Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Oh my word! When I signed up to do Classic Movie Man's Val Lewton Blogathon a few weeks ago I didn't realize it was taking place on Halloween. Of course I signed on to write about A Star Is Born. Not very scary! Okay, sometimes Fredric March's eyebrows are a bit scary. With that said, nobody wants to cry on Halloween unless it's a few tears from being scared to bits.

I've already screen grabbed the film to do one of my photo reviews but I'll post it in a couple of days. There are quite a few horror films being covered in the Blogathon today that can be found by clicking the link HERE. A real treat for anyone who loves a good scare and excellent articles by my fellow bloggers.

While I'm here let's have a look at some of our favorite stars getting into the Halloween spirit.

The only thing scary here is Marguerite Chapman possibly bending over to far to retrieve another pumpkin.

Scary only because the studio couldn't afford a decent copy of Dracula for Pier Angeli to read. 

Scary that Esther Williams would attempt pumpkin carving in a bathing suit while sitting in hay. 

Eva Gabor says "Hey look at me, over here in the hay with my cat that looks like it just went through a leaf blower. Does this blouse make me look sexy?" I'm frightened! Anyone else?

Rosalind Russell. Nothing scary here other than Ava Gardner will probably claw her eyes out the moment she climbs down from that pumpkin for looking so gorgeous. Meeooww Hiisss!

Martha Vickers has fallen into the category of 'sexy witch'. I wish just once these old celebs had gone all out and done something scary. Get in there and throw a wart on your face, cover your legs to the knee. 

Lillian Wells showing her range with her scared face. Yes, that cat is frightening!

See! This is how you do scary. Joan Crawford attempts blonde vamp. No costume required. Just the desire to be Mae West for a day. 

Happy Halloween everyone! Have a safe one.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Get Your Motor Runnin: Part Two

Let's have another look at our favorite stars with their fabulous cars.

Bob Hope, looking quite dapper next to his new car.

James Cagney tools around Los Angeles.

Anita Page arrives at the studio in style.

Betty Blythe poses by her Phaeton in her Beverly Hills driveway.

Joan Crawford poses next to her convertible. 

Norma Shearer poses next to her Ford Coupe at her Beverly Hills mansion. 

Sylvia Sidney poses next to her Lincoln. 

Constance Bennett shows off her new Cadillac convertible in front of her Beverly Hills home. 

A handsome, Sean Connery enjoying his sports car.

Clint Eastwood, enjoying the California weather in his convertible.

Dolores Del Rio is fabulous in feathers as she exits her Ford Coupe.

Thanks for stopping by and if you happen to know the make and model of any of the cars shown,  please feel free to add it in the comments.

I hope you're enjoying this gorgeous, October weekend.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hollywood at Home: Harold Lloyd's Greenacres Estate

For anyone who has been following my Hollywood at Home series you've read my previous posts on Valentino's Falcon Lair, Mary and Doug's Pickfair estate and then Theda Bara's Tudor style home.  As wonderful and iconic as those homes were, there's another estate that shaped the early Los Angeles landscape from high atop Beverly Hills with a perfect view of Benedict Canyon. The lavish home that the talented comedian/producer, Harold Lloyd would hold court with his family until his death in 1971. That grand estate that covered over 22 acres was known as Greenacres. 

(This post will also feature Lloyd's first Beverly Hills home and his beach house in Santa Monica)

During the early 1910s, Harold Lloyd was working steadily at Hal Roach studios where he came in as a partner with Roach. He found instant fame and with his popularity on the rise and his box office success affording him a lavish lifestyle like so many other actors during that time, he had the world within his grasp.  All he needed was a leading lady to share his life with.

Although he dated his leading lady. Bebe Daniels during the 1910s she was replaced as his leading lady on screen as well as off by the end of 1918. Hal Roach worked quickly to find Lloyd a new muse for his on screen antics and that muse would be the comedic actress. Mildred Davis. They hit it off immediately and by 1922 they were headed for matrimony.

Harold Lloyd with his leading lady, Mildred Harris on set during the early 1920s.

