Posts Tagged ‘norma talmadge’

Hollywood’s “Jinx Mansion”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

At this time of year our thoughts are on ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. Bad luck and superstition has followed Hollywood and those who lived and worked there long before the film people arrived.

A house that had its share of bad luck and tragedy was built on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Fuller Street almost 100 years ago. Louella Parsons called the home that once stood at 7269 Hollywood Boulevard, “the jinx mansion.” Over the twenty-five years of its existence, it was home to a grocery store founder, a meat packing heir and a successful film producer and his movie star wife. All experienced misfortune and heartbreak during their stay there.

The builder and first resident of the “jinx mansion” was George A. Ralphs, the founder of Ralph’s grocery store, the largest food retailer in Southern California. There’s probably no one in Los Angeles that has not shopped at a Ralphs store at one time.

George Albert Ralphs was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1850. His family moved to California on a prairie schooner with a yoke of oxen when he was a boy. In Kansas they joined a caravan and when they reached Colorado they were attacked by Indians. Half of the caravan became separated in the fight, and nothing was ever heard from them. It was presumed that they were massacred.

The caravan arrived in Los Angeles after eighteen months of travel and George Ralphs was trained as an expert bricklayer. After losing an arm in an accident, he gave up bricklaying and found work as a clerk in a small grocery store. In 1873 he had saved enough money to purchase his own grocery at Sixth and Spring Streets. From then on Ralphs prospered, operating three of the largest stores in Los Angeles.

In 1897 Ralphs married Wallula von Keith and together they had two children, Albert and Annabel. In May 1913, Ralphs began construction on a new house on a three-acre lot in Hollywood that he reportedly bought from George Dunlap, the second mayor of the town.

Located on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard at Fuller Street, architect Frank M. Tyler was hired to design the Mission Revival house at a cost of $35,000. With a plastered exterior and a red clay tile roof, the house had sixteen rooms with three baths. The interior was richly furnished in oak and mahogany; onyx and tile mantels adorned the fireplaces. There was a tennis court on the property, and a swimming pool which was emptied often to water the citrus orchards.


The Ralphs mansion as it looked shortly after being constructed

On June 21, 1914, a few months after moving into the house, Ralphs took his family for a week-end outing to the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead. He had just gone up Waterman’s Canyon with his wife and children for an early morning stroll and, having walked a little faster than the others, sat on a boulder to wait for them to catch up.

As his wife approached, he moved over to allow her sit beside him when the boulder, weighing about three tons, gave way and rolled twenty feet down into the canyon, carrying Ralphs with it. His leg was caught beneath the boulder and nearly torn from the socket. He was immediately rushed to the Ramona Hospital (now Community Hospital of San Bernardino) where his leg was amputated. Ralphs came out from under the anesthetic shortly after and talked to his wife for a few minutes but the shock of the operation was too great. George Ralphs died within the hour at 4:15 o’clock that afternoon.

Ralphs body was returned to his home in Hollywood where funeral services were held. The Ralphs grocery stores were closed that day in memory of their founder. After the service, Ralphs was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The grave of Ralph's grocery store founder, 
George A. Ralphs at Evergreen Cemetery

Mrs. Ralphs owned the mansion for several years, sometimes living there and at times, renting it out to such well-known residents as Mira Hershey, owner of the Hollywood Hotel and to actor Douglas Fairbanks. On August 20, 1918, Mrs. Ralphs hosted a political garden party in honor of California Governor, William D. Stephens and as a fund raiser for the war effort.

However, the “jinx” continued.

In 1920 Mrs. Ralphs leased the mansion to John “Jack” P. Cudahy, the son of the millionaire meat-packer, Michael Cudahy. The town of Cudahy, California which is east of Los Angeles, was named for the family.

In 1899, Jack Cudahy married Edna Cowin, daughter of General John Clay Cowin of Omaha. They had four children, Edna, Marie, Anne and Michael. For a time, Cudahy was general manager of his father’s packing plant in Kansas City. While there, he and his wife became estranged after Cudahy attacked Jere Lillis, the president of the Western Exchange Bank, who he suspected of having an affair with his wife. They were divorced shortly after but reconciled two years later, were remarried and moved to Pasadena, California.

