gorgeous pool was added. The house is currently listed for $1.91 million or you can rent it for $6,625/mo.  I hope you'll click on the link HERE to see the listing, the gorgeous photos of the renovation of Valentino's old stables, staff quarters. (I love that the large stable walls, doors and the imported tiles were left intact.

In this aerial view you can see the restored stables (from above link, pics) near the bottom right here and the main Falcon Lair property high above.


I mentioned that Doris Duke lived at Falcon Lair from the 1950's through the 1990's but I also wanted to mention that she was good friends with the actress Sharon Tate who lived just right down the hill from Doris's large house and just several feet down from her stables, garages on Cielo Drive. When Sharon Tate was killed so tragically in 1969 she was residing at 10050 Cielo Drive. The Falcon Lair stables, staff quarters sat on 10051 Cielo Drive (pictured above).  Sadly, Doris and everyone living in the vicinity was of no assistance to Tate or her house-guests that horrible night in 1969. (After Tate's murder the ranch home was occupied for a short time by Nine Inch Nails musician, Trent Reznor. In 1994 the residence and its guest house was completely bulldozed and the addressed changed to 10066 Cielo Drive.  The new mansion that occupies the land is very modern, shares no resemblance to the original which is a good thing.)

An aerial view shows just how close Sharon Tate's Cielo Drive home was to Falcon Lair and staff quarters. (follow the narrow road and Falcon Lair is the first property with the pool in the cliff side 'center of pic')

From, 2000 to 2006 the new owner of Falcon Lair (the main property) was doing his best to restore it while maintaining the integrity of the original structure of the main house. He would eventually strip it down to the frame and foundation leaving only the original Valentino crest above the door frame, the familiar metal pennant and a couple of recessed ceramic pieces which can be viewed HERE and a closer view of the front entrance HERE. You can also see a great photo of the old garages still intact HERE then part of Rudy's prized garden HERE It's pretty sad to see and even sadder when I found out that the owner gave up on the restoration in 2006, bulldozing the main house to the ground.  

In this aerial view the main house is still standing although it's been stripped to the studs. There was still hope for the majestic Falcon Lair. The original gate house and garage are left intact, still are today.

In this more recent aerial view you can see that the main house was leveled. All that's left are stairs and the gate house, garage which you viewed above.  Just so sad to see. You'll notice that the original courtyard fountain remains although it looks a bit sad then the pool which Duke installed is still there ready for a new house and occupants.

 Another aerial view of the property without the main house.

 Another recent view of the gate house, garage as it appears today.

 This is a separate, side gate that you would see when driving onto Bella Drive from Cielo. It appears these gates lead to a drive and other guest houses that were once on the property.



I was able to navigate back behind the gate house enough to capture this image of the added buildings then torn down to the studs. You can still see the corner of the main house behind it. (Obviously Google street view was taken well before the aerial views)

A closer view of the main house, entry as it appeared in the early 1990's while Doris Duke still owned the property.

Well, that's my look back at one of our more famous celebrity homes. I hope you enjoyed it and that you'll return for my future posts showcasing more fabulous estates of our favorite stars. 

*Update! If you're interested in more posts on these grand Hollywood estates, I've since featured Pickfair, Harold Lloyd's Greenacres, The home of Fatty Arbuckle and Theda Bara as well as my two part article on Thelma Todd and her homes, where she died. All can be found in my archives.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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55 comments:

  1. Page, Like you, I find the history of Hollywood completely intriguing. I wasn't familiar with Falcon Lair, even though I did know Valentino had lived very, very large on a sprawling and elegant estate. I was aware that John Gilbert had also built a home on an estate in Benedict Canyon. I blogged about it a couple of years ago - and will include a link below because I think you'll be interested in the story. Gilbert was not the only legendary figure to live there - but, unfortunately, after it served as residence for a series of movie industry folks for over 50 years it met the wrecking ball.

    http://eves-reel-life.blogspot.com/2010/10/house-that-jack-built.html

    As I read your piece and came upon the name of the street where Falcon Lair is located - Cielo Drive - I thought, "Oh no," remembering where the Manson murders took place. Hard to believe something so horrific could happen in such a beautiful, serene-seeming locale.

