Posts Tagged ‘Billie Dove’

Fire at the Normandie Village Apartments

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

READERS REQUEST

The Normandie Village Apartments

 

 

The Sunset Strip — where the Normandie Village Apartments

once stood near the upper left part of the photo

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

I love the challenge when a reader requests information about an old landmark or some obscure Hollywood institution. That happened the other day when Patricia asked about an old apartment complex she lived in as a child called The Normandie Village:

 

“Hi, I am trying to find out about a complex of Hollywood bungalows from the late 40′s early 50′s called Normandy or Nomandie Village. I believe it was on, or near Sunset Blvd. It cannot have been expensive because we lived there when my family was very broke. There was a fire, probably in 1953 or 1954? I was only 4 or 5, but I remember it, and that a neighbor and I ended up in a photo in the Los Angeles Times. I doubt that the complex survived at all, but I would love to see any old photos, and just to know the street address it was at!”  — Patricia

 

Well, when she mentioned the Nomandie Village, I knew exactly what she was referring to – a jumble of peaked-roof French Provincial apartments that at one time drove up its chimneys and shingles from the cascading hillside on the Sunset Strip. I couldn’t find any real photographs of the Normandie, which stood at 8474 Sunset Boulevard, but discovered that a fire did occur there in 1955. And there along with the story, just as she said, was a photo of two little girls – and one of them was named Patricia.

 

Built in the 1920s, the Normandie Village competed with the Garden of Allah, farther east on the strip, for Hollywood-type history. In the apartments clustered amid vine-covered pathways that made the Normandie Village resemble medieval suburbia of Marseilles or Toulon, great stars of silent movies and the new “talkies” lived, partied and nervously waited out “between pictures” idleness.

 

There are many stories that circulated about the Normandie but no one can know for sure if some of them are true. One story claims that actor John Barrymore sent an architect to Europe to study French Provincial architecture and that he designed the Normandie Village’s high-peaked buildings as replicas of what he saw on his tour.

 

Over the years, the Normandie was home to many film stars. Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, did his last writing at the Village. Richard Dix, an aspiring young actor, checked in there about 1924 when he arrived from New York to seek employment in films.

 

Myrna Loy and Billie Dove, two of the Hollywood’s film queens, lived there. Jimmy Stewart once recalled in a Saturday Evening Post story how he and Henry Fonda lived at the Normandie Village in their early Hollywood days.

 

Not only was the Village the scene of some Babylonian bashes, but nearby, according to unofficial history, Charlie Chaplin had a private “key club” for close friends.

 

The fire that Patricia referred to coincidentally occurred in the early morning hours of January 4, 1955 – 56 years ago tomorrow! A cigarette burning in the upholstery of a garaged car was blamed for the fire that destroyed the garage, ten parked cars and 24 of the 55-units of the Sunset Strip apartment building. The fire ravaged the rear half of the Normandie, but all the tenants, including about 25 children, escaped the fires without injury.

 

 

Of those 25 children, were Heather Harzley and Patricia Ann Deberck. Like the other children who had escaped, they clutched their most prized belongings. Someone asked Patricia Ann where she lived. “We lived in Apartment 21,” she said somberly, “but it isn’t there anymore.” The following photo appeared in the Los Angeles Times, just as Patricia remembered.

 

 

The Normandie Village was inhabited for another seven years until it was sold in 1962 to make way for a proposed 22-story hotel to be called the Hollywood Thunderbird. However, the hotel never happened and the Normandie stood vacant for another eight years until it was finally razed for the Sunset Americana, a residential hotel which was built in 1973. I haven’t had a chance to check out the sight currently, but a trip to Google Maps once again shows a vacant lot at the address (8474 Sunset Blvd.).

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Celebrity Christmas Cards

Friday, December 24th, 2010

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Hollywood Christmas Cards

 

 (lapl)

 

By Alma Whitaker
Christmas 1928

 

Christmas Eve round the fire – opening joyous piles of Christmas cards. Perhaps not quite so many utterly luxurious ones from Hollywood this year – because, oh, well, the “talkies” and other things have marred the prosperity of a few.

 

Five beautiful religious ones. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner (Louise Dresser) send an exquisite Madonna and Babe, with lambs, against a Holy Land background, the whole giving a church window effect. Mr.  and Mrs. Antonio Moreno, a blissful Holy Baby, seemingly sleeping in a celestial spotlight. Ramon Novarro an impressionistic version of the Madonna and Babe, outlined in heavy blue with golden haloes. John Boyce Smith, a white embossed view of the Holy Land, with camels and donkeys, palms and mosques, against a golden sky.

 

Lina Basquette, a snow mountain against a black sky, with two elongated emaciated sleighers floating down it. Doris Dawson, gilded Christmas trees against a turquoise sky and an unknown animal. Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Lowe, two elongated attenuated dancers on a few blue leaves.

 

Tec-Art Studios go in for heavy parchment, a terra cotta city and a palm higher than a church steeple. Billie Dove and Irving Willat send three emaciated reindeer racing down a black rainbow across a purple sky, with a yellow moon. Fanchon Royer’s card, red on silver, shows a very Mephistophelian gentleman apparently making offerings to some Christmas candles. Warner Baxter goes in for black and gold voluptuous architecture against a gray sky striped with red and gold.

 

Elegant simplicity is favored by Dick Barthelmess – white embossed crest on an expensive white background, and no vulgar originality about the greeting. Bebe Daniels has a gold crest on aristocratic gray, winged griffin rampant, motto, “Semper Paratus.” Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Goldwyn’s crest on gold and red is made up of a red S and gold G. Lois Weber and Harry Gantz send chaste open-work greetings in gold. William Cowan and Leonore Coffee’s crest is apparently a fist with a laurel wreath – motto, “Invictus maneo.” Estelle Taylor leaves Jack [Dempsey] off her cards and sends “Estelle” laced into a tulip leaf.

 

Now we come to the intentionally comic. Distinctive among these is a regular bill poster from James Cruze and Betty Compson, filled with naughty caricatures of their guests. That one deserves a story all to itself. Every kind of guest gets a dirty dig – the one who drinks too much, stays too late, sits on good chairs in wet bathing suits, makes tactless remarks, ruins flower beds, et al. Well, the only time they invited me, they forgot – and had already dined. I’m going to get a naughty one out on hosts one of these days.

 

Johnny Hines pictures himself playing golf and shouting “Fore” – “for good times”… which, really now, might be telling ‘em to get out of the way. Colleen Moore, made up as Topsy, is gazing woefully at us from a green card, and the greeting properly Topsyish – in Colleen’s own hand-writing. Katherine Albert sends greetings in ten languages – but no English. Francine and Morse Mason come violently cubistic and very nude. The Milton Sills send three pairs of socks on a laundry line – ostensibly belonging to Milton, Doris and Baby. Dorothy Yost and Dwight Cummings give us a Christmas scenario of ourselves. Ida Koverman could not resist a touch of politics – big candles, elephants, amongst the persiflage, on wrapping paper. Some of the other “comic” ones are a trifle labored, so we won’t expose them.

 

And then come the pile of the simple little ordinary cards – the kind I send myself. Some of them with darling little personal messages, all of them sweetly sentimental, some of them home-made – every whit as precious as the expensive, gorgeous ones. Most of those listed above are frightfully stylish, and came in envelopes as grand as the cards themselves. I counted fifteen that cost over 10 cents postage!

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