Cudahy had his problems. In 1914, he was sued for $30,000 in damages after throwing a doctor’s wife against a table. After a stint in the army, Cudahy was given a medical discharge following a nervous breakdown. He was sued by the Hotel Maryland in 1919 for failure to pay a two-year hotel bill amounting to almost $10,000.

Shortly after moving into the Ralphs mansion, Cudahy was under a doctor’s care for an extremely nervous condition and for insomnia. In early April 1921, he disappeared for ten days and it was later learned that he had been living at the Rosslyn Hotel under a fictitious name. Previous to that he had spent three months in a sanatorium.

At the time, Cudahy was reportedly having financial problems. On April 19, 1921 he received a letter from a trust company in Chicago stating that they would not carry a loan unless his sister Clara would vouch for him. Later that night Clara sent a telegram briefly stating, “Sorry, but find it impossible to do what you ask.”

The following morning, at about 10:30am, Cudahy went into his bathroom, retrieved his Winchester shotgun, which he used for trap-shooting, and took it into his bedroom. Edna claimed that at the time he did not seem to be unusually despondent. At exactly 11:45am, Edna was in her dressing room when she heard a shot and rushed into her husband’s bedroom where she found him dead. He had committed suicide by blowing off the top of his head. John Cudahy was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

 

Edna and her children moved out of the house shortly after her husband’s suicide. Thirteen years later she was living in a mansion near Vine Street and Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Actor Lou Tellegen, who had fallen on hard times, was living with her and committed suicide in his bathroom by stabbing himself in his heart seven times with a pair of scissors.

After Cudahy’s suicide, the mansion stood empty for about a year. In October 1922 Mrs. Ralphs sold the house and property to a local realty company for $150,000. They planned to raze the house and build a 350 room apartment hotel at a cost of one million dollars. For unknown reasons, the hotel was never built and the mansion was spared.

Film producer, Joseph M. Schenck and his wife, the actress Norma Talmadge, were the next owners of the “jinx mansion.” The Schenck’s, who were married in 1916, probably moved into the house in late 1922 or early 1923. For the first few years their lives were routine, at least for film people, with the exception of several break-ins where Norma’s jewelry was stolen.

Norma Talmadge and Joseph M. Schenck

Gradually the couple began to grow apart. They separated in 1927 and moved into separate residences; Norma to an elegant apartment building on Harper Avenue in West Hollywood and Schenck moved to a large house in Beverly Hills. They remained married, however, and kept ownership of the Hollywood Boulevard mansion.

In July 1930, Talmadge traveled to Europe for a rest amid rumors that they were getting divorced but the couple denied the rumors, each claiming they were still in love. The following year Talmadge asked for a divorce and Schenck agreed but she never filed for it. In 1932 she again asked for a divorce and traveled to Europe, supposedly to get one, but once there, she denied the so-called rumors.

During 1932 alone, the Schenck divorce rumors were many and were announced and denied several times. One time she planned on going to Reno and several months later it was reportedly a Mexican divorce. In the meantime, there was an affair with comedian George Jessel until finally in April 1934 Talmadge and Schenck were divorced in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks later Norma married Jessel.

The Talmadge-Schenck home as it looked from Fuller Street in the 1920s

Above is the site from the same angle on Fuller Street as it looks today

During all of this the Schenck’s kept the mansion, and may have rented it out but he reportedly moved back after the divorce. In May 1936 Schenck redecorated the property, adding a two-story cabana and a 60-foot swimming pool that replaced the one installed by the Ralphs which was later filled in by the Cudahy’s.

Bad luck continued to follow Schenck. In 1936 he agreed to pay a bribe to avoid strikes with the unions, but because he made the payoff with a personal check, it came to the attention of the IRS and he was eventually convicted of income tax evasion. In 1940 he finally sold the Hollywood Boulevard “jinx mansion” and all its furnishings in an auction, supposedly to help pay his legal fees. In 1946 Schenck spent time in prison before being granted a pardon by President Harry Truman.

Notice for the Joseph Schenck auction

After Schenck sold the mansion, it was razed to make way for Peyton Hall, the first apartment house to go up on Hollywood Boulevard west of La Brea. The colonial-style garden apartment complex included more than 70 apartments. A red carpet rolled all the way from the grand portico to Hollywood Boulevard. There were discreet private entrances and a loudspeaker on the grounds that summoned stars to the studios.

