Ernst Lubitsch – High Nooner

February 13, 2008

So, I sent EJ this story from today’s New York Times on the release of some Ernst Lubitsch movies to DVD. Expecting a positive response, I ask, “Hey. Any good Ernst stories?”

Turns out that the home where this prolific director died was a stop on a tour in EJ’s first book, “Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites“. Hardly a surprise. With all the other commentary about the Paul Bern book, the Wally Reid book and the others, we neglect to mention what a terrific guide is HDASS. Turn-by-turn directions. A story at each stop. Sixteen guided tours.  The book has an amazingly detailed index.  It’s Hollywood history…you drive through.  It formed the basis for what has become The Movieland Directory.

Anyway, back to Ernst. Here’s the entry from the fourth stop on “Tour 10 – Bel Air”, 268 Bel Air Road:

German director Ernst Lubitsch suffered a fatal heart attack at his Bel Air estate at 268 Bel Air Road on November 30, 1947 at the age of 55. He studied acting under European stage legend Max Reinhardt and became a top German stage star. He later began producing films, including Carmen (1918), which became the biggest movie in European history and earned him the reputation as the greatest filmmaker on the continent. He discovered Pola Negri and starred her in his controversial classic Madame du Berry (1918) before Mary Pickford brought him to the U.S. to direct her in Rosita (1922).

Over the next 25 years, Lubitsch worked for several studios and was responsible for some of the most famous movies in history including classics like The Student Prince (1927), The Love Parade (1929), Monte Carlo (1930), Greta Garbo’s Ninotchka (1939), Maurice Chevalier’s The Merry Widow (1934), To Be or Not to Be (1942) and Heaven Can Wait (1943). In 1946 he received a Special Academy Award for his “contributions to filmmaking during twenty-five years of filmmaking.” Lubitsch was known for mixing subtle humor with imaginative situations, giving his movies an implausible Cinderella-like quality that came to be called “The Lubitsch Touch.”

The great director battled heart ailments for most of his life, suffering a fairly severe heart attack in October 1947 at a party at his neighbor Otto Preminger’s house at 333 Bel Air Road. He survived, but a month later suffered a fatal heart attack during an afternoon love-making session on the couch in his den here. Kind of a “High Noon-er.” He died just a week after completing his final film, That Lady in Ermine (1948). The home across the street at 325 belonged to actress Mary Martin, and later writer Dashiel Hammett.


January 31, 2008

Capra’s masterpiece is full of great stories akin to naming Mr. Gower after the famous street in Hollywood. In the early days of Hollywood, the area of Gower north of Sunset was full of tiny studios and known as “Gower Gulch” for the plethora of westerns being made there. Every morning real cowboys and authentic Native Americans lined up at the bottom of Gower looking for day work. $5 a day, $10 if you had your own horse. A young Gary Cooper was among the dusty actor wanabes. The studios were so small and known for their struggles that the area was also called “Poverty Row” and the studios known as “Poverty Row” studios.

Another interesting story involves Bert the cop and Ernie the cab driver. When Jim Hensen began his Muppet shows, he borrowed “Bert & Ernie” from It’s A Wonderful Life. Frank Faylen – “Ernie” – later played Dobie Gillis’ father in the TV show and had a daughter that married Regis Philbin. Ward Bond – “Bert” – was a huge star who appeared in almost 300 films. On November 5, 1960 he was scheduled to meet singer Johnny Horton in Dallas so Horton could sign a contract to appear on “Wagon Train.” But Horton was killed when his car was hit by a drunk driver in the early morning hours, and Bond himself died the same morning of a heart attack. Years earlier his best friend John Wayne accidentaly shot him during a hunting trip; Bond left the shotgun to Wayne in his will.

Lionel Barrymore – “Mr. Potter” – was pushed around in a wheelchair not because the character was crippled but because he was suffering from terrible arthritis during the end of his life.

