Who lived in the Hillview Apartments?

 Photo by Gary Leonard

Photo by Gary Leonard

The Hillview Apartments are one of the few intact historic buildings remaining in Old Hollywood. Although the city of Hollywood and the film industry are synonymous today, in the early 1900s the town and this new type of business were at odds.  The locals were none too excited about their sunny paradise being invaded by this strange new group of people and their unconventional way of life and earning a living.  Many townspeople would not rent to actors, creating a problem for the performers and the producers bringing their film companies to Hollywood.

Enter Jesse Lasky, partner to Cecil B. DeMille and one of the founders of Famous Players-Lasky Studios (known today as Paramount). Lasky decided to solve the problem of housing his actors by building an apartment building for them, and in 1917 a building permit was granted for the Hillview Apartments.

There are so many famous actors rumored to have lived in the Hillview that it can be quite the challenge to prove who actually did.  A glance through the 1922-23 Los Angeles City Directories shed a little light on this mystery...and while you may not know many (if any) names on this list, it provides an interesting picture of the types of film workers moving to Hollywood in the early 1920s.

Today one might not recognize Mae Busch or Viola Dana, but they were big stars at that time, and having them as your neighbors would have been quite a thrill!  Walking through the halls you might recognize Henry Klaus, a supporting actor in Rudolph Valentino's hit film "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" or Edward LeSaint, who shared the screen with Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times." And an actor new to town could have a real lucky break if they happened to live in the same building as Clarence E. Ericksen, The Studio Manager of the Douglas Fairbanks Picture Corporation.

Others on the list were writers, producers, or actors and actresses that were working in the early 1920s but never became major stars.  The mix of characters in the Hillview was probably very similar to the types of people that fill Hollywood's apartment buildings today.  Each person had a unique story, but nearly a century later most of them are not known, except that they were all pioneers in creating the Hollywood we know today.

Here is the full list...let me know in the comments if you have any interesting stories about these early residents of Hollywood and Hillview Apartments! 

1922

Viola Dana - Actress

Neely Edwards - Actor

Clarence E Ericksen - Studio Manager, Douglas Fairbanks Picture Corporation

Gloria Fonda - Actress

John Hamilton - Actor (The Maltese Falcon)

Lloyd Hughes - Actor (also lived at Hillview in 1923)

Henry Klas/Klaus - Actor (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)

Bernard D Russell, Writer/Producer

Betty Hutchinson - Actress

 

1923

Mae Busch - Actress

Tom Guise - Actor

Raymond Hatton - Actor (frequently paired with Wallace Beery)

Edward LeSaint - Actor (Modern Times)

E. Lanning Masters - Writer

Christine Mayo - Actress

Philip Whitman - Secretary for the American Society of Cinematographers

Mildred Davenport - Actress

 

A handy tip from Naughty Noir Dames

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Modern women roam about blissfully unaware of the dangers of leaving their hands unprotected.  Our noir dames knew how to keep their hands clean, so to speak.

A proper pair of gloves shield your pretty paws from the ravages of the sun and pollution.  They also protect your manicure and keep your fingerprints private.  Driving in gloves is a great substitute for SPF...it's also a great way to feel glamorous on an otherwise average day!

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A muff is even more fabulously chic…while warming your hands, it conveniently conceals your “heater” in a pinch (that’s a gun for those of you who haven’t seen The Maltese Falcon).   

So get out to your favorite vintage shop and pick up a pair of fabulous gloves.  If you are in LA, a few of my favorites are Slone Vintage, Junk for Joy, or Hubba Hubba, all within blocks of each other and a host of other vintage and vintage reproduction shops on Magnolia Street in Burbank.  If you're not local, most of these shops have online shops or are on Etsy.  Happy shopping!  And if you find an especially fab pair, please post in the comments or send a pic to me on social media @VinspiredApril!

 

Los Feliz Murder Mansion

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This abandoned mansion possesses a horrific history, and after reading a few blog posts about it, I had to visit it for myself.  

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The facts of the story are this...a seemingly harmless husband and father of three went crazy one December evening in 1959 and killed his wife with a ball peen hammer and then went after his oldest daughter.  She managed to escape, and when the two youngest children awaked, frightened by all the commotion, their father told them they were having a nightmare and to go back to bed.  Then he drank a lethal dose of poison or acid, depending on which version of the story you read, and died.

