Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Old-Fashion Unplugging

Photo by Thomas J. Story from Sunset

When I received the latest issue of Sunset magazine in the mail I thumbed passed the first few articles but stopped on one entitled "The unplugged home," about a San Francisco family who has created a technology-free home. By that I mean this family does things the "old-fashioned way." They don't have TVs, computers or smartphones around the house. Their appliances don't have any LED interfaces. The clocks are all analog and the phone is a rotary dial telephone. The family doesn't have a microwave, but they have a handpress juicer, flour grinder, and everything needed to make foods completely from scratch. They don't even have an electric coffeemaker, but instead they use one of those stovetop coffeemakers. Basically, any modern day electronics the family keeps out of the house. 

The family doesn't want to overexpose their kids to modern day technology. They make it clear that their not completely anti-technology - both parents have iPhones that they use sparingly outside the house - but inside their home is supposed to be an escape from technology. Instead of computers or video games, there is plenty of yarn, colored pencils and other materials for arts & craft projects. They have acoustic instruments that the parents and kids can play to make music. Other means of entertainment include board games, cards, reading books (not e-books) and for the parents - being able to sit down and read the entire New Yorker without distractions.

Moe points out the time on his wristwatch instead of his smartphone.

The article made me think of two things. 

First, that one of the things I enjoy about watching classic movies from a modern perspective is seeing old-fashioned ways of doing things or items that the majority of us just don't use anymore. I love seeing in old movies offices with no computers, printers, or other electronics and all their cords. Instead every desk in a classic movie is usually very simple, with just a typewriter or notepad. Some other things I enjoy seeing in classic films are people reading newspapers, keeping time on a wind-up watch, making coffee on the stove, keeping notes in a notepad instead of their smartphone, people writing letters (with perfect penmanship of course), cash registers with push buttons, levers, and bells, people cooking from scratch or making anything from scratch. I could go on and on, but the point is, I enjoy watching a world before techno overload.

The second thing the article made me think of is whether or not I could ever go technology free like the family featured in Sunset? I'll admit it. I'm a techno junkie. I have an iPhone that my wife is constantly telling me to put down. I'm so bad at times that I may be using my smartphone, watching the TV and viewing something else on the computer or iPad at the same time! As much as I love the simpler things of the past I love technology! I do admit though that it can become intrusive.

I could never rid my life of all techno clutter, but one of my New Year's resolutions is to be a little more conscious of technology in my life. 

Do you think you could go technology free? What old-fashioned things do you enjoy seeing in classic movies and do you do or use any of those old-fashioned things in your modern life?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Elvis Presley's Palm Springs Birthday Bash

The Elvis Honeymoon House in Palm Springs

On January 5, in Palm Springs, California, Elvis fans can celebrate the legendary performer's 78th birthday (which is on January 8). Festivities will take place at the Elvis Honeymoon House, a midcentury estate that Elvis leased for a year and where he and Priscilla spent their honeymoon on May 1, 1967. Activities include tours of the house, an afternoon concert, a meet & greet with special celebrity guests, and birthday cake.

The living room inside the Elvis Honeymoon House.

According to the website,, on September 16, 1966, Elvis leased the estate at 1350 Ladera Circle, Palm Springs, for one year for $21,000. I wouldn't be surprised if that would be the monthly rate today! The original plan was for Elvis and Priscilla to be married by the pool at the estate, but because of all the media, Elvis and Priscilla were sneaked out of Palm Springs and flown to Las Vegas in Frank Sinatra's Lear jet. The wedding ceremony took place in the morning at the Aladdin Hotel and then later that day Elvis and Priscilla flew back to the Palm Springs estate to start their honeymoon.

Bedroom at the Elvis Honeymoon House in Palm Springs.

Tickets range in price from $25 to $55 depending on the package. Visit the official Elvis Honeymoon website for full details here.

All photos (c) 2013 Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) - Film Locations


House on Telegraph Hill (1951) is a thriller about a Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victoria (Valentina Cortesa), who assumes the identity of her friend Karin who died in the camp. Victoria's family was killed by the Nazis and she has no one to go home to, so after the camp is liberated, Victoria, who has taken possession of her friend's identification papers, heads to America using Karin's identity. As Karin, Victoria finds herself living in a mansion on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. She's now married, pretending to be the mother to a son, and the next in line to the Dernakova fortune. Things at first appear to go well for Victoria but then strange things begin to take place and Victoria doesn't know what to make of them.

