Sunday, March 27, 2011

Don Ameche Plays Cards, Wins House

Ruby Keeler & Al Jolson (c) LIFE

In 1935, Al Jolson and wife Ruby Keeler built a 22-room home in Encino, California, complete with a chapel, 2,000 square foot aviary and one acre circular driveway. At the time, Encino was a rural place made up of ranches and farms. It was the perfect location for movie stars like Jolson and Keeler to get away from city life, yet still be near the movie studios they worked at, which were only about 13 or 15 miles away. The famous couple would only live in the home a few years. Jolson and Keeler divorced in 1939 and a year later Don Ameche would acquire the house.

Don Ameche (c) LIFE

According to Ameche friend Richard Frank, as told in the biography, Don Ameche: The Kenosha Comeback Kid, by Ben Ohmart, there is a story that Ameche got into a card game with Jolson and bet and won the house. That is some high-stakes gambling! However, according to an April 1998 Los Angeles Magazine article, Ameche bought the house from Jolson for $28,000.

At this point in his career, Ameche had already established himself as a hugely popular radio star and was on his rise as a star of the cinema. Ameche's family was also growing during this time. In the Don Ameche biography, Ameche describes this time in his life: "It was such a good life, such a fruitful one. We had the five-acre ranch in Encino, some twenty miles out of Hollywood, with cows and chickens, citrus trees and a truck garden. Above all, and best of all, there were the babies who came along, in fairly rapid succession. Dominic Felix, Jr. was the firstborn. Two years later, Ronald John bowed in. A lapse of four years and then, with only a year between them, Thomas Anthony and Lawrence Michael were born. Familiarly known as Donny, Ronny, Tommy and Lonny, all four boys were born by Caesarian section."

The home has also been owned by Matt LeBlanc, Kirstie Alley, Katey Sagal, and Charlie Sheen with his former wife Denise Richards.

Below are photos of the home as it appears in a current real estate listing on The home is currently being sold for $6,495,000. 

4875 Louise Avenue, Encino, Ca

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bachelor in Paradise (1961) - Film Locations

Bob Hope as "A.J. Niles"

Ask and you shall receive! A few months back I wrote a post about three movies I wished were on blu-ray or dvd. There are many films that I wish had some kind of a home video release, but I just chose three for the post - and you know what - the Warner Archive Collection recently made available one of those titles from my list!

The 1961 film Bachelor in Paradise is a favorite of mine for two reasons. First, I love Bob Hope in the role of A.J. Niles, an author of a series of books on the sexual lives of people in foreign countries. Hope has one hilarious quip after another and he is perfect as the smooth, cunning, ladies man. Second, to anyone who appreciates mid-century (20th century) fashion and design, the look of this film is stunning. The mid-century tract homes, an early suburban grocery store, bowling alley, tiki bar, cars, drive-in restaurant, clothes - everything in this film is a colorful step back in time. To celebrate the release of Bachelor in Paradise I decided to do a film locations post to show some of these colorful images.

In the film, Hope finds himself in trouble with the I.R.S. for back taxes. In order to pay back the I.R.S. Hope's publisher convinces him to write a new book about the developing American suburbs. Hope, using a false identity, relocates to the new California development of Paradise Village, and begins secretly compiling data for his book. Being the only bachelor in Paradise Village, Hope becomes popular with the bored housewives and not so popular with the husbands in the community. The film also stars Lana Turner, Janis Paige, Don Porter, Paula Prentiss, Jim Hutton, and in a cameo appearance, Agnes Moorehead.

Below is an image of Hope and Turner arriving at the home in Paradise Village that Hope will be staying while conducting his research. As Turner says in the film, that house, "It's not pink, its 'California coral.'" Paradise Village is a fictional suburb and even the street signs seen in the film are fake, so you can't go by those to find the locations. Hope's home is located in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills, at address 22931 Brenford Street.

Hope & Turner, 22931 Brenford Street

22931 Brenford Street, Woodland Hills

As you can see in the photo above the home is no longer "California coral."

Hope & Turner at 22931 Brenford Street

Above is an image of Hope and Turner parked in the driveway at the Brenford Street home. In the photo below you can see how this view looks today, along with a modern car in the driveway.

22931 Brenford Street, Woodland Hills

Hope in the driveway at 22931 Brenford Street

Jim Hutton, Hope's neighbor.