    Thanks, Page, for a really thorough and interesting exploration of Falcon Lair.

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    1. Lady Eve,
      I'm so glad you enjoyed this, that you're another fan of old Hollywood landmarks, estates. I've been having so much fun looking around the old mansions thanks to that amazing Google Earth. Although I get a bit angry when I see a certain estate in total disrepair, neglected.

      There are so many I'm excited to write about I don't know which one to do next! Ha Ha
      Thanks for the John Gilbert link. I can't wait to read that. I've got some photos of him in front of that ginormous estate. They were living large in BC.

      It's hard to believe that Doris was so close to the Tate house that night and others. A tranquil area but back then I'm sure it felt very isolated. Tate's closest neighbor would have been the Valentino stables where nobody was at night. Kind of eery back then I'm sure since the estates were so far apart.

      I appreciate your shared interest on this.
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  2. I freaking love this! I've been on a hunt to find pictures and info on the old houses of Hollywood stars and this is by far the most comprehensive. It's so sad to see grand estates like this destroyed (didn't they recently do that to Pickfair?). I dream of living in LA just so I can do these touristy things (and I must admit I'm the morbid fan that would go see the Tate house and all). There's so much Hollywood history in LA that doesn't get recognized, thanks for this!

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    1. Kristen,
      So glad you enjoyed this too. If you enjoy this kind of thing as Eve and I do then stay tuned for a lot more on the fabulous estates of our favorite stars. I plan to do a long running series.

      I'm sure you wouldn't be the first going by the Tate address. Sure that's why the original address was changed. There's nothing left of it but the front door was taken by Trent Reznor when he moved out and it's at his music studio somewhere.

      Pickfair was gutted also and the only original part that remains is the front entry and halls. That crazy Pia Zadora and her husband should be ashamed for ruining it! I'm still angry about that and that Jayne Mansfield's pink palace was torn down recently. I was actually in that house long after she had died when I was a kid.

      Thanks for your comment Kristen. I hope you'll be back for more posts on these gorgeous estates. (I will be featuring Pickfair and Hearst Castle which I was fortunate enough to visit. (That place is unreal!)
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  3. You've obviously done a lot of research here, Page. Interesting background about the Falcon Lair. I always find it fascinating to read how idiotic people are with their money.

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    1. Thanks Kim.
      In Rudy's case, I'm glad he spent like there was no tomorrow so he could enjoy himself, finally have the home of his dreams even if it was for only one year.
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  4. Fabulous post Page! You've given us a very thorough background on the estate and its history and fate. Yes, tragic that it met its end, like so many of the Hollywood and LA monuments. I had just related in my own blog post on the designer Travilla that I was living down the street from the LoBianca house when they were murdered by the Manson family.I didn't know what happened either until after the fact. Sometimes that LA history gets a little too close for comfort, Regardless, please give us more tours!

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    1. Christian,
      Thanks for the compliments. I can't imagine living close to such horrific events as they are occurring. I admit that I read a lot of true crime but I don't want to be anywhere near it while it happens.

      Perhaps Rudy's main house was infested with termites. I did notice several invoices for termite control, inspections while pouring over Doris Dukes receipts.

      Thanks for stopping by!
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    1. Marion,
      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for stopping by.
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  6. Falcon Lair was a landmark of Hollywood golden days. The exotic Valentino's figure in such recluded place make me dream of that days. His relashionship with Natasha Rambova helped Valentino to create a great style. Sadly many Hollywood historic marks was destroyed by insensible new ownwes. I heard that the Pinkfair was tore down, but what can We expect since they destroyed even the Ambassador Hotel. I love what you do, please I wait for more. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Danian!
      I'm glad you enjoy the golden days of Hollywood like we do. I'll be doing a continued series on Hollywood homes so stay tuned and stop by often. I'm always up for a good discussion on old Hollywood.

      All but the main entryway of Pickfair was torn down in '91. Sadly, so many iconic estates have seen better days or they've been demolished in order to make way for new mega mansions. It is sad that The Ambassador fell into disrepair then total devastation with it's rich history.

