Homes Of The Stars—Then And Now

Photo courtesy of Darrell Rooney.

I went to Jean Harlow’s house last weekend. Now, there’s a statement I never thought I’d be able to make. As it happens, the good folks at Angel City Press held a signing party for Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira’s beautiful new book Harlow in Hollywood in the home Jean Harlow shared with her mother and stepfather in 1931-33 (It was also the setting for her wedding to Paul Bern in 1932.) Rooney got to know the current owners when he drove Harlow’s vintage Packard to their street and parked it right in front. That broke the ice, and since then they’ve become friends who were generous enough to open their residence to a parade of film buffs and well-wishers on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It’s still a beautiful, tastefully designed home on the West Side of Los Angeles, opposite the Los Angeles Country Club.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Rooney.

A photo of Harlow sitting on a windowsill back then reveals that she had a clear view for miles from her—

—hilltop perch (now there are houses across the street, and mature trees, but the outlook from the second story is still pretty impressive.)

Photo courtesy of Darrell Rooney.

If you have some spare change, you too can live in a majestic house with a Hollywood pedigree. My wife noticed several interesting listings in the real estate section of the Sunday paper and I thought I’d bring them to your attention.

For a mere $38,000,000 (marked down from $65 million) you can own The Robert Taylor Ranch, comprised of 112 acres in the Mandeville Canyon area of Brentwood. The listing cites “11,700 of main house by Robert Byrd A.I.A., 4,000 of recreational/office complex, 3,100 of guest studio, 10 car garage, horse stables w/bridle paths & riding arenas, championship tennis court, and swimmer’s pool with pavilion (all square footage approximate). Beautiful, expansive, lush sweeping grounds surround this trophy property which offers the ultimate in luxury living.”

If all that is too rich for your blood, how about Max Factor’s palatial home in Hancock Park, which is available for a mere $6,250,000? This is “truly one of Hancock Park’s finest estates, located on THE premiere street… This English Manor boasts opulent wood carvings, custom molded ceilings and more, all trademarks of old world craftsmanship. You couldn’t find work like this today. Perfect scale in all public rooms. Octagon breakfast room. Outstanding formal dining room. The tennis court and pool sit amidst award winning garden. Outdoor living in a colonnade of arches. Finest value available in Los Angeles.”

And if you’re willing to travel a short distance to an attractive suburb of the city, you could pick up Victor McLaglen’s home in La Canada Flintridge for $4,950,000. “Magnificent English Period Revival home, beautifully crafted in 1928, set on 1.532 acres of land with rolling lawns, gardens, & unique trees. The custom millwork & architectural detail throughout are exquisite. There are 3BR suites, 6.5 ba. The 1st occupant was Academy Award winning actor Victor McLaglen & family; they named the home Fairhaven. A guest house is connected to the main home by an arched porte cochere. Basement includes billiard rm, exercise rm. & office. There is a pool house, secluded pool & private patio areas.”

Photo courtesy of Darrell Rooney.

Any home reflects its owners, and I’m sure there are echoes of these formidable Hollywood figures in each of these magnificent residences. But a famous name on a deed doesn’t generate warmth or a feeling of welcome; it takes something more. As I spoke with the doctor who now owns Jean Harlow’s home I was struck by the loving care he and his wife have put into the property. I think the famous platinum blonde, who died before her time, would be pleased to know that her onetime home brings such pleasure to the people who live there today.

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April 2024