If you’re lucky, you live in Pacific Palisades
On January 14-15, the Pacific Palisades Historical Society will host a community celebration to mark the town’s 100th anniversary. Haverford Avenue will be closed (between Antioch and Temescal) on that Saturday for events at the Woman’s Club, Aldersgate (now owned by Seven Arrows Elementary School), Buerge Chapel and Theatre Palisades.
Invariably, one of the speakers will evoke the famous slogan coined by the late Palisadian Sylvia Phelps: “If you’re rich, you live in Beverly Hills. If you’re famous you live in Malibu. If you’re lucky, you live in Pacific Palisades.”
That’s true, of course, but the town has certainly had its share of rich and famous residents, from Will Rogers, Ronald Reagan and J. Paul Getty (his ranch house and today’s Getty Villa are located in Pacific Palisades, NOT Malibu) to Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and Anthony Hopkins. Here are just eight of the hundreds of prominent movie/TV actors who lived here at one time (addresses courtesy of local historian Randy Young and his late mother and historian, Betty Lou).
MEL BLANC: 266 Toyopa
Known as “The Man of 1,000 Voices,” Blanc gave voice to such beloved Looney Tunes characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird. He also was the voice of Barney Rubble on “The Flintstones” and Mr. Spacely on “The Jetsons” and created the famous laugh for Woody Woodpecker.
He and his wife Estelle built a then-gigantic 4,000-sq.-ft ranch-style house in the Huntington. He served as the town’s honorary mayor from 1959 to 1961, succeeding Vivian Vance (Lucille Ball’s sidekick Ethel), who lived nearby at 629 Frontera. Mel’s tombstone at the Hollywood Forever cemetery reads: “That’s All, Folks.”
RICHARD BOONE: 922 Napoli
Boone, whose family lineage traces back to frontiersman Daniel Boone, starred in over 50 films but was mostly known for his roles in numerous Westerns, and his starring role as Paladin, the gun-for-hire in the popular TV series “Have Gun – Will Travel” (1957-63). During the show’s run, Boone played Abraham Lincoln in the Broadway play “The Rivalry.”
He also guest-starred on “General Electric Theater,” hosted by fellow Palisadian Ronald Reagan. Boone and fellow Palisadian Lee Marvin (Rustic Canyon) frequented the infamous Wing Ding Room at the House of Lee on Sunset, where they ate, drank and became quite merry, according to local historian Eric Dugdale. “No tree was safe along Sunset” when Boone and Marvin drove home.
VIRGINIA BRUCE: 1141 Maroney Lane
When the Chamber of Commerce launched the Honorary Mayor tradition in Pacific Palisades in 1951, the first honoree was Bruce, a Ziegfeld dancer, actress and singer, who introduced Cole Porter’s classic “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in the film “Born to Dance.” She and her second husband, J. Walter Ruben, built their new colonial home on Maroney Way (north of Sunset) and called it “Wildtree.”
A 1940 issue of “House and Garden” featured a tour of the mansion, which had a commanding view of the Pacific. After Ruben died, Bruce married Ali M. Ipar and they moved into a new home at 1329 Amalfi. Deanna Durbin (the highest-paid actress in Hollywood in 1947) bought the home on Maroney.
LEO CARRILLO: 639 E. Channel Rd
The “swashbuckling actor” actor built a rambling hacienda-style home on four acres of land in Santa Monica Canyon in 1932. He was widely known as a jovial host and loved to socialize with film people like Will Rogers, who would ride down from his ranch on horseback, often with his son Jim, to enjoy a meal.
He also delighted the children at Canyon School with his impromptu visits. Older folks will remember Carrillo from the early television series, “The Cisco Kid,” which ran from 1950 to 1956 and was the first TV series filmed in color.
By then he was 70 and had appeared in more than 90 films when he landed the part of the English-mangling sidekick Pancho to Duncan Renaldo’s Cisco. Local historian Randy Young remembers when the two actors came to the Bay Theatre to plug their show: “At age 5, I’m sitting in the theater, and the Cisco Kid pulls out his big shiny gun and shoots it off. The place was packed with kids and it scared the heck out of us.”
JOSEPH COTTEN: 17800 Tramonto
A film, stage, radio and television actor, Cotten first gained worldwide fame in three Orson Welles films: “Citizen Kane” (1941), in which he played Kane’s best friend Jedediah Leland, who becomes a drama critic for one of Kane’s papers; “The Magnificent Ambersons” (1942) and “Journey into Fear,” for which Cotten was also credited with the screenplay.
He went on to become one of the leading Hollywood actors of the 1940s, appearing in films such as “Duel in the Sun (1946) and “The Third Man,” playing opposite Welles.
EDDIE FISHER AND DEBBIE REYNOLDS: 15600 Sunset
This 125-acre property in Temescal Canyon (now Palisades High School) was originally known as All Hollows Farm, owned by movie director Jack Conway (“A Tale of Two Cities”) and his wife Virginia Bushman, daughter of silent movie star Francis X. Bushman (the original “Ben-Hur” actor), who lived at 740 Hartzell.
Conway died in 1952, and in late 1955, singer Eddie Fisher and singer/actress Debbie Reynolds (the newlyweds were touted as “America’s Sweethearts”) rented the house at All Hallows Farm, which was secluded by vegetation and accessed through stone gates off Sunset.
This idyllic situation didn’t last long; when their daughter Carrie was born in October 1956, they moved to Beverly Hills, and in 1958, Fisher left Reynolds for actress Elizabeth Taylor, after Taylor’s husband, film producer Mike Todd, was killed in a plane crash. In early 1959, the Conway property was bulldozed to make way for PaliHi, which opened in 1961.
DEBORAH KERR: 15040 Corona del Mar
After relocating to Hollywood from England, Kerr moved into her Palisades mansion with her husband about 1950, and decades later when living abroad she still spoke fondly of the property and the broad ocean views. (The house was destroyed by the 1994 earthquake).
Kerr starred in many classic films, including “Separate Tables,” “An Affair to Remember,” “From Here to Eternity,” “The Sundowners,” “Tea and Sympathy” and “The King and I,” and earned six Oscar nominations (but never won).
ESTHER WILLIAMS: 16180 Alcima
The “screen siren” lived in the Huntington Palisades from the 1940s into the early ‘60s and her three children attended Palisades schools. A national swimming champion, she had hoped to win gold medals in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, but they fell victim to World War II. However, she soon found fame in Hollywood with her stunning good looks and tall, well-muscled frame.
She starred in numerous swim films, including “Bathing Beauty,” “Million Dollar Mermaid” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and upon retiring, she designed her own fashion swimwear line. When the original Bay Theatre opened on Sunset in 1949, Esther greeted arrivals from inside the ticket booth, and in 2009 she helped promote the fundraising campaign for a swimming pool at Palisades High.
Bill Bruns, former editor of the Palisadian-Post for 20 years, is a member of the Historical Society board, the Friends of the Palisades Library and the Palisades Forestry Committee.