The architect and builders kept the 60-foot swimming pool that Joseph Schenck installed four years earlier and it was used by the residents, including Shelley Winters and Johnny Weissmuller, who once jumped from the roof into the deep end. Other celebrity residents at Peyton Hall included Susan Hayward, George Raft and Janet Gaynor. Cary Grant stayed there during World War II and Claudette Colbert actually owned the complex and sold it in 1946 for about $450,000 to the first of a succession of owners. In 1960, an investment group bought it for $790,000.

Beginning in 1978, preservationists waged a two-year battle to save the landmark complex –but to no avail. Peyton Hall was demolished in the early 1980s and the recently renamed, Vantage Apartments (formerly the Serravella) was built in 1988 and remains there today.


The Vantage Apartments above is the site of the 
Ralphs-Cudahy-Schenck-Talmadge mansion

Whether you believe in the “jinx mansion” or not is up to the reader—but it makes an interesting story. If you happen be in the neighborhood of the 7200 block of Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween night, do so at your own risk.

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Missing footprints at Grauman’s Chinese

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

GRAUMAN’S CHINESE

Tracing lost steps of Grauman’s first footprints

 

 

Iconic Hollywood tradition began by accident, and original concrete slabs are now in airport hangar

  

By Tara Wallis-Finestone and Chuck Henry

 

It’s an iconic event known throughout the world. For the past 85 years, only the biggest stars in Hollywood have been immortalized with their hands and feet in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

 

But NBCLA has discovered a critical piece of Hollywood history is missing from the theater’s famous forecourt.

 

The original footprints that started it all have been hidden for decades. In fact, not even the company that owns Grauman’s Theatre knew about these potentially priceless footprints.

 

“I was not aware that the ones we have in the forecourt are not the originals,” said Peter Dobson, CEO of Mann Theatres, the company that owns Grauman’s Chinese. “If they are missing and we just got the practice slabs in there, I’m devastated to know that.”

 

“I have no interest in giving them back to Grauman’s,” said Nick Olaerts, a former Hollywood developer who claims to own the slabs. “Decades ago, I had wanted to give them back to Grauman’s, a donation in the name of my children, but the theater’s owner at the time, Ted Mann, wasn’t interested in taking them back.”

 

Instead, Olaerts gave the slabs to his friend Larry Buchanan, an airplane mechanic who put them in storage at his airport hangar east of Los Angeles. Over the years, Buchanan and Olaerts have tried numerous times to sell the slabs, Buchanan even at one point put them on eBay.

 

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Norma Talmadge remembers Valentino

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

RUDOLPH VALENTINO

“Valentino as I Knew Him”

 

 

The following are excerpts from a three-part article that actress Norma Talmadge originally wrote (?) for the New York Daily News with the first installment appearing the day after Valentino died.

 

By Norma Talmadge

 

“I don’t believe it yet? It doesn’t seem possible – and yet it is – our great friend Rudolph Valentino is gone to a far beyond, whence he will never return.

 

“We all loved Rudy, we who knew him. He was sincere. After that he was brilliant, fascinating and companionable – three qualities seldom united, but I think with those who knew him best that it was his sincerity that touched us most.

 

“While I never worked with Rudy, I know so many who did, and I know that they always found him not only fair, but brilliant. He had the hypnotic power in acting, just as he had in life. People who played with him seemed to take fire from him. That thrilling throbbing fire of Italian youth!

 

“We were going to work together some day – Rudy and I. We both had determined that some day we would do Romeo and Juliet together. He wanted to awfully and so did I. And dad (Joseph Schenck, Norma’s husband) thought it would be the greatest thing in the world for both of us.

 

“What was he like in real life – this gallant, gentle Italian youth whom all the world in a few short years learned to love and admire?

 

“He was a boy – a mere kid in spirit until the very end. He was a great lover because he loved greatly. But, though his love affairs were discussed by multitudes in all corners of the earth, he himself never spoke of the women in his life, even to his closest friends.

 

“Of course we joked with him, as friends do, about certain young women to whom it was considered he paid marked attention. Rudy shut up tight as a clam. And only if he heard slurs on one he liked would he rise to action. Then he’d fight like the man he was. Otherwise he was usually of a calm even temperament.

 

“When I first met Rudy those eight years ago – it was on a studio set, and between scenes for one of my pictures which really wasn’t a bit romantic – he was exactly the same Rudolph Valentino as he was just two weeks before he died.

