Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hollywood Home Tour - Warner Baxter

We're off on another bus tour again! This time the Silver Scenes bus is taking us past the beautiful Tudor estate of that delectably debonair actor Warner Baxter. With his rugged masculine face Ohio-born Baxter became a star in the early 1920s in silent pictures such as The Great Gatsby and...

"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. 

"During the 1940s, when Baxter began to drift into B-films and The Crime Doctor series, his family downsized to a comfortable estate at 911 North Roxbury Drive.

"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. 

5 comments:

  1. My father was Jack Ryan and we lived in this home from 1963 to 1977. It was a spectacular place.

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    1. Now that is amazing....I can very well imagine what a spectacular house it must have been to spend your childhood living in! And what fun to get lost in! It is a shame it no longer stands. Your father left a great legacy with his creation of Barbie doll....childhood just wouldn't be childhood without a Barbie! She has become an American institution.

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  2. I lived and worked at this estate from 1972 to 1974 while attending UCLA. I remember the phone system that Jack Ryan installed which would turn on the waterfall, the outdoor lights and open and close the large double gates to the estate. I lived in the lower level dressing room of the pool house and my kitchen was in the upper portion. I have fond memories of this grand home and am sad that it has been torn down.

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    1. Wow, how great is that! I had read that Jack Ryan let college students have room and board at his house in exchange for them helping out with the landscape and interior design. Just a few years after you left Ryan married Zsa Zsa...too bad you missed her!

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