Above, Jim Hutton arrives home from work. Hutton and Paula Prentiss live in the home next door to Hope.

22941 Brenford Street, Woodland Hills

22941 Brenford Street, Woodland Hills

It is incredible to see how much this neighborhood has changed since 1961. In the next few images below you can see in the film how sparse the vegetation was. There are only a few trees and they are all quite small still. Today, the neighborhood is filled with trees and bushes and they are all quite large. It's difficult to see the homes or the mountain views which were visible in the film.

Rounding the corner at Brenford St. & Coloma Ave

Brenford St at Coloma Ave

The kids leave for school at Brenford at Coloma.

Brenford at Coloma

School bus drives down Brenford Street.

Looking down Brenford Street.

The photo above is looking down Brenford Street and that white house on the left is the same as the one in the image below with Turner and Prentiss. That house is located across the street from Hope's home.

Prentiss and Turner on Brenford Street

The husbands leave for work. Brenford Street.

The newspaper delivery boy drives down Brenford.

The Brenford St. Home seen above.

In the image below Turner is seen parking in front of Hope's house and you can see the home next door. The following image is a google earth screen capture showing this same location. I hadn't noticed this home at the time I was taking photos. If you look closely, the roof above the front door has changed since the time of the film and I didn't recognize the building. Of course I didn't notice this until I was back home. Besides, after a while, all these homes really start looking the same and it is hard to tell one from the next.

Turner parked in front of Hope's house.

In front of Hope's house. (c) Google

In the film Hope visits a suburban supermarket. That supermarket was the Hughes market located at 14620 Parthenia Street in Panorama City, another Los Angeles suburb. Today the supermarket is now a Hispanic grocery store, "El Super," and has been drastically remodeled. IMDB has the address for the market listed as 8231 Woodman Avenue, Panorama City, but I think that address is incorrect. There is a supermarket at that address, but I don't think it is the one used in the film. Interesting though is the market at 8231 is now a Filipino grocery store, so both markets in this former "whitebread" neighborhood are now two very different ethnic grocery stores.

Hughes Market, 14620 Parthenia Street

El Super, 14620 Parthenia Street

You can see in the background of the parking lot the sign for El Super. The El Super sign sits on the same base that used to hold the Hughes market sign. Below is a close-up of the sign.

El Super Sign.

Hope enters the Hughes Market.

El Super, the former Hughes Market.

Inside the Hughes Market.

The image above and below show how the Hughes Market looked inside. Do you recognize any of the products on display?

Hope & Turner Shop at Hughes Market

Benny's Drive In Restaurant

In one scene in the film Hope goes to a drive in restaurant, "Benny's," which you can see in the photo above and in some of the photos below. The location used for this restaurant is now a catering business called "Michael D's," and the address is 23130 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills. This is very close to the neighborhood where all the homes were filmed. Does anyone remember a Benny's drive in restaurant in Woodland Hills? I'm not sure if for the film the production created a fake sign and then just used the exterior of the building?

Benny's Drive In. 23130 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills

Michael D's, 23130 Ventura Blvd, Woodland Hills

Woodlake Lanes Bowling Alley

Turner & Hope inside of Woodlake Lanes Bowing Alley

Later in the film there is a scene of Hope and Turner at a bowling alley. I'm guessing this was the Woodlake Lanes bowling alley which is attached to the Michael D's catering business (Benny's in the film) at address 23130 Ventura Boulevard, Woodland Hills. If you look at the screenshot of the Benny's Drive In sign, in the background is a sign for a bowling alley, so even in the film, the restaurant and the bowling alley were right next to each other.

Woodlake Bowl/Michael D's, 23130 Ventura Blvd

At the end of the film, because of all the trouble he stirred up in Paradise Village, Hope needs to go to court. Below is the Los Angeles County Courthouse as seen in the film. The courthouse address is 111 N. Hill Street, Los Angeles, in downtown LA, but the below image is of the entrance located on Grand Avenue. The three mosaics above the entrance were designed by artist Albert Stewart in 1956. Stewart made his mark as an artist for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s.

Los Angeles County Courthouse, Grand Avenue Entrance

LA Courthouse, Grand Avenue Entrance

Agnes Moorehead in her cameo as Judge Peterson

Your thoughts?


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