Thomas Mitchell – “Uncle Billy” – was among the few to garner the Triple Crown during his long career. He won an Academy Award for Stagecoach (1939), an Emmy as television’s Best Actor in 1953 and a Tony for “Hazel Flagg” in 1953.

H.B. Warner – “Mr. Gower” – starred in 150 films, as Christ in the deMille Classic King of Kings (1927), with Thomas Mitchell in Lost Horizon (1937), with Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and his final film, another deMille classic The Ten Commandments (1956).

Beulah Bondi – “Mrs. Bailey” – played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in four different films. Besides It’s A Wonderful Life, the others were Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Of Human Hearts (1938) and Vivacious Lady (1938). She died at her Whitley Heights home at 92 of complications from injuries sustained after tripping over her cat.

Adrienne Caselotti – she was a singer at Martini’s Bar – only appeared in one movie and a couple of TV shows. She made a career after Walt Disney personally chose her as the voice of his character “Snow White.”

Sheldon Leonard – “Nick” the bartender… “Hey get me, I’m handing out wings!” – took the role so he could make some money to buy Dodger tickets and went on to become one of the most successful producers in the history of television. He won 5 Emmy awards for series like “Make Room for Daddy,” “Gomer Pyle,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “I Spy.”

Samuel S. Hinds – “Pa Bailey” – was a wealthy Pasadena lawyer who graduated from Harvard, but he lost everything in the 1929 market crash and turned to acting to survive. He appeared in over 150 movies and eventually was among the founding members of the renowned Pasadena Playhouse.

Charles Lane – Potter’s rent collector – and Tom Fadden – the bridge toll collector who fell off his chair when Clarence said he was an angel – both appeared in the long-running series “Petticoat Junction.” Lane (“Homer Bedloe” on the Junction) appeared in over 350 films and Fadden (“Ben Miller” on Junction) appeared in over 200.

Bert Moorhouse – Nick’s bouncer – appeared in almost 400 films from 1928 to 1954 before committing suicide in Hollywood in 1954.

The film is so full of stories I’ll have to do another post with more!


EJ in Jean Harlow’s Packard

June 8, 2007

EJ in Jean Harlow Packard  More to come on EJ’s trip to Los Angeles where he is researching, among other things, his next book.  That will be about producer/director Paul Bern, at the time of his death the husband of Jean Harlow.  Here’s a picture from yesterday of EJ at the wheel of Jean’s ’32 Packard, parked in front of one of Jean’s homes in Beverly Hills.  More to come…


May 21, 2007

Hollywoodland  The Hollywoodland DVD is out.  Here’s the write-up in American Cinematographer.  With its hooks to EJ’s book The Fixers, it was a natural for us to enjoy it.

Jean Harlow Death House

January 27, 2007

 The death of Jean Harlow is one of the great Hollywood stories, with accusations that her Mother’s Christian Science beliefs led directly to her death and that it could have been prevented. Worse, her murdered ex-husband Paul Bern was accused of causing the death after a wedding night beating allegedly inflicted on Jean. Also untrue. Both are unfortunately not the case. Jean likely suffered most of her life a kidney ailment that eventually led to her death. A doctor’s misdiagnosis led to accidently allowing the disease to progress past the point of cure and she tragically died at her house at 512 North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills. The house is going on the market for $4,300,000. For a beautiful look inside and outside of the house you can go to It hasn’t changed much since Jean lived there with the exception of a second floor addition added in the 1950’s over the right side of the house. Note that Rita Hayworth and others in The Movieland Directory lived in this home.


June 18, 2006

Sitting down to “Hoosiers”, tonight.  My Father’s Day gift (with great white socks and the usual weekend where I can do anything).  “Hoosiers” comes in at #13 on AFI’s list of the 100 most inspiring movies of the last 100 years.

Make No Small Posts!

June 17, 2006

This site will cover development of The Movieland Directory site (  We’ll discuss Los Angeles, travel, mapping software and whatever else we’d like to save for posterity.