"Hold on a minute gals! Who's conducting this tour?"
|688 Nimes Road, Bel-Air|
Oh gosh, that's right....sorry Al. Go right ahead, we'll just head back in the kitchen and make some more chicken sandwiches for the passengers.
"As the girls were saying, Baxter became a Hollywood star during the silent era, but once the soundies came he catapulted into mega-stardom. He played the Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona ( 1928 ) which became his most famous early, talking role. He earned an Oscar for this too, making him the first American to win a Best Actor award. Baxter then went on to make such hits as 42nd Street ( 1933 ), Broadway Bill ( 1934 ) and Kidnapped ( 1938 ). He reached his peak in popularity in the mid-1930s and was the highest paid actor in Hollywood at that time, earning $284,000 a year.
"It was during this time that Warner Baxter and his wife, Winifred, moved from their lodgings at 138 S. Beachwood Drive into this beautiful Tudor estate in Bel-Air. You can see it coming up on your right folks, just over the hill.
"Look at those lovely lush gardens...Warner Baxter was one of the first actors allowed to build in Bel-Air and in 1932, construction began on this magnificent home. Baxter, inspired by early spook films, added a network of secret panels so you could play hide-and-seek throughout the house. And what a place to hide! At 16,000 square feet, it was one of the largest homes built by any Hollywood star. The estate included 18 bathrooms, seven kitchens and well over forty bedrooms ( no one took the time - or effort - to count them all ). Some of the closets alone are bigger than most people's living rooms.
At the time the house had a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, but recent tree plantings are beginning to obscure it. Baxter was a quite a tinkler when he was not acting and surely he must have had a room set aside as a workshop where he could invent. One of his inventions is in constant use today...a radio device that permits emergency crews to change a traffic signal from over two blocks away.
"Warner Baxter died on May 7, 1951 at the age of 62, after suffering from a bout of pneumonia."
Update: Today this lovely home no longer stands, having been replaced by a modern glass and concrete structure. Jack Ryan purchased the property in late 1962 and turned the house into, what the Daytona Beach News, dubbed "The greatest glittering pad in Bel-Air". Ryan had made his fortune in doll designs...anyone heard of Barbie doll? Just down the street is Kirkeby estate where The Beverly Hillbillies were filmed and Elizabeth Montgomery, who later starred in the popular television series Bewitched, purchased Baxter's Roxbury Drive residence in the mid-1960s.