Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Home of Norma Talmadge, Beverly Hills, California

...Built in 1920 by MGM Studios for silent film star Norma Talmadge. Remodeled in 2003 by owner/designer Xorin Balbes.

Located in the exclusive Los Feliz district of L.A., this 10,000 sq. ft. estate was once the home of silent film great Norma Talmadge. It is a replica of a 17th-century villa owned by the Duke of Alba in Florence, Italy, and has 16 rooms and 6 baths on three levels. Former residents include Howard Hughes and Jimi Hendrix. Among the remarkable features of this home are a Baccara crystal chandelier, rococo dome fresco ceiling, stained glass windows, terrazzo marble floors, and a walk-in fireplace.

The description above is from the website of Paris-born artist Pascal Giacomini, who works in mixed-media photography, sculpture, and functional art, including "site-specific functional art for prestigious private properties (Lloyd Wright's Sowden House and Norma Talmadge Estate)." I thought his website showed the most beautiful photos of Norma Talmadge Estate - Los Angeles | Photo Gallery, with thumbnail shots that you can click on to enlarge. (Note that the estate is described as located in Los Angeles, where the old postcard says Beverly Hills - there must have been a redistricting along the way...) Giacomini's commissioned work for the estate was the Aurelien, a 9' high fountain pictured in the photo gallery linked above and also seen separately here.


I had the postcard in hand and in the back of my mind recalled my mother saying something about driving by the estate when she was in high school in Santa Monica. Other than that I knew nothing about Norma Talmadge and I'm guessing that most of you don't either! According to imdb.com she was in 161 movies. The Norma Talmadge Website, (a stanford.edu address) is a substantial documentation of the work of the actress. This is the introduction:
Norma Talmadge was one of the greatest stars of the silent era. She began her film work as a teenager in 1910 at the Vitagraph Studios in Flatbush, just a streetcar ride from her home. In 1916 she met and married exhibitor Joseph M. Schenck, and together they formed the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, one of the most lucrative partnerships in film history. Talmadge became one of the top box office attractions for the rest of the silent era, evolving from a spunky teenager into one of the finest dramatic actresses of the screen. One of the wealthiest women in Hollywood, she retired after her two talkies proved disappointing at the box office. She died on Christmas Eve, 1957.
The Norma Talmadge Website (link above) is a researcher's goldmine. It's ripe with interesting articles, gobs of pictures, even a clip of her voice. One of the articles linked there is a reprint of a piece from Moving Picture World, dated July 21, 1917 (full article here). It's a real eye-opening look at the times, which you can tell from the title and opening paragraph. I didn't realize that women evolute ......

Norma Talmadge: a Modern Female

Meets her Guests in Riding Breeches With an After Luncheon Change to Modest Womanalls

By Margaret I. McDonald

Sometimes we are prone to forget that what used to be known as the modern female has "evoluted" from the severe type of a few years ago to one as sweetly charming as it is unembarrassed. It dons the attire of man with the innocence of babyhood, casts off its hair-pins and other like restraints and bubbles with the effervescence of perfect health. Such is pretty Norma Talmadge, the popular moving picture star in the solitude of her summer home.

Her summer home at Beechurst, L.I., faces on the bay, .....

[Note that the summer house mentioned in the article is not the one pictured in this old postcard. She owned numerous properties.]


You're probably curious to see what she looked like. Again, the links in this post take you to many still shots. And here is one beautiful photo, most definitely. But for a real impression of this actress, once considered the greatest of her generation, a video is the best bet. Here's a clip from one of her early films. She appears in the first scene so you don't have to worry about the 18 minute length...



*There is at least one pause in the clip (at 1.43 min.). Just drag the bar beyond the stalled point and push play again...


The Helpful Sisterhood (1914)
Silent film in which a poor girl joins a sorority whose members have wealthy parents, and finds herself struggling to keep up with their free-spending ways.

No music track. Keywords: Sororities Shoplifting Students Genre: Silent films


.