 

“Of all the men of the movies I’ve ever known – and I’ve known and played with nearly every prominent man on the screen today – Rudolph Valentino, with more cause for conceit than most of them, was positively modesty personified.

 

“Rudolph Valentino was the mixture of a spoiled child and a great poet.

 

“But he wasn’t that kind of a spoiled child who cries for the moon. Rudy was mischievous and people couldn’t help but love him for some of the little tricks he executed. We all thought him adorable at the time I’m going to tell you about now.

 

“He was making his last picture – how horribly sad that sounds – when my sister Constance was filming The Duchess of Buffalo at the same studio. All on both sets were attending conscientiously to duties. Suddenly – perhaps because the day was hot and the studio hotter, Rudy decided to take an hour’s recreation. But he hadn’t yet thought how to spend it.

 

“He walked over to Constance’s set – a snow scene which looked a great deal cooler than it really was – and became much attracted to a huge horse sleigh, in which my sister was seated. While the technical staff was getting prepared for the next shot, Rudy jumped up into the seat beside Constance and insisted that he drive her around Hollywood, much to the joy of everyone but his director and hers. “However, they had that ride around town and everybody – even the dignified directors – laughed for a good while afterward at the prank.

 

“I have seen Rudy and my sister Constance, dance together and everyone on the floor would stop to watch them. It was really a beautiful sight. Both of them were born to dance.

 

“What more can I say of Rudolph Valentino? I have already told you that he was brilliant, he was charming, companionable, fascinating, considerate, and a great lover of all humans.

 

“If you ask me to sum what Rudolph Valentino was, I’d say he was a kind man. Throughout all the sudden sadness of his illness, the grim tragedy of his death, I kept being reminded of that line from Hamlet:

 

‘There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will!’”

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Norma Talmadge talks

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

CELEBRITY FIRST PERSON

An autobiography by Norma Talmadge

 

 

 

This following article appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1917.  

 

By Norma Talmadge

 

I am 20 years of age and therefore much too young to write an autobiography. However, my short life has been a stage of many interesting, and, I might well say, happy occurrences, and of these I am quite willing to make you my confidant.

 

I was born at Niagara Falls, where I spent the first ten years of my childhood amid most pleasant scenes. Indeed, when I am in a pensive mood my earliest and fondest recollections go back to the days I spent at the most beautiful spot in the whole world, the objective of all globe-trotters, the origin of the slogan, “See America First.”

 

Through force of circumstances our family moved to New York City. The contrast between Niagara Falls and the noisy city was indeed great. But as time wore on I soon grew to like my new home almost as well as my old one.

 

At school, one of those little private schools where men are barred from the premises, I had great fun. Pillow fights, night parties, secret smuggling of love letters and private theatricals. These were but a few of the many happy events of my boarding school days.

 

How I chose motion pictures as a profession is still a wonder to me. If I remember correctly, the nucleus of my ardent desire was formed at a show six years ago, when I was impressed by a picture I saw that I made up my mind to apply for a job the very next day. Accordingly, bright and early Saturday morning – you see I even remember the day – I was up just as determined as the night before.

 

I was literally jostled onto the screen, for when I reached the studio numerous stage hands were vigorously shifting scenery and I was caught in a whirlpool of white-overalled humanity and scenic flats, with their backgrounds of gorgeous ornamentations embracing interior sets, and pushed into the heart of studio activity.

 

I was only a little girl then and therefore had to put on a long skirt to make me look older, and I was so excited I got all tangled up in its folds.

 

But I felt quite at ease when a woman scenario writer was so kind as to notice me and help me get an extra part. They seemed to like me, for I was put in stock at once at a salary of $25 per week.

 

Since then I have made several important advances which have finally terminated in what I consider my greatest achievement – my marriage to Joseph M. Schenck and the formation of my own producing company.

 

Check out the new Norma Talmadge DVD release from KinoThe Norma Talmadge Collection featuring Kiki (1926) and Within the Law (1923). Click here for more information.

 

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Thanksgiving in Hollywood, 1931

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

How Hollywood stars celebrated Thanksgiving in 1931

 

thanksgiving

 

Hollywood’s basis for Thanksgiving sometimes ranged from gratitude to an indulgent fate for the renewal of an option to thanks for a new divorce. But whatever the individual cause for thanks. the favored of filmdom in 1931 joined the rest of the country in celebrating the Thanksgiving season.