      Hope to see you back again. Thanks for stopping by!
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  7. Wow! What a fabulous post! A dream estate that looks like it could be in the Italian countryside, which was probably the goal. Thank you SO much for sharing! :-)

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    1. VLM,
      Thanks for the compliment, for stopping by! I hope you'll stop by often.. Lots of fabulous Hollywood star homes to come. I look forward to checking out your site as well.
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  8. Hi Page,
    I stumbled across your website whilst trying to figure out where Julie Andrews' former home in Beverly HIlls was.
    I know it's mentioned on the Beverly Hills Trolley Tour, however I'm having trouble locating the address. I just need a rough location to add to a map for a kid's travel guide. Any insight you might have would be so welcome.
    Thanks,
    Megan

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    1. Megan,
      Julie Andrews address, her home throughout the 60's was 9531 Hidden Valley Road, Los Angeles.
      I hope that helps.
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    2. thanks a million - i'll send you a copy of the book once it's released if you send me a postal address - megs@bronteandfrank.com

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    3. Awww Megan, you're very sweet.
      Hopefully you'll return often. If there is any info I can help you with just let me know.
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  9. Amazing job Page, on your classic Hollywood movie stars and their homes post. I can not get enough information on this topic. Great photos..

    Also, I wanted to let you know how incredibly sweet you are for posting the pink ribbon on your side bar for me.. Everyone, has been so supportive that it is really helping me in my recovery. Please everyone go in for a yearly physical. It may save your life..

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    1. Hi Dawn!
      So glad you enjoy the old Hollywood homes like a few of us. It's a fun topic for me too. Hopefully my research will spawn a few great posts on the subject.

      You're so welcome on the support and ribbons. As a part of our blogger family, being a friend, you know we're here for you always and all ways. Hope to have you back in great health soon.
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  10. Alot of research. 10051 is not next to the old tate house at 10050, however. Its complicated, but due to the date the tate house was constructed, it was one of the few houses in area in 1941, actually 10051 is about 250 yards away and there are about 10 houses (now)_in between. I think The new owners of falcons lair, after doris, ran into more trouble than just termites.I saw structural engineer reports and septic tank repair, and engineering reports from doris s records. This immediate area was hit VERY hard during the 1994 earthquake and actually that was the nail in the coffin for the nearby tate house which suffered alot of damage and was demolished.I would guess they couldnt save falcons lair main structure either. Building on a hillside is ALWAYS probematic, altho it lasted 75 years.

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    1. Hi Anon!
      Thanks for your additional info on Falcon Lair. I can see it having damage beyond repair from an earthquake. I doubt the foundation and construction could withstand much in it's precarious position. I agree that the location of it (atop that slop couldn't have been the best location)

      Considering the large size of the lots (and acreage owned by Rudy and others in that era during the 20s-40s) they wouldn't be living on top of one another, build homes garage to garage. So considering the Tate home was up and just across from the bottom of the hill from Falcon Lairs main home then the stables were the closest structure I hope (by including the map) that others note what you've mentioned and what I've addressed here.

      From the outside eye, it appeared that Duke was busy building additional structures over the years while ignoring the restoration of the main house.

      I hope you'll return and comment.
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  11. one additional comment. Falcon s Lair was not designed by Wallace Neff. I have a book with a list of all of his projects and this one is not on it. I researched and Im not certain, but George Read, a Beverly Hills developer developed Bella Drive and this was the first house in the area and he and his family lived in it before selling to Valentino. Valentino did much enhancing of the property in his short time there however. George Read was an interesting guy and was responsible for ALOT of the early BH develpment.(Readcrest, a street in BH is named after him) This was probably just a spec house. Altho looking at a published house in BH, designed by architect Johnson Kaufman and Coate.........the floor plan is almost identical to Falcon Lairs The only difference is in the Johnson designed house the bedrooms are above the main living area and in Falcon Lair they are bleow due to the hillside location of Falcon s lair. The room placements are virtually identical tho. So cant say for sure anything except its not Wallace Neff. Maybe Readcrest was in the Johnson house as it was being built and "borrowed some ideas" Thanks

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    1. Thanks for your comments. Sorry, I guess I'll have to address you as Anon for now.