32 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

ok: I can't remember if i told you about this place before or not - but that building reminded me of Port Merion, which is a small village in the middle of Wales styled to look like Italy. The TV show The Prisoner was filmed there

Those old silent movies can look a little dated now, but they were totally cutting edge and people loved them at the time.

Great stuff as usual :)

the watercats said...

I change back into modest womanalls every afternoon.. why, every self respecting modern lady should!.. Another beautiful card with it's deeper story, she was a stunning woman! the photo is so elegant! i'm sure her spirit is rejoicing at this little rememberance, it has been a touching trip, thanks Lydia.. and Norma!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

I imagined that the hum of my computer tower was the spinning of a film reel.....

I feel as though I recognized Norma's picture when saw it, but I had never heard of her before.

I find it quite interesting that the houses former residents include Jimi Hendrix. Pretty groovy ;)

robin said...

lalaland special :)

Hattie said...

Fascinating. The over the top domestic paradise reminds me of Doris Duke's Shangri-La, which I visited in Honolulu. Duke was into Orientalist rather than Italianite effects, but the principle was the same. Color, lots of color.

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia, I love this! I've never heard about this actress, wonderful, just wonderful. You know in some states it was against the law for women to wear pants. I wonder if riding pants fell into that?

Erin said...

That's my house!

Wow!

Just kidding. But it totally should be my house.

Jennifer said...

Modest womanalls. I must start using the word "womanalls" in my everyday conversation. First step: purchase a pair. But I am not sure what they are -- some mannish attire that has been baby-fied in some way?? A pair of overalls in pink satin?

I am enchanted, as usual. :)

La Belette Rouge said...

I go to BH every Thursday. I forget just how much history exists in this place. Very cool. Thank you for introducing me to Norma!

Lydia said...

@Pixies- Nope I don't think you've told me about Port Merion before. It sounds great.
When I saw that there wasn't a soundtrack for the film I first thought it would be lacking. But I actually prefer the total silence (organ is my least favorite musical instrument and I dislike the manner in which it's played for silent films)and I think I got more out of the storyline.

@the watercats- You know that little ladylike burp you did at the beginning of your recent video post? The only thing to make it better would have been if you'd been wearing modest womanalls.
Seriously, I also was taken by her stunning looks and impressive career. She's real for us now.....

@Wayfaring Wanderer- After you wrote that I watched some of the clip again with the same imaginative flair as you have. Very cool. Even Jimi would think so, I bet. :)

@Robin- I hope you are building your wardrobe to include a few fine modest womanalls. Alert your sisters to the importance as well.... ;)

@Hattie- Who was Doris Duke? Now I'll have to learn about her because it sounds like the woman had style. Now, the silent movie Shangri-la? My mother's favorite of all time. I have a copy of it on VHS...

@Looking to the Stars- Glad you now know and like Norma.
I'm not surprised that some states didn't allow women to wear pants. We couldn't wear pants in high school, in Reno of all places! They changed the rules after I graduated and I was bitter, I tell ya!

@Erin- Here's an idea. You could build a model of it and dress up in your finest silk womanalls and wish very very hard...

@Jennifer- You are funny! Tonight we watched "So You Think You Can Dance" (my favorite show...I know you don't watch tv...) and one of the girls was wearing a barely-there bodysuit. I think it must have been a womanall, though certainly not modest. That indeed must be the most recent way we've "evoluted": skimpy womanalls should be all the rage.

@La Belette Rouge- Every week you are in BH? Wow. I've never been there and I do think I'm missing out on some fascinating history in person.
Thrilled to learn about Norma and to introduce her to you. Give 'er a nod of appreciation if you ever pass by the estate.

cathwrynn said...

Can't say i like the sculpture on the fountain...

I have been having the most wonderful adventure discovering outdoor art... but the fountain...not my taste at all!!!

cathwrynn said...

BTW Norma was my maternal grandmother's first name!!

Lydia said...

@cathwrynn- I thought it was.....interesting! But not my taste either. There's a new outdoor art sculpture in Oregon's capitol, at the bus plaza, that surprised the heck out of me. I love it when I'm surprised by art, because my next emotion is usually "love it."
Norma isn't a common name and I've only known of a few. More Oregon stuff here: one of our former Secretaries of State was Norma Paulus.

