STARDUST AND SHADOWS is lucky enough to be writing this entry from Santa Monica near the famous pier. It is still a number of days before the TCM FESTIVAL begins yet I still have time in this neck of the wood to find some film history.
First up , took a walk to the Annenberg Country beach house was once owned by Marian Davies who was connected pretty strongly with William Hearst. This site is not it former splendour but a smaller version of itself much like a way to many of these sites are today. What is actually left is a section of the house reconstructed during the 30’s from plans to give us the idea of what was there.
It was still a wonderful experience due to the our tour guide Phyllis Bernard. She and most of the staff were members of the Annenburg Conservatory Society that is interested preserving local history. Bernard also has worked in music and had office at Hollywood and Vine. She also had a friend would mix drinks for Spencer Tracey who would only drink them if this friend joined him. Yes it seems lots of people had brushes with celebrities but it was still cool to hear. We talked about Jean Harlow/ Paul Bern, theory that Spencer Tracy was actually gay and covered up the image makers hence is huge guilt regarding his marriage and heavy disappearing drinking binges.
The house itself is free of admission price. It is filled with pictures of Marion, William Randolph some of the parties that happened. There is even a electronic scrapbook of the era that one can browse and enjoy The only thing that is left of the original house with all the pillar or sculpted representations in nearby facility for conferences. You can play cards, read, write as there is an artist in residence which encourages its use as a creative place.
I listened to the brief tour. Even did the off thing depending on your point of view of walking up and introducing myself to William Randolph Hearst large full length photo when no one was looking. Joked about not getting my invitation to San Simeon yet. Got to have fun in these times and places, cant be all maudlin.
Phyllis and I chatted about the sites in Hollywood that had disappeared. I have always been fascinated by the “Night life” of that time which includes the dance clubs and the eateries. She had had the opportunity to go the redone Brown Derby which itself is gone long after the original in the shape of the hat had disappeared. You could still get some of the recipes from the menu but it is not the same thing. However her face lit up when we talked of Musso and Franks still open on Hollywood Blvd which still has some of the original recipes including Mary Pickford’s favourite flannel cake that she would order when there with Charlie Chaplin. It is also reported to mix and very good martini. Musso and Franks still has the original coat hooks on the premises so you dream who wonder who had out their coat in the same spot you have done.
It is still a sore spot to me the a great number of the wonderful homes have disappeared. I speak of the demolition of places like Falcon’s Lair, Pickfair, Errol Flynn’s Mulholland Drive abode and countless other to make way for modern monstrosities and subdivisions. Many of these with no record in some case not a inkling of what was there n the first place for people seeking these out. MGM back lot was broken up years ago for a housing development. The only thing now I believe are the pillars from the original front of MGM which is now the headquarters of Sony Pictures.
It was great fun talking to Phyllis about some of the history I enlightened here of Mary Pickford who was in one of the photos in the redone Annenberg House, Jack Warner, Norma Shearer, were in fact Canadians. She seems quite surprised at that and said well she ‘won’t just pass them over’ when talking about them. That was pretty cool. It is people like Phyllis Bernard who give an enthusiastic edge that you remember on trip