      I have mentioned at least twice that George Read did live at the properly originally. Also, I've been very careful to mention that the Cielo Drive home was a distance (due to the large parcels of land as well as the fact that homes weren't very close (still aren't in that area). The Cielo home in proximity was a close neighbor. Also shown via aerial views. Hopefully anyone viewing the screen grabs can see that they weren't back to back but across the street, down and at an angle. Just as homes are in that area. I guess I could say that if I lived in the country on five acres my closest neighbor would be 'blank'. Hopefully my readers get the idea. : )

      Thanks for your comments and additional info.
      Glad to have you share in the discussion any time.
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    2. Also,
      I did get it corrected regarding, Neff. Thanks for the added info.
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  12. Thanks so much for all this nicely written material, this and Pickfair and everything else. I have lived in LA for 20 years and I'm only just learning about these houses resonant with glamorous tales and history. Vanity fair (vf.com) had an interesting article about king vidor's house on Tower Grove nearby, how jon peters tore it down recently.
    I do private driving for celebrities, stars, directors and hollywood industry people and have driven these roads everyday for the last 18 years, yet never explored these houses. I currently do tours of stars homes in an open topped van, so I'm researching every night. Your blog is fantastic!
    If you are around LA it would be an amazing day out to drive around with you in a convertible and check out houses. The star homes vans aren't allowed to go up a lot of the side streets in the hills and around bel air. As well, many Beverly Hills areas are gated and have security nowadays.
    I'll be studying your blog postings as they get published.
    Josh G/miracle mile, Los Angeles/jg291049@gmail.com

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    1. Josh,
      So sorry it took so long to get back with you. I didn't notice the new comments on this post.

      It's great that you do your own celebrity tours. I think the well known tours address celebrity death sites and then recent working celeb homes. Even as kids I know those old star maps were very outdated. It would be great to have a tour featuring just the classic stars. You mentioned not having access due to gated communities. The one thing I've noticed when doing research via Google Earth, 95% of the old Hollywood star homes are in neighborhoods accessible with street view. The only home I'm recalling behind gates is Mary Pickford's first home with her mother that sits across from Muhammad Ali's estate.

      Riding around all day looking at old homes with you sounds like a great idea.
      Not sure if you read the Theda Bara article on her homes and I do have the new Harold Lloyd post up as well.

      So glad you stopped by, so thrilled to hear about your interest in old Hollywood history and I do hope you stop by and comment often.
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  13. Thanks for the great ensights into Valentino's homelife. I can't believe that anyone would allow Falcon Lair to be demolished.

    I would like to make a couple of corrections though.
    Photo 6 is actually the rear of the Whitley Heights home.
    Photo 18 is also the Whitley Heights home. Valentino is leaning againt the railing on the front courtyard.

    Thanks again for sharing the photos.

    Doug

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    1. Hi Doug!
      Thanks for stopping by and noting the photos. With Whitley Heights being demolished it was hard to get a feel for which photo was at which location. I'll note the different homes.

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  14. Hi Doug!
    I live at the Alexandria Hotel... Legend has it that Norman Kerry and Valentino were room mates here in 1917... That seems to be a sure bet.. BUT People here think that suite 1203-1204 was where they stayed. Seems to have been left vacant since sometime in the 60's... Would love to finagle my way in to restore it and live there... But there is SO much misinformation; I want to be certain its the right suite! Your such a great sleuth, would there still be some kind of official registry or such? Los Angeles Library?... Thought it was a great bit of trivia that the original owner of the Alexandria died on the Lusitania!
    Best, David

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    1. David,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your info on the Alexandria Hotel. (Love hearing about ghost stories and early digs of our classic stars) Have you experienced any ghost sitings there or aberrations?

      I hope you'll check out my archives and return often.
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    2. Well, mums the word, but I did get to go into the suite for 3 min with a big 'ole flashlight. It looks like it was lived in up until the '60s. I was kinda creepy, but maybe just because it was so dark and all. SO many people want to go in, I was lucky... But the guards say they feel some thing in there one said his ears plufgged up 'till he came out... They wouldnt go in with me! lol.. They said "yer on your own kid!.. lol Dying to check out Benedict Canyon..

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  15. You know Chaplin is my real hero, He used to hide in the stairwells here and pull pranks on the other stars and all..Sometimes I just fall into a corner. And wow, I really feel him it seems.. Pretty cool..