 

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After the tragedy, the children were sent to live with relatives, and the house was purchased at auction by Julian and Emily Enriquez (imagine attending THAT real estate auction).  The couple willed it to their son and current owner, Rudy.  None of the Enriquez family have ever moved in or made any changes to the house.  The murders are disturbing enough, but the Enriquez family actions are what really make this an infamous story...what logical reason could someone have for holding onto over 5000 square feet of prime real estate in Los Angeles, and leaving the scene of a horrific crime completely untouched?  I took the photos below a couple of years ago, showing the inside of the house that is visible...it certainly doesn't look like anyone has done much cleaning since that night in 1959.

 

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Many of the ground level doors and windows were boarded up over the years due to vandalism, but the front windows to the living room were still completely exposed (as was I, standing at the top of the hill in the front yard, trying to sneak a peek through them)!

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I'd read about some of the things in these photos, but I didn't quite believe it until I saw it in person.

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This was the only evidence I could find peeking through windows of any alleged Christmas-tree-with-unwrapped-presents situation, but it was enough to make this ghastly story a little too real for me:

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The story is that the Enriquez family used the place for storage.  That's a pretty expensive and fancy storage facility, but not very organized.  I'm really curious to know if this was their vintage fat burning/shaker machine:

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I find murder/haunting stories to be wildly exaggerated, but this is an interesting case in that almost everything I've read out there about it from different sources is pretty consistent.

It's rumored that Rudy Enriquez had been approached by potential buyers over the years but had refused to sell, although these real estate agents appear to have held out hope as late as 2002:

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These photos were taken a couple of years ago, and now the home may finally be ready for a new chapter.  It sold in June of 2016 for $2.289 million in a probate sale.  I checked it out a few days ago, and it still looks uninhabited, although the inside was finally cleaned out when it was listed for sale.  Here's hoping that the Mansion and it's new owners have happier days ahead!  

You can read more about the Los Feliz Murder Mansion and it's history here:

Absurd LA

LA Times

Curbed LA

Classic Halloween Films

If you're like me, you love Halloween but the blood and gore side of it might not be your thing.  Classic films are great alternatives to modern horror films because they can strike a spooky tone without going overboard.  Here are a few of my favorite classic Halloween flicks...enjoy!

I Married A Witch - 1942

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A delightful romantic comedy, this film stars the glamorous Veronica Lake as a witch freed after 270 years of imprisonment to exact her revenge upon the descendants of the puritans that had her burned at the stake (but don't worry, that gruesome bit of business is over and done with long before the opening credits!). This movie is complete with all the fun Halloween staples like witches, black cats, broomsticks, spells, and potions.  Basically everything except anything scary!

Young Frankenstein - 1974

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Mel Brooks's timeless spoof on Frankenstein is a scream...in a good way!  Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman are a perfect comedy team, and the movie is full of double entendres and sight gags that will leave you in stitches.  

Nosferatu - 1922

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This is one of the earliest surviving vampire films, but the 1922 special effects and the fact that it is a silent film make it safe enough for a squeamish viewer the get the thrills of a horror film without being horrified.  Having seen this early version of Dracula will also get you points with your cinema-snob friends, as it's considered one of the most influential early horror films.  If you're throwing a Halloween party, Nosferatu can provide great atmosphere playing in the background with title cards like these:

"Is that your wife? What a lovely throat!"

"SPIDERS!"

"Blood is life!  Blood is life!"

House on Haunted Hill - 1959

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How much more Halloween can you get than Vincent Price, the "voice" of Michael Jackson's Thriller?  Price stars as a millionaire who offers $10,000 to five strangers if they agree to be locked in for a night at his spooky mansion.  The 1960s special effects are pretty tame by today's standards, making it fun & spooky to watch without seeing anything too disturbing.  Fun Fact: The actual house from the title is the famous Ennis House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Feliz.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

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Aside from Psycho, which has a pretty gory shower scene, any Hitchcock film is great for Halloween.  As the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock's gift is creating said suspense without showing anything too nightmare-inducing.  I couldn't pick just one Hitchcock film, so instead I recommend binge-watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents for the entire month of October to get into the Halloween spirit!

What are your favorite classic Halloween films?

