The stars of Old Hollywood can still be felt and seen all around the city. People tell stories of stars gone by and people dress up as them and traipse around the town. You can’t think of Hollywood without remembering stars of the past like Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and Charlie Chaplin. These icons ran Old Hollywood, making their mark both on and off screen. When they weren’t making classic films, they spent time together, threw lavish parties and got into all kinds of hijinks. Here are some of their secret stories.
The devilish Bette Davis was known for making you feel right at home in her LA mansions, until you said something to upset her. One night, while making scrambled eggs and toast for her guests, she turned a knife on a long-time producer friend for complementing Bette’s rival Joan Crawford. You can bet he stopped requesting snacks that involved knives next time he came to visit! Bette called many places home over the years, with her final home being at The Colonial House in West Hollywood. Bette chose this apartment because it overlooked the La Ronda apartment house, where she first stayed when she arrived in California with her mother.
The Colonial House has also been home to many other celebrities including Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Cary Grant, Eddie Cantor, William Powell and Norma Talmadge. It was even featured in the 1954 crime film, “Down Three Dark Streets” (1954), starring Broderick Crawford. I currently have a 1 Bedroom apartment for lease in the building, the perfect choice for any lover of Old Hollywood glamour.
Stars of old seemed to change homes practically as often as they changed spouses. Which in some cases, ended up being biannually. Another famous LA partier was the Tramp himself, Charlie Chaplin, who at one time lived in a quirky Moorish home. Charlie Chaplin had lots of homes and lots of wives during his time on the Hollywood A-List, throwing lavish parties for both his friends and co-stars. Charlie was known for livening up the atmosphere at any event. Determined to be the center of attention, he’d dance with invisible balloons or mime a bull and matador and fight with himself. He’d even mimic Hollywood leading ladies, pretending to get them in all sorts of terrible behaviors. After a while, people stopped inviting Mr. Chaplin to their parties for fear of being mocked themselves!
For other stars, a home was an accessory. Joan Bennett’s longtime 14-room home in Holmby Hills went through a makeover halfway through her stay there. She explained, “I’d furnished the house when I was a blonde, and when I became a brunette [she began dyeing her fair hair around 1940], naturally the colors were no good with my dark hair. So I gave the house a brunette personality.” Makes sense to me!
There’s no Old Hollywood story without Norma Jean herself, Marilyn Monroe. Over the course of her short life, Marilyn Monroe lived in over 40 homes, with dozens in the Los Angeles area. She occupied the Bel Air Hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and many houses around West Hollywood and The Valley.
Marilyn even spent a summer bunking with Harry Warner (yes, of the Warner Brothers Studios) in his Guest House at 1006 Rexford Drive in Beverly Hills.
The seven bedroom house includes the famous guest house, plus a European garden, rock lagoon pool and spa, waterfalls, a tennis court, and is currently for sale. Any takers? I’d be glad to set up a showing!
After all that moving, Marilyn finally settled down and bought her first (and unfortunately, last) home in 1962 in Brentwood. Her body was found there later that year and her death is still shrouded in mystery, which is why she is thought to haunt the home today. The house was sold in 2012 for $5.1M, Marilyn’s ghost included.
Sure, you could take a Hollywood tour to see celebrity homes, or better yet, you could take a walk through Hollywood, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood! Imagine heading to lavish parties at the old mansions and apartment buildings you’ve seen here- Happy ghost hunting!