Harold and Mildred would wed in 1923 with Mildred deciding she would retire from motion pictures to focus on her husband, raising a family full time. The only thing left to decide would be where to live.  After all, by now, Lloyd was making over a million dollars a year so he could afford to live in the lifestyle that other successful actors were living. 

Not far from Charlie Chaplin's Breakaway house that sat atop a hill just down the canyon from Doug and Mary's magnificent Pickfair, and just a mile from Tom Mix and Thomas Ince's Spanish style estates, there was a large parcel of land up for sale. (I'll be featuring the Ince, Mix and Chaplin's many estates at a later date)

For a bit of reference on location you can see in this recent aerial photo just how close the stars of the 20s and 30s lived to one another. I've written in black the Pickfair estate to the upper left (of course most of the land that surrounded it has been sold off to build other homes). Then Charlie Chaplin's Breakaway house is highlighted to the right then center. Just down the drive from it is David O'Selznick's home, hidden by large tress and a sold concrete fence. The same home that Katharine Hepburn would later reside.

Newly married and looking for a large parcel of land to build his dream estate, Harold found the perfect location in the Benedict section of Beverly Hills. He purchased the 22 plus acres from P.E. Benedict who had owned the land for over sixty years. The sale was final in 1925 but it would take close to 4 years to complete the Mediterranean style estate and the magnificent landscaping, fountains, horse stables and guest houses. What Lloyd envisioned as paradise was quite the endeavor. (Mary Pickford must have sat in her upstairs study overlooking the construction and thinking "What is going on Harold?, WE are supposed to have the grandest estate on the west coast!")

With such a large undertaking to construct their dream home, Mildred and Harold needed digs while Greenacres was being completed so they purchased a very large, comfortable home in Beverly Hills.  Mildred was expecting their first child by 1924 so the large home was a perfect fit and in a gorgeous location. And of course they were surrounded by the movie community and aristocrats that had found their way to  Beverly Hills long before those pesky actors move in on them.

The first home of Harold and Mildred Lloyd featured in postcards during the early 20s. It's located at 502 South Irving Blvd, Los Angeles. (formerly Beverly Hills)

A recent photo of the home via Google Earth. I'm not crazy about the green and it's lost it's awnings. It does need some tlc.  But I adore this house. It sits on a large corner lot. Let's have a look around while we're here. 

A side view of the home and the back entrance. 

Another view. The place looks empty. Boy, would I love to live there, be able to restore it. I can only imagine the laughter in that house during the 3 years that the Lloyd's lived there. 

This is the garage that sits to the back of the home. Where Harold would have parked his fabulous cars during the early 20s.

Here's an aerial view of the corner lot with it's large home and garage. 

Harold enjoyed being behind the camera as much as he enjoyed being in front of it and throughout the years he developed a love for still photography. Here he takes home movies of wife, Mildred and their baby girl, Gloria in their yard on Irving Blvd.

As I mentioned, Harold and Mildred's first child, Gloria was born in 1924 while they were residing at the home on Irving Blvd. Harold was still churning out comedy after comedy then overseeing the construction at Greenacres in his off time. Mildred also had a large influence on the landscaping design, the flowers, shrubs and fountains that were being erected around the main house. As we'll get into, not one inch of that 15 acres set aside for landscaping was overlooked.  
I'm sure the couple drove the architect, Summer Spaulding mad then there's the landscaping firm of A.E. Green that were responsible for the numerous fountains, gardens, which included tropical forests, formal gardens, sunken gardens, terraced gardens, Mildred's rose gardens then the Italian gardens to match the homes architecture. Whew! We haven't even gotten to the horse stables, the fully functioning children's cottage, the guest houses, the canoe pond or the lavish estate pool and 9 hole golf course. 

An early aerial view of Greenacres, mid 1920s. Included are 15 foot fountains, a bowling green, a tennis court, the Olympic sized pool, a separate lawn for croquet, a 9 hole golf course, riding stables, walking gardens and paths, a working farm for produce and fruit, a large greenhouse, an outdoor theater and pavilion for dancing and a handball court. 

We move ahead to the end of 1928 and it's time to move to the newly completed and grand, Greenacres. Once completed it cost the Lloyd's over $2 mil to construct. It was the largest estate in California at the time and if the attached land hadn't been parceled off in pieces during the 80s it would still be.  