The film, directed by Robert Wise, is shot in beautiful black and white with much of the filming taking place in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. The film stars Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortesa, and William Lundigan.

1541 Montgomery Street, San Francisco

Julius Castle, 1541 Montgomery Street

The mansion in the film is actually what used to be Julius Castle, a restaurant designed to look like a castle, located at 1541 Montgomery Street on Telegraph Hill. The filmmakers added on to the exterior of the building to hide the elements that would reveal the building to be a restaurant. Julius's Castle was built in 1923 by Italian-born architect Louis Mastropasqua for another Italian who immigrated to San Francisco, restaurateur Julius Roz. The attraction unfortunately closed in 2008 and the building is currently for sale. According to Preservation Nation, the restaurant has had many celebrity visitors, everyone from the likes of Sean Connery, Robert Redford, and Ginger Rogers, to the entire cast of The Empire Strikes Back.

View of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill

View of San Francisco from Telegraph Hill

Above is a view of San Francisco seen during the beginning of the film, when Victoria arrives in her new city. Just below that is a photograph of the city from the blog The Imperfect Traveller that was taken from Telegraph Hill. You can see there are now many more high-rise buildings in the distance, including the famous Transamerica Pyramid building, San Francisco's tallest skyscraper, which wasn't built until 1972.

San Francisco seen from The House on Telegraph Hill

In the scene below, Victoria runs into her friend Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) at a market located at 301 Union Street, not far from the mansion location.

Victoria stops by a market at 301 Union Street

Looking towards 301 Union St. from Montgomery St.

Victoria and Marc at the market. The NW corner of Union and Montgomery can be seen in the background.

NW corner of Union St. and Montgomery St.

Looking down Union St. towards Castle St.

Looking down Union St. towards Castle St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from Union St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from Union St.

In this next scene Victoria is seen driving away from the house on Telegraph Hill. She starts at 1541 Montgomery Street and once she starts winding down Telegraph Hill she realizes her brakes have been cut and she can't stop. She ultimately crashes at a dead end street located on Montgomery Street near Montague Place.

Victoria leaves the house at 1541 Montgomery St.

Looking down Montgomery St. from the site of the house.

Victoria heads down Lombard St. towards Grant St.

Looking down Lombard towards Grant.

Looking up Lombard from Grant.

Looking up Lombard from Grant.

Turning from Chestnut St. onto Leavenworth St.

Looking up Chestnut from Leavenworth.

Turning from Montgomery to Union.

Looking down Union towards Calhoun Terrace.

Victoria turns onto Calhoun Terrace.

Victoria heads down Montgomery St. towards Montague Place.

Montgomery St. at Montague Place.

Victoria crashes at Montgomery and Montague.

Looking down Montague Place from Montgomery.

Victoria begins to be suspicious of all the strange events taking place around her and goes to meet Marc Bennett at his office. In the scene below, she is in a taxi that is driving down Post Street towards Market Street. The taxi pulls over and Victoria gets out and runs into what used to be the Crocker Building. The Crocker Building, which survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, was demolished in the 1960s. To see what this building once looked like visit this great site, SepiaTown.

Post Street near Market Street.

Post St. at Market St. Crocker Galleria is on the right.

Victoria arrives at the Crocker building on Post St.

Post Street near Market Street.

Victoria approaches the Crocker building on Post St.

Looking down Post Street towards Market St.

Victoria meets up again with Marc at the San Francisco Yacht Club off of Marina Boulevard. In the first comparison you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and in the second comparison we get a glimpse of the Exploratorium, a "museum of science, art and human perception."

Marc meets with Victoria at the Yacht Club.

The Yacht Club off of Marina Boulevard.

Victoria and Marc at the Yacht Club.

The San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor.

House on Telegraph Hill is available on DVD as part of the Fox Film Noir series. It is also currently available for streaming on Netflix.