I Love Lucy (and her cute bungalow)

Lucille Ball got a golden ticket to Hollywood after a successful modeling career and an unsuccessful first attempt at dramatic acting in New York.  After a brief stint in an apartment on Formosa, she rented a little bungalow in West Hollywood, and remained there until her famous marriage to Desi Arnaz.

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The home is still there, well-maintained on a quiet residential street...you can imagine Lucy hopping on her bike and pedaling off to RKO as a contract player, long before she became loved by millions.

After the advent of her hit TV show and long after she'd moved on to her ranch with Desi and her children, the activities at this little home once more became the center of her life for a brief time...charges were brought against her as a communist during the McCarthy-era witch hunt that ruined many Hollywood careers.

Lucy's grandfather had held political meetings in the garage behind this little house, and even pled with Lucy and her family to register to vote under the communist party for him.  Depression and an unfair trail that cost her grandfather his life savings and home had made him distrustful of the government.  Lucy responded honestly to the charges, telling the FBI that she was much too exhausted to attend any meetings her grandfather held in her garage during her days as a starlet, starting early and working late into the night.  Although she had registered under the communist party once at her grandfather's pleading, she'd done it to avoid upsetting him and never actually voted communist.

America DID love Lucy, and after a live broadcast in which she directly addressed her audience regarding the accusations, the charges were dropped, and she became one of Hollywood's first stars to survive a "red scare" unscathed.

Except for this, Lucy was always fond of this little house where she was first able to make her own way in Hollywood and support her family, and Lucy fans will be glad to know its still as well cared for today as when it was occupied by America's favorite comedienne.

Walk Old Hollywood - The Double Indemnity House

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After watching Double Indemnity, I was inspired to find that amazing Dietrichson house where Barbara Stanwyck's character, Phyllis, lives.  In the film it's described as being in Los Feliz, but it's actually in Hollywood.

"It was one of those California Spanish houses everybody was nuts about 10 or 15 years ago."   - Walter Neff

The house still appears exactly the way it does in the movie.  It's a lovely walk through the Hollywood Hills above Franklin Avenue, and I definitely recommend walking...the streets are winding and parking non-existent.  And the view is much nicer on foot!

As it turns out, there really is honeysuckle growing in the neighborhood! 

"How could I have known that murder sometimes smells like honeysuckle?" - Walter Neff

Lost Treasure of the Hollywood Bowl

In the Cahuenga Pass, countless cars speed (or crawl, depending on traffic) over the 101 Freeway with no thought of the pioneers who traveled this route before Hollywood existed.  It was the path traders used to bring goods into Hollywood, and just like the plots of the westerns later shot there, any good trade route was fraught with bandits.

There are other versions online of how gold came to be buried in the Cahuenga Pass (see this LA Times article).  They name treasure as the jewels and gold of the Mexican Treasury sent to be traded for guns while Mexico was fighting for its independence from European nations seeking to claim what they could of the new world.  

This version of the story is a little different, but the source is a 1922 publicity brochure printed by the Publicity Department of the Hollywood Brach Security Trust & Savings Bank, so I thought I'd share a different take from a Hollywood local of the 1920s.  Here is the legend of the hidden gold of El Molino Viejo (The Old Mill, which still exists in San Marino and is the oldest commercial building in Southern California) circulated among the residents of Hollywood in the early part of the 20th century. 

In the 1860s, an Indian referred to as "Salvador" is rumored to have hidden the gold to keep it safe from bandits. The gold was safely hidden, but Salvador was not as lucky. He was mortally wounded, although Chief Cahuenga and his braves came to fend off the attackers. Any and all attempts to find the treasure were labeled "cursed" and Salvador's ghost was believed to be eternally guarding the gold from anyone who would like to find it. 

Whichever version you believe, people love a good treasure hunt.  Several people tried to find the treasure and ultimately met an untimely end,  supposedly because of the curse upon anyone who dared to go looking for it.  The most recent (and ridiculous) is this:

In 1939, three men obtained a special permit to dig up portions of the Hollywood Bowl parking lot behind the stage, believing it to be the site of the buried treasure.  CBS radio and three film crews covered the treasure hunt, which lasted 24 days. People even came to watch the excitement, although they quickly tired of watching a large hole being dug.  Nothing was found, and one of the men committed suicide a month later.  No more treasure-hunting permits were issued after that.