An early postcard of Greenacres with Harold posing near his fountains. The main house can be seen in the background. (You can see why it took close to 4 yrs to finish.)

We'll get into the parties and guests that frequented the estate a bit later but once the Lloyd's moved in they had a grand house warming party to show off their home to their peers in the movie community. A party that lasted from Friday evening into Monday. Harold spared no expensive on the guests with tables set up with food and drink, a dance floor that was erected on the lawn and several bands that would play continuously throughout the four day soirée. 

Harold's ready to play some golf on his private course. I just hope he finds his way out of the tall grass!

Just to give you an idea of just how grand the estate was (still is which you will see a bit later) the main house has 44 rooms at 45,000 sq feet. The Olympic sized pool was the largest constructed in CA at that time, measuring 50 x 150 foot. One of it's 'fun' features was the portal windows on the sides in which others could see guests swimming underwater from different positions around the pool. (They used to have a pool like that at a hotel in Vegas that we always wanted to stay out as kids but my dad wouldn't let us. He said it looked trashy. (the hotel, not the pool!)  

Greenacres had every amenity that anyone could think of during that era and it was a home for entertaining the Lloyd's many friends. A truly self contained sanctuary the Lloyd family would enjoy with their extended family for many years.  Some of the frequent guests for their parties were Doug and Mary, of course then the Jack Warner's, Mildred's close friends, Marion Davies and Colleen Moore, Hal Roach, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Talmadge girls, Gloria Swanson, Jack Hill and Thelma Todd to name just a few.

The newly constructed main house and surrounding gardens in late 1928. Located at 1225 Benedict Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills originally. The new address is 1740 Green Acres Drive, Beverly Hills.

Harold poses with his fab auto and chauffeur at the front facade of his beloved estate. (I wonder if the parrot is real or stuffed? Nice touch!)

Let's start at the front gates of Greenacres then move forward so we can get a feel for the place. Before you could enter the estate you were stopped at the very large main gates then buzzed in via intercom at the guard house. Once through the gates you would drive past lush gardens, tall sycamore trees, palm trees and water fountains on each side as you veered down the very long drive, passing several garages where Harold stored his cars and then the guest houses and the greenhouse before you arrived at the main house behind the motor court with it's hand laid brick pavers and Italian stucco facade. The original color of the stucco was pink with a red ceramic tile roof.

The original side gates today that were accessible via Benedict Canyon Rd and close to the Jack Warner estate. 

A recent view of the original front gates with what's left of the the pristine landscaping. (If you are on a driving tour of the area, the main entrance is rather hard to find.) Before the surrounding acres were auctioned off in the 80s you could find this winding road easily. Now you have to know your way around and back up the winding roads of Benedict Canyon Road to find it. The address that gets you to the front gates of the estate is Green Acres Drive. 

 If you looked forward from the main house which was constructed in an open square around a courtyard you would see two very long walk ways that were separated by never ending fountains. Built in tiers that flowed water year round. At the end of the walk another large fountain was erected. 

Lloyd posing at the end of the fountains. You can see the main courtyard and house in the background. This was a feature you couldn't see on your drive down to the house as it was hidden on either side by large sycamore trees, pictured here.

A closer view of the tiered fountains and main house. At one time the center ponds held expensive Koi fish. c. 1950s.

Before we go inside and have a look at the house I wanted to talk a bit more about the construction, grounds of Greenacres.  Harold spared no expense in building his estate as I've mentioned but he also thought long term unlike a lot of stars of the day who threw their mansions together using studio labor. Not the case with the Lloyd's. The very thick concrete foundation of the main house was reinforced with steel to withstand CA earthquakes. He also used fresh springs to collect water in large storage units so they could be self reliant. (It's obvious it took a lot of water just to keep the landscape green alone so that was a great idea and kudos to Harold for being green in the 20s.). Underground tunnels were also built that connected the main house to other buildings on the property. 

One of the many gardens and architectural features at Greenacres.

A back view of the estate and another garden.