Screenshots (c) Twentieth Century-Fox, present day images, except where noted, (c) 2012 Google.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Colonial House - A Classic Hollywood Apartment

The Colonial House. Photo:

Built in 1930 and designed by noted Los Angeles architect Leland Bryant (Harper House, Savoy Plaza, Sunset Tower), the Colonial House has long been a home to celebrities. According to The Movieland Directory, some early Hollywood residents have included Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, Myrna Loy, Eddie Cantor, William Powell, and Norma Talmadge. Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Joan Blondell have also called the place home. Earlier this year even pop singer Katie Perry purchased a place in the Colonial House, continuing the building's legacy for being a home for stars.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the property features wrought-iron fixtures, gardens, a swimming pool, library, arched doorways, custom built-in cabinetry, wood-paneled elevators, a terrace and includes views of the mountains and Hollywood. The elegant Colonial House is conveniently located near the nightclubs on the Sunset Strip, is just a short drive to the premium shopping in Beverly Hills, and central to the many movie studios in the area. It's no wonder why so many stars have chosen the Colonial House as their home. 

No doubt a place like the Colonial House must have many great stories.  A couple stories I'm familiar with involve actresses Joan Blondell and Bette Davis.

Joan Blondell & Bette Davis. Colonial House residents.

In 1960, Joan Blondell, who was 54 at the time, left her Sutton Place apartment in New York City and moved back to California, finding an apartment in the seven-story Colonial House. Most of her family were in California, including her grandkids and many of her close friends. One of her longtime friends, former neighbor Frances Marion already lived in the Colonial House and the two would reunite their close friendship. Joan and Frances would catch up every afternoon at five over cocktails with some of the other female tenants which included newspaper columnist Jill Jackson, publicist Maggie Ettinger, and stockbroker Flora Marks. 

Entrance to the Colonial House.

Not long after Joan moved in she found herself busy with work on television, first as a rich widow on an episode of The Untouchables and then as a psychopath on the Barbara Stanwyck Show - both filmed at Desilu Studios in Culver CityJoan was also still working in movies too and when she would have to go out of town for location filming, her neighbor Jill Jackson would feed and walk her dogs, Bridey and Fresh. In his biography, Joan Blondell: A Life Between Takes, author Matthew Kennedy retells this story told by Jackson:
"Her life was those two ugly dogs!" said Jackson. To her consternation, "those damn dogs" only agreed to evacuate their bowels on the lawn of the nearby Christian Science church.

Bette Davis's former Colonial House living room as it appeared in 2009 when the unit was up for sale. (Gordon Thompson)

Bette Davis had many places around Los Angeles she called home at different points in her life. The Colonial House would be the last home she would live in. In the late 70s, according to the Roy Moseley memoir Bette Davis, the actor Roddy McDowall helped find her a place in Colonial House. Davis liked the apartment because it overlooked the La Ronda apartment house, where Bette and her mother first stayed when they arrived in California from New York. Bette wasn't a movie star then, but just a young woman ready for her big break.

Bette's apartment was on the fourth-floor and had large spacious rooms with twelve-foot high ceilings. She decorated the place with framed pictures nailed to the walls and with art books and family photographs on the tables. On the floor, on each side of a lattice doorway that led to the dining room, Bette placed her two Oscars which she won for Best Actress: one for Dangerous (1935) and another for Jezebel (1938).

Moseley, who was very close to Bette in her later years, shares this story of one of his visits to Bette at the Colonial House:
"From her balcony you could see down to the swimming pool below. One day, Bette was leaning on the rail looking over at a corpulent man and his attractive family as they all swam and sunbathed. 'Look at that,' Bette shouted to me, loud enough for her voice to carry clearly down to the ground. 'Look at that disgusting man. It's revolting that a nice young girl and her children should have to be with such a fat, disgusting man.' I hoped they could not hear and tried to stop her, but she pretended not to understand what I was talking about."
Yikes! I picture dialogue like that coming out of Bette's character Jane Hudson, from the film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). Much like Joan, Moseley mentions that Bette also enjoyed a good cocktail hour. Perhaps her tongue was loosened by liquor.

Pool area.

The Colonial House, like Leland Bryant's other West Hollywood apartment building, the Harper House, has also appeared on screen as a filming location. In the Broderick Crawford crime film, Down Three Dark Streets (1954), the Colonial House appears in a scene where Crawford and his FBI partner go to interview one of the residents as part of a crime investigation.

Broderick Crawford in the film Down Three Dark Streets (1954).

If you're now interested in moving into the Colonial House, you're in luck! There is a one bedroom unit on the first floor that is available for $1,275,000. For more information and photos on this unit visit the real estate listing here.


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