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  16. I am really glade to see your ,its true that old is gold......i love horse riding its great adventure and a fun.

    Hotel furniture

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  17. Thanks so much for the wonderful photos and all the info regarding Falcon Lair. I am of Italian descent on my mother's side of the family and needless to say she and the rest of the females in the family were crazy about Valentino! When I married and came out to California in the mid sixties, my husband and I (aided by his cousin Diane) spent a lot of time trying to find Valentino's estate. When we finally located it, there were huge boards leaning against the main gate and it was impossible to see inside. I do believe we saw statues of falcons (one on each side of the gate.) At the time, we didn't know that Doris Duke owned the home.

    From what I understand, the City of Los Angeles was going to preserve and move Valentino's Whitley Heights home. His fans must have thought it was going to be demolished when the Hollywood Freeway was being built nearby and they stripped the house of just about everything from roof tiles to water faucets! There simply wasn't that much left to preserve and so the City did, in fact, demolish the home. That was another great loss!

    Thanks again for your wonderful photos and all the info.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your story on visiting Falcon Lair. It's neat that you saw it during the time that Doris Duke was in residence. She did a lot of construction and restoration on the property while there so I'm not surprised there was so much going on. Too bad the views were obstructed.

      Hope you'll stop by on more on my Hollywood at Home series and others that I have in my archives.
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  18. Really enjoyed this looking forward to more. Love the old photo's and the history of Falcon Lair.

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    1. This is a topic that I really enjoy. Getting to peak inside these wonderful and iconic homes is a lot of fun. I'll be doing more in this series so stay tuned and come back often.

      We always enjoy conversation about old Hollywood.
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  19. loved it....Im a huge history buff...Im more into Texas history since it is my home state but something about "Old Hollywood" is very captivating.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope to get back to my Hollywood at Home series soon so please come back for that and other posts.

      I'm your neighbor to the north, in Oklahoma City.
      Thanks again for stopping by.
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  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  21. I know quite a bit about FALCON LAIR, as it was our desire to purchase it. The DUKE FOUNDATION was selling it with the intention of stripping all the interior elements to the shell...windows included. We made several offers wherein I noted the Historical importance of the home to the history of Beverly Hills let alone Hollywood and that doors, paneled rooms, windows and door surrounds were INCLUDED in the Sale not excluded.

    They had come around to this point of view, but our buyer of our home backed out...therefore we couldn't culminate the sale. The next buyer came in with much espoused LOVE for Ms. Duke and the History of the property, that he asked to purchase a portrait of Ms.Duke to hang in her honor. All the conditions were revealed as to the landslide and the need to shore up the hillside, which by the way...Doris did do! Within a year or two...the new owner STRIPPED OUT all the elements, sold them and leveled the pad for resale! What has become of some elements can be seen with some dealers but this SELFISH and GREEDY person ran rampant without as much a toot of a horn by anyone in Beverly Hills...which the house is technically within Los Angeles City limits.

    Wallace Neff didn't design this, I lived in a Neff so am familiar with his genre...although there is a Neff up the hill now owned by Rupert Murdoch, THE FRED NIBLO house. There was never a pool, no flat land other than the rear lawn and motor court above. A small house but a jewel after Doris incorporated antique Spanish, French and Italian rooms, doors, mantles etc. Very much like one of the Guest Cottages at San Simeon...and the War Room of Napolean was Round...with garden access. A beautiful Bagues Galleon chandelier lit the curved stairwell.

    The stables were split off years before, and Joel Schumacher, the director restored and lived there for several years. A shame that FALCON LAIR was demolished. The side gate entrance on the road led to the same motorcourt in front of the house.

    A side note: the night before I went thru it with a friend, I mentioned to her I had a dream that evening of walking down a flight of stairs with balustrade out in a garden and at the end of the lawn was a statue of a Spanish Virgen Mary covered in blood...while touring the grounds the following day, we descended stairs with stone balusters...and lo and behold, a Virgen Mary statue - was at the end of the lawn. I mentioned to the Realtor my dream, and he pointed out overlooking Cielo, towards the other side where Sharon Tate lived...Doris put statue there as Sharon was a friend and as a memorial. I say perhaps as well to thwart the evil that visited the area.