As 1930 rolled around, the Lloyd family grew with the adoption of Marjorie "Peggy" in 1930 and then the birth of their son, Harold Clayton the following year. Harold was still working full time in comedies and as of 1924 he was in control of what he starred in, produced, having started his own production company. Mildred kept busy with the children and the day to day running of the house. Of course since it was more like a mini city than a home she had plenty of help. They had 3 full time housekeepers, 16 full time gardeners, 2 butlers, 2 chauffeurs, 2 governesses, and 3 personal secretaries. Harold had his own personal assistant, Roy Brooks who took care of his day to day business, errands. He would reside at Greenacres for close to 40 years.

Harold and his personal assistant, Roy Brooks play table tennis at Greenacres. (How one accomplishes that atop yucca plants I'll never know!)

Harold with his son, Harold Jr. near their 8,000 sq ft. greenhouse and in front of  their vegetable garden. 

When building the house the Lloyd's also built stables that contained horses, sheep and goats throughout the years then once the children were toddlers it was time to erect a cottage for them so they could have their own little house to play in. It had working water and electricity, a full functioning kitchen as well as the finest of furnishings in miniature of course.

When Harold wasn't playing with the children he found time to play golf which he was very fond of. I mentioned previously that studio head, Jack Warner's estate backed up to Harold's. Warner also had a 9 hole golf course on his estate that conveniently faced Harold's.  Many weekends they would hop over their back fences to play 18 holes. Of course this grew tedious so they eventually combined their efforts to build a connecting path and gate. 

The children's playhouse with all of it's immensities. 

The Lloyd children getting piggy back rides from their dad in front of their playhouse. c. 1930s.

The horse stables on the grounds.

Now that we've had a look around the grounds let's talk about the main house. It had 6 bedrooms suites, a master suite, a sunken living room, 26 bathrooms, vaulted, heavy beam ceilings, a spiral staircase, a separate photography room, a billiard room, two formal dining rooms, a formal sitting room, a music room with it's 80 ft pipe organ and grand piano, then a very large chefs kitchen. The main house had a total of 44 rooms so I'm sure I've left out a few here. 

One of the beautifully decorated hallways that led into the formal dining room and music room. The Lloyd's had all floor tiles and oriental rugs hand made or imported. The draperies that covered every large window were made of the finest silk. Not one piece of furniture was purchased from local department stores but either custom made or hand chosen from auctions all over the world.

One of many sitting rooms that led out into the rose garden. Later this would become "The Christmas Tree Room" but more on that a bit later. (These furnishings and wall finishings are exactly how they would be seen when the estate would come up for auction many years later.)

The formal living room with it's hand painted, imported ceiling tiles and oriental rugs. c. early 1930s.

By the end of the 1930s movie audiences had moved on from Lloyd's style of comedy and with that he sold off his production company and went back to starring in front of the cameras when he could get roles. His production company had also started losing money hand over fist so it was time to cut his losses.

If he was worried about money during this time it didn't show though as he continued to maintain his estate and refurbish it as needed. The weekend parties with dancing and bands continued with the finest meals served to the Lloyd's frequent guests.  And like Mary and Doug Fairbanks, they continued to have regular weekend gatherings at Greenacres with a guest list of about 40 people. Guests would stay throughout the weekend, either lounging around the pool or playing croquette, or watching films in the screening room on the second floor. It should be noted that Harold made $15.7 during the previous decade. 

Harold Lloyd hangs out with his close friends and neighbors, Charlie Chaplin and Doug Fairbanks.

The Lloyd's pose at Greenacres during the 1930s.

During the 1940s. Lloyd produced a few films under RKO Studios but by the end of the 40s he was ready to retire and dedicate his time to his children and his photography.  He would go on to write a couple of books that contained his photographs, using several popular stars during the 1950s. 

Lloyd had always been proud of his cinematic work and the characters that he developed, became known for. He was also very protective of his silent films that he kept in a specially built vault in his home. Unfortunately all but a handful were destroyed in a tragic fire at Greenacres during the mid 40s. A fire that almost cost him his life. He received burns while trying to salvage his precious collection of his life's work. Minimal damage was done to the interiors of the house. 

The Lloyd family poses near the main steps to the house.

The Lloyd family poses on their heavy oak staircase during the 1940s. The estate also had two elevators. One for the staff and one for guests, the residents.