 

Marlene Dietrich observed the holiday entertaining a few guests and, for the occasion, allowed little Maria to dine with the grown-ups. Others who celebrated quietly at home were Dolores Costello and John Barrymore who entertained Lionel Barrymore and Helene Costello; Kay Francis and her husband, Kenneth McKenna; Buster and Natalie Talmadge Keaton, their two sons, and Norma and Constance Talmadge; Vivian Duncan and Nils Asther and their new daughter, Evelyn. The Robert Montgomery’s, also assisted their young daughter (five-week old Martha who died at 14 months of spinal meningitis) in her first Thanksgiving, while the Reginald Denny’s also had their young son to initiate.

 

Ruth Chatterton and Ralph Forbes travelled to Arrowhead for the occasion. Marie Dressler, accompanied by her house guest, Lady Ravensdale, and Claire du Brey, drove to the desert and dined at the La Quinta Hotel. Wallace Beery spent Thanksgiving in New York, as did Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

 

Clark Gable spent the holiday in the mountains. Jimmy Durante cooked his own turkey, decorating it with  an original dressing, but declining to reveal the recipe.

 

Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels celebrated the day in San Francisco with the opening of Bebe’s play, The Last of Mrs. Cheney. Janet Gaynor was Europe-bound, accompanied by her husband, Lydell Peck and mother. Maurice Chevalier  was joined by his wife, actress Yvonne Vallee,  for his first Thanksgiving. Tallulah Bankhead arrived in town for formal dinner plans. Two new sets of newlyweds — June Collyer and Stuart Erwin and Carole Lombard and William Powell — observed the day at home.

 

Victor MacLaglen presided over a huge dining table which was a part of the Tuder furniture imported from England for his Flintridge home.

 

From several places across the country, the Will Rogers clan collected in time for turkey. Will, Jr. was home from Stanford, and Jimmy arrived from Roswell, New Mexico.

 

Wherever you are and whatever your plans, I hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving. 

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Valentino Tributes…

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

 VALENTINO WEEK

Valentino Tributes

 

 

Today is the 82nd anniversary of the death of actor Rudolph Valentino. Dozens of fans will assemble at Hollywood Forever Cemetery at 12:10 pm to celebrate the memory of the man.

 

Upon the death of Rudolph Valentino, more than 100 tributes were published from the efforts of the publicity team formed by S. George Ullman and United Artists Studios. Not before or since has such an outpouring of reaction to an actor’s death been collected. All were issued within 24 hours of Valentino’s death by newspapers around the world, which chose only select ones for publication. The following are seven tributes from friends and collegues, all of whom are also interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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NORMA TALMADGE

 

 

“Millions will mourn Rudolph Valentino but I know no spot in the world will feel his loss so keenly as here in Hollywood, where we knew and loved him.”

  

 

 

 

BEN LYON

 

 

“I am deeply shocked at his death. The motion picture industry has lost one of its most wonderful actors.”

 

 

  

 

 

 

MARION DAVIES

 

 

“The news of Rudolph Valentino’s death came as such a shock that I cannot yet believe it. I feel that with his passing the screen has lost a great actor and his associates have lost a great friend. He was a wonderful artist, a staunch friend, a fine, manly young man and a good loyal American.”

 

 

 

 

JESSE LASKY

 

 

“Please convey to Miss Negri and to Rudolph Valentino’s grieving friends my most sincere condolences. His death is an irreparable loss to screendom. His passing causes me to mourn the loss of a great artist, a true friend and an admirable man.”

 

 

 

 

ESTELLE TAYLOR

 

 

I cannot believe yet he is really gone. He was so young and strong looking. It is hard to associate him with death.”

  

 

 

 

CECIL B. DE MILLE

 

 

“In Mr. Valentino’s death we have lost a great artist. But fortunately we can look on death as progress and not as the finish.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

JUNE MATHIS

 

 

“My long association with Rudolph Valentino endeared him to me, as he has become endeared to everyone who knew him. My heart is too full of sorrow at this moment to enable me to speak coherently. I only know that his passing has left a void that nothing can ever fill and that the loss to our industry is too great to estimate at this time.”

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EMAIL: Hollywoodland23@aol.com

 

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