Kim said...

What a beautiful postcard. You know how Wednesdays are my favorite, but I think this is one of my favorite Wednesdays. Something about the story and the card together.

Hattie said...

There is a lot of info about Doris Duke on the Internet. She was a tobacco heiress who fascinated people once upon a time. You have probably heard of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which supports the arts.

Lydia said...

@Kim- It was one of my favorite Wednesdays too, and for the reasons you wrote. There's something special about all of us discovering this long-ago actress together...

@Hattie- Absolutely, as soon as I read "Charitable Foundation" after her first and last names she was familiar. But I admit that I never questioned where the money came from, who exactly she was, to create such a foundation. Quite a legacy.

Marie Reed said...

hehehe! A walk in fireplace sounds very dangerous! This was just fascinating

Lydia said...

@Marie Reed- hehe, I thought the same darned thing! I'm going to come to Mr. Linky this week, because it seems this particular post struck a chord with folks on Wednesday. Thanks!

Beth Niquette said...

What a beautiful place. I would love to see it first-hand. Wow.

Happy PFF!

Sheila said...

The house looks fantastic, but what I'd really love to see would be those womanalls!

Marina Miranda said...

outstanding post and a beautiful tribute!
happy PFF xx

Kirby3131 said...

I don't think I've seen a house with so many ceiling details. What a wonderful card and a lovely bit of info on an actress I had never heard of before. Thank you!

Jodie LeJeune said...

Beautiful woman, beautiful home. An artistic life indeed.
Enjoyed my visit for PFF~
everything vintage

Terry said...

Howdy
Happy PFF.
WOW after all this awesome information I want to walk through this gorgeous place in person .
Thank you so much for all the fantastic information.
Have a fabulous Friday .
Happy Trails

Lydia said...

@Beth- Yes, I imagine you could create quite the artist's studio in one of those rooms....

@Sheila- As we've all joked here about womanalls I never once thought to see what a search would produce. So I Googled it. No pictures, but quite a few articles mentioning womenalls, with one saying that they are what womens' overalls were initially called.

*It seems that the phrase "womanalls" also now refers to something in the porn industry, as further down in the search list is popped up with assorted other sex industry phrases. I didn't click on any of them to see, however...

@Mirina Miranda- Happy PFF to you, too! Thanks for your kind comments.

@Kirby- You're right, they spared none of the details...right up to the ceiling. She must have loved the place...

@Jodie LeJeune- Thank you for visiting on PFF. I look forward to popping over for a visit to your blog. :)

Postcardy said...

You really found a lot of interesting information.

Lydia said...

@Postcardy- Glad you think so! :)

Debby said...

WOW!!!! This house is fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing the beautiful pic and information.
debby

Robin said...

There must be a zillion mediterranean homes that look quite similar to this. But when your blog first loaded, I was taken back by your postcard. It looks like that of my childhood friend's home (in St. Louis) right down to the privet hedges.....minus the palm tree. Also hers wasn't 10,000 sq. ft.......more like 3000 sq. ft. :-)

I don't know of this actress nor her movies, but I loved your post.
Fabulous....

Have a beautiful weekend

Lydia said...

@Debby- Isn't it truly beautiful? Such style. It seems that was true for Norma also. Thanks for your visit.

@Robin- Are you still in touch with the childhood friend? It would be wonderful, but probably unlikely. If you remember the address, or at least the street name you could drive by it via Google maps. I wonder if her home is still standing!
I wish you a beautiful weekend too.

Lydia said...

@Terry- I just saw your comment that also came into my regular email and it didn't seem to me that I had replied. I'm sorry that I missed you and failed to say how delightful it always is when you stop by. :)

Mimi Pond said...

I live a few blocks from our Talmadge house in Los Feliz and I have to tell you that the house pictured in the postcard IS NOT that house. That must be a house that Norma lived in prior to the one in Los Feliz somewhere else, perhaps on the west side of LA, but these are definitely two different homes.

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