Harold poses in front of one of his many fireplaces. c 1940s.

With Harold now home full time things kept running smoothly and everyone was getting a long just fine at Greenacres. There was a full time operator that ran actual switchboards at the estate so nobody had to answer any phones. The grounds were kept perfectly and the 28 ft tall fountain near the main courtyard that lit up every night at 8:00 pm was running off of that wonderful spring water. The children were growing up and starting to bring their own friends home to swim in the pool, play tennis or watch their favorite movies in the screening room. 

The formal dining room with the Lloyd family crest above the fireplace.

Looking out towards the gazebo and the tennis court behind it. The rose gardens to each side. Beautiful views from every window.

During the 50s, Harold spent a lot of his free time doing charity work and he became very involved with the Shriners as well as the Freemasons. Of course he was asked to appear on many of the popular television shows during that time. I think we've all seen his wonderful appearances on "What's My Line" and "This Is Your Life".  Mildred kept busy as a socialite and host to women's groups throughout the years.  

Harold and his daughter enjoy time in the pool. (Of course it has it's own fountain.) c. 30s.

Another of the gorgeous stone fountains that sits at the base of the walkways.

I had mentioned that Lloyd was interested in photography from early on and once he retired from films he was able to study microscopy, colors and 3D effects. He was so taken with 3D that he wrote two books with 3D photos. One of pictures he had taken through the years (several of actors at Greenacres) then a book of his nude photographs, featuring the pin up, Bettie Page.

One of Lloyd's photographs of Kim Novak posing on his lawn.

Another of Lloyd's photographs of Marilyn Monroe by his pool.

Monroe poses next to Harold's motor court and garages at Greenacres.

Before we explore anymore of Greenacres and the Lloyd's later days there I wanted to mention that they also owned a very nice beach house in Santa Monica. I'll be doing a post later on about all of the early stars beach homes, and how very close they were to one another but for now I want to show you the Lloyd's beach house, where they spent many weekends with their children then later on their grandchildren.  

The Lloyd's beach house at it appears today. Located at 443 Palisades Beach Rd. Santa Monica.

Harold's Santa Monica neighbor was Marion Davies. At one time her very large beach estate went right up next to the Lloyd's home. The main house has now been bulldozed to make way for a private club although her original guest houses remain to the very left. (Lloyd's home is marked with 'HL".  

A closer aerial view.

Harold's beach house was not only next door to Marion Davies but to the left and a couple houses down from Jack Warner, Mae West, Irving Thalberg and Norma Shearer then Doug Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. During the late 20s and throughout the 30s this was celebrity row.

One of the photos that Lloyd took on the beach upon his retirement. Muscle Beach. (One of my readers actually lived in the apartments photographed here. Isn't that great?)

One thing that Harold and Mildred enjoyed was entertaining as I've mentioned but they also loved the holidays at Greenacres and especially Christmas. Harold loved buying live Christmas trees for every public room then he started collecting blown glass ornaments and it was all over. His collection grew and grew and eventually the family decided to dedicate a room for a massive tree that would stay up year round to showcase Harold's collection of ornaments.
Visitors to the estate found it odd at first but eventually it became a welcome fixture and a fun topic of conversation.   

Harold plays around his gigantic tree with grand daughter, Suzanne. c.50s.

Lloyd poses next to his Christmas tree in the 60s. By now his glass ornament collection had grown to over 8,000.

By the end of the 50s and a new decade approaching, the Lloyd's realized they needed to cut back on their staff in order to save money. Their monthly expenses were out of hand. Lloyd had made some smart investments with his fortune throughout the years but they realized they needed to tighten their belts. They would keep on a few gardeners out of necessity and a driver for Mildred to go to her society functions since she didn't drive. Of course housekeepers were kept on to insure the house stayed tidy. 

When the home started to fall into disrepair they fixed structural things but as far as the furnishings, they kept what they had since they really didn't care that all of their neighbors were redecorating every few years. If you visited Greenacres during that time you would most likely have noticed the tattered oriental rugs, the frayed draperies or the gold leaf peeling off of the walls. (Perhaps the Christmas tree was left up as a distraction!)

