Walk Old Hollywood - The Double Indemnity House


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.


The Tale of Hollywood Tower

The Hollywood Tower and it’s famous neon sign, visible from the 101 Freeway, is more than just another tinsel-town landmark.  

Designed in French-Normandy style by architects Cramer & Wise, the building was constructed in 1929 and originally christened “LaBelle Tour.” It served as an extended stay residence to visiting actors, directors, writers, and various other studio employees when the film industry began to migrate west. 

According to Census records, this legendary structure was home to Humphrey Bogart of “Casablanca” during construction of his house in the Hollywoodland subdivision. William Powell of “The Thin Man” franchise occupied apartment 401.  Colin Clive, most famous for his role as Dr. Frankenstein, was photographed on the famous rooftop terraces in the 1930s and resided at LaBelle Tour when filming in Hollywood. 

Colin Clive, the original Dr. Frankenstein, poses on the rooftop of Hollywood Tower.  In the background you can see the Hollywood sign which originally read "Hollywoodland."

Colin Clive, the original Dr. Frankenstein, poses on the rooftop of Hollywood Tower.  In the background you can see the Hollywood sign which originally read "Hollywoodland."

The name was changed from LaBelle Tour to Hollywood Tower in the 1950s, and was one of the few buildings not decimated by the construction of the 101 Freeway. Aerial views show how the 101 Freeway gently curves around the historic Tower, caressing this architectural treasure that has survived for nearly a century in a town where some of the most iconic landmarks now exist only in photos.

The building went into decline and changed hands several times after the construction of the freeway.  In the sixties and seventies it followed the downward slide of Hollywood at the time, developing a reputation as a flop house mired in the businesses of drugs and prostitution.  

A 1978 renovation restored the building somewhat, but rent control made operations difficult for the management. The owners began to target the senior housing market in an effort to make a profit.  In 1988 the National Register of Historic Places added Hollywood Tower to its roster.  Alliance Residential acquired the property in 2007, and a new chapter in the history of this distinguished building began.

Hollywood Tower's rooftop terrace in 1942

Extensive renovations produced a stunning art deco lobby with marble flooring, seating areas with vintage furniture on each floor, and garden rooftop decks landscaped to set off the already stunning views of the Hollywood sign and downtown Los Angeles.   The rooftop restoration was inspired by photos of the rooftop gardens taken in the 1940s.

Although Hollywood Tower is situated in the heart of the nation’s film industry, it has a unique history of attracting musicians, and that legacy continued with the Tower’s partnership with 987FM in the early 2010s.  Private shows on the rooftop decks have included names such as Bush, Florence and the Machine, Incubus, Fun., Jane’s Addiction, Foster the People, and Neon Trees as well as countless other artists.

In April 2010, an addition to the community opened on the east lot next to Hollywood Tower, named LaBelle in homage to its historic neighbor.  Alliance’s visionary development team wanted to create a unified community offering residents a taste of both classic and contemporary elegance.  LaBelle embodied a “Four-Seasons” style boutique hotel feel, and Hollywood Tower offered charm and mystery on par with the Cheateau Marmont.  Residents freely indulged in the amenities offered by both buildings, enjoying the same level luxury as the residents of the original LaBelle Tour.  The partnership lasted until 2015 when the buildings were sold, and now they are owned and operated seperately.

A number of today’s actors, musicians, and artists have chosen to call LaBelle and Hollywood Tower their home.  The original building at 6200 Franklin Avenue’s journey from star-status to has-been to come-back is a truly a tale worthy of Hollywood, a city where anything and everything is possible.