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    1. Hello,
      I just discovered your comment. It really is wonderful that after so long, this article is still getting commented on and with such valuable info. It is fantastic that you took the time to share your experience with actually going through Falcon Lair. I truly enjoyed all of the inside information that you shared here.

      Sadly, the more I hear about how the estate came to be dismantled, the more frustrated I get that someone would think it a great idea to level it and sale off all of that history.

      Considering that Duke invested so much money in restoration of the estate and as you mention, shoring up the land, hillside that it would be in such a state of disrepair is surprising. It's like Pickfair, I guess. Depressing all the same.

      Again, thank you so much for sharing all of the info. I only wish you were able to purchase this part of Hollywood history.

      All the best and do return. I'll be featuring the King Vidor/John Barrymore Estate soon.
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  22. Enjoyed this fascinating old Hollywood, especially since I got to know Bernard the butler for Doris Duke and having worked on the case at a law firm that represented Doris on her estate. I never got to go into her home but others colleagues who did said that she spent money well to renovate the home in such exact detail and even the red velvet drapes were intact the same as Rudolph's. But think of the stories surrounding this location Sharon Tate was murdered and Doris Duke also had an interesting and odd twist to her death. It almost seemed that the area is kinda of haunted....

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    1. Hi, Anon!
      Thanks for sharing what you know about the estate. Sorry that you weren't able to get an inside look at the place before it fell to the earth. Love the red drape story. That Doris was an interesting bird, wasn't she? I can only imagine working on a case where she was involved. I've looked over a lot of her papers, inventory etc. She certainly kept a large list of people in work during her life.

      Thanks for stopping by!
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  23. Hi Page,
    while doing some final research for my book: Haunted Houses of Hollywoodland, I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for your hard work as an architectural sleuth. I actually interviewed Doris Duke at Falcon Lair in the 1980's and could feel Rudolph Valentino there. When I asked Doris about it, she shrugged her shoulders and told me this was one of the reason's she bought the estate because she loved him. She also told me that she, Gloria Swanson and Mae West held a séance in the mansion to try and contact Rudy in the 1970's. You’ll read more about what happened in my book. Rudy was a huge believer in the occult as was Mae West, who often held Séances at her Ravenswood Penthouse Apartment in Hollywood. I attended several of the sessions as I was Mae's personal Psychic Medium in the late 1970's. It's a story all in itself, but I remember seeing Falcon Lair another time when it was for sale shortly after Doris Duke’s death.
    I toured it with Hollywood Historian Marc Wanamaker one afternoon after we attended the Rudolph Valentino memorial at Hollywood Forever cemetery (I’ve sung for that the past 2 years) and we were delighted with the house, and the enhancements Doris made although the fireplaces were different- more to her European taste. The mansion had a gaudy interior and felt small. But in observing the mansion, we could easily tell that she was careful not to change much of the home's original architecture or the additions made by Rudy Valentino.
    I wanted to mention something that isn't correct in your photos. The picture showing the home with the narrow round top windows isn't of Falcon Lair, but Rudolph Valentino's home on Wedgewood Place in Whitley Heights. Underneath the photo you describe it as the back of Falcon Lair, but if you look more closely, the home doesn't reflect the box shape of Falcon Lair, rather the home in Whitley Heights. I have actual photographs of the Whitley Heights home inside and out front and back from an occupant who lived there before it was torn down. If you drive north bound on the 101 freeway and look to the left just before the Highland exit, you can still see the footprint of Rudy's home, now covered in graffiti.
    Thanks again for putting together a marvelous blog, Page-I really enjoyed your efforts.

    Michael J. Kouri

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    1. Hi, Michael!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment, add some valuable info on FL. Thrilled to hear about your book What an interesting subject. I'll be sure to look for it.

      Will there be photos of FL in your book? It really was hard to find any interior shots or that many even on the grounds while Rudy resided there.

      Just such a shame that it was bulldozed like Pickfair, Rudy's Whitley Heights home and so many others.

      I have done posts on Pickfair, Theda's homes, Thelma Todd's then Lloyd's estate if you haven't seen them.