Lloyd poses next to his oriental furnishings and one of Mildred's Dresdon figurines. One thing that she collected and amassed over the years.

In the formal living room during the 60s with the dated furnishings that were once so grand.

After 46 years of marriage, Harold lost the love of his life, his companion, Mildred in 1969.  Although heartbroken he would remain on at Greenacres with his children and granddaughter until he too passed on in 1971.  They are buried side by side in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

The handsome couple after their marriage.

Harold's prized fountains and grounds as they appeared during the 50s.

The fate of Greenacres: 

Upon Harold's death he bequeathed the estate to "the benefit of the public at large" with the instructions that it be used as an educational facility and museum for research into the history of motion pictures in the United States. Sadly, that never came to fruition as the neighbors complained about buses and tours through their private neighborhood then there were legal issues and the cost of upkeep on the deteriorating estate. It was used for tours for a very short time then sold for auction in 1975.  

The front courtyard of the estate before it went up for auction. c. 1972

A side view of the home as it sat vacant. 

The fountains and overgrown landscaping in the early 70s.

The Benedict Canyon side of the estate. (vacant)

Looking towards the main courtyard and house. Overgrown and unkempt gardens.

While the estate auction had a very small turnout of mostly looky Lou's and reporters it did sell to Iranian businessman, Nasrollah Afshani for the very low $1.6 million. This included the 15 acres of land, the estate, all buildings and the entire contents of the home. It's hard to believe that it sold for less than what it cost Lloyd to build 50 years before. The only upside is that it wasn't bought by someone who tore it down.  The surrounding acres were sold off to build subdivisions but the main house and several buildings were restored to their former grandeur.  The grounds would be landscaped once again as well, although that would take some time. (All but 5 acres were sold off for $1.2 mil) 

Auction day in 1975.

The majority of people who spoke after touring the vacated home commented about how the furnishings were very dated, the house looked like it was a time capsule from the 1930s with nothing being updated since then.  Harold's clothing still hung in the closet and his 12 ft tall Christmas tree stood untouched with all of the ornaments where he had last placed them.  One reporter even remarked that it reminded her of the opening scene of "Sunset Boulevard" when Holden's character walked into Desmond's living room. A movie set right out of the 1930s.  (All very sad to hear. I guess it could be worse. There could have been a monkey funeral going on.)

An aerial view of the Harold Lloyd estate as it appeared recently via Google Earth.  Sitting like the icon it's always been overlooking Benedict Canyon.

The large courtyard fountain remains and the new pool. The original tennis court and the tiered fountains have been torn out while several of the original gardens remain. 

Aerial view looking north to south. A new tennis court sits behind a new, much smaller pool and pool house.  The 80 foot long canoe pond was on an acreage that was sold off then demolished.  (The larger pool sold with the land and it was demolished as well to make room for new homes)

Once the estate was participially restored and the rest of the land was parceled off, it was sold again with it's remaining 5 acres of land in 1979. It was sold again in 1986 to the heir to Marshall Fields Department Stores for $6.2 mil. They did extensive renovations to the property as well as adding the smaller pool, pool house and tennis court that exists today. Lloyd's one of a kind 80 ft pipe organ remains although it's now sealed off, out of view by newly constructed walls. This is the home where Barbara Streisand sang in the garden during a fund raiser for Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1992.  (Harold loved music so I know he would have liked that and the fact that the home is being enjoyed, cared for.)

A view of the estate before it was completely restored.

Another view of the home before renovations. (Okay, it is looking a little "Sunset Boulevard" here!)

The estate sold yet again in 1993 to billionaire, Ron Burkle for $20 million. He would host another fund raiser at the estate in 1994 for Bill Clinton, this time with Natalie Cole performing.  The estate has also been used for filming locations. You may have recognized it in the film "Westworld" and "The Loved One".

One last view of Greenacres during it's heyday.

I hope I haven't left anything out. This mansion has quite the history and it still stands as one of the grandest celebrity homes, one that was filled with love and generosity. Harold Lloyd was quite the visionary and his impeccable taste and creativity will live on in this spectacular home as well as on celluloid. 

*If you do get the chance to drive by any of the three homes featured here, please keep in mind that they are private residences. 

Thanks for stopping by!