      Please return often and share with my readers all of the interesting stories, info you have.

      Have a great weekend!
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  24. The mansion was hardly a mansion...but a house! Gaudy is rarely a description for 18thC Architectural elements that were Museum worthy installed by Leonard Stanley, an Important Interior designer and purchased by a woman of fortune and superior taste...as witnessed with ShangriLa-La.

    Just because one is a Pyschic doesn't give one Taste!

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  25. That's true Swan, but I'm also a Certified Appraiser of Antiques, and my taste is my own. I would have enjoyed Rudy Valentino's antiques, in fact I own several of the pieces from his Falcon Lair and the Whitley Heights house in my own antique collection and believe they are tasteful.

    I do believe that Miss Dukes taste was Gaudy and downright Ugly..no matter which interior decorator she used, it doesn't matter. I'm just stating my dislike in her decor...which has nothing to do with my being a Psychic Medium. Her taste was hers, your's is yours and mine is mine.

    Just because people have money, and can buy anything, including museum quality objects, doesn't mean they have as you put it "superior taste." In fact Most very wealthy people have Horrible Taste when it comes to interior design LOL. But again the old saying fits here: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

    When Rudolph Valentino was alive, Falcon Lair was considered a mansion, this in his own words. His friend's Antonio Moreno and Julian Eltinge also lived in large houses on top of hills that Rudy visited regularly and both of their homes were also finely decorated with large, masculine, heavy antique furniture, but it worked because it was one piece here and two pieces there, not everything all gold leaf, shoved together in a tiny entry hall as the photos of Miss Dukes interior plainly shows. Rudy's home had 4700 square feet which in the 1920's was definitely considered a mansion compared to the 675 sq ft one or two bedroom bungalows that the average American lived in.

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    1. Anon,
      I agree that FL would have been considered a 'mansion' at that time. A time when large homes were only just beginning to take shape in southern California. The compound and all of its buildings were quite impressive once Duke finished up her restorations and construction of the site.

      I would really love to see the antiques you have that were once Rudy's. I know my readers would love to see them as well. If you ever decide that you would like them featured, with credit just shoot me an email. silentscreenfan@gmail.com

      Thanks again for providing so much great info.
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  26. I was looking through a 1997-1998 Fall & Winter Christie's Great Estates for sale and ran into Falcon Lair. I was wondering how this property was fairing - well, sadly, I found out. Thank you very much for writing about it in such length, very informative. Your conversational writing style makes it a pleasure to read. Thank you again, muchisimas gracias, I will definitely return, Rita

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    1. Hello, Rita
      I would love to get my hands on that catalog to share here with this post. Would you be interested in selling it or even allowing me to pay for some copies on the estate info? You can contact me at silentscreenfan@gmail.com
      Thanks for the info and for stopping by. If you're interested in the Hollywood at Home series there are a few in my archives you might enjoy then stay tuned for more homes that I'll be featuring.
      Thanks,
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  27. He encontrado esta página por casualidad. Me he quedado encantada. Admiro profundamente el Hollywood de los años dorados y estoy interesada en todo lo relacionado con este tema. Me ha encantado su artículo. Ha hecho usted un gran trabajo, y la felicito. Rodolfo Valentino es sin duda alguna un mito, aunque mi preferido es Clark Gable. ¿Ha hecho un artículo sobre su casa de Encino? Siento no poder expresarme en inglés. Le escribo desde España.
    Nuevamente mis felicitaciones por su trabajo. Me ha gustado muchísimo. Es una pena que estas casas estén medio olvidadas. Tendrían que conservarlas para la posteridad, aunque reconozco que en el caso de Valentino, dado que está situada la mansión en la ladera de una colina es bastante difícil de conservar.
    Saludos, y siga con su labor de investigación.

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  28. Great article, I'd has special meaning to me because my great uncle, founder and owner of the Maybelline Company, Tom Lyle Williams, bought the Villa Valentino in Whitley Heights after Valentino's death and completely remodeled it. My father, was only 12 and spent his childhood at the Villa Valentino. Once the freeway took it. Tom Lyle moved to the top of Bel Air. You can see and read about it in my book, The Maybelline Story or visit my Maybelline Book Blog at maybellinebookcom.

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