BETHPAGE, N.Y., November 3, 2000 – From Beverly Hills to Palm Springs, from modern aesthetics to Spanish Revival, the private domiciles of entertainment’s elite are cherished sanctuaries, offering refuge from the spotlight in an environment that reflects their personal taste and style. On Tuesday, December 12, at 10:00 PM (ET), AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS offers viewers a personal tour of four celebrity residences when it presents LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD HOMES II. The one-hour special, narrated by Sally Kellerman, captures some of the complexity of icons like Gary Cooper and Cary Grant, whose homes were not what their fans might have expected, and the glamour of Frank Sinatra and Liberace, whose Palm Springs estates mirrored their well-known personas.
LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD HOMES II reveals what attracted each star to each dwelling and details the architectural history of each stunning home, illustrated by still photos and video clips of the houses throughout the years. The homes as they were lived in are brought to life through the personal recollections of friends, family and staff who spent time in them – including Cooper’s daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, Grant companion Maureen Donaldson, Sinatra’s personal valet George Jacobs and Liberace’s private nurse, Norma Gerber – while Palm Springs writer Howard Johns and architects Fran Offenhauser and Stewart Williams offer a historical perspective. Current owners describe how they feel about living in such renowned homes.
At first glance, Gary Cooper’s unconventional modern home belies the actor’s image as a paragon of traditional American values. But in fact, the simplicity and elegant clean lines of its design and its harmony with the surrounding landscape are in tune with the Montana-born actor’s unassuming nature. Cooper and his wife Rocky commissioned the 6,000-square-foot home in 1955 from prominent California architect Quincy Jones, who was known for his modernistic style. The couple had only recently reunited after a three-year separation during which Cooper was involved with actress Patricia Neal. Because the Coopers were fond of entertaining, Jones made the centerpiece of the house a 55-foot-long living room with an angled ceiling that rose to 16 feet at one end. A glass and wood wall on one side afforded a sweeping view of the backyard and the canyon beyond. Cooper’s daughter, Maria Cooper Janis, recalls evenings when friends like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland gathered around the family piano. The Coopers spent six joyous years in the home, but after Cooper’s death in 1961, Rocky sold the property and returned with Maria to New York. The house simply would be too large and lonely without “Coop.”
When Cary Grant decided to retire in 1953, he chose the desert town of Palm Springs, a frequent destination for celebrities since the Golden Age of Hollywood. The actor who epitomized suave sophistication and urbanity surprised many with his selection of an Andalusian-style farmhouse overlooking Mt. San Jacinto. The 6,500-square-foot home, dating back to 1927, provided a spectacular view of Mt. San Jacinto, and was totally secluded. Filled with Spanish-style adornments, such as wood casement windows, Kiva fireplaces, Talavera tiles, terra cotta floors and wrought iron sconces, the home was a peaceful retreat from the rigors of Hollywood. Grant was 50 years old and married to his third wife, Betsy Drake, when he bought the house in 1954. Even though he moved into the house intending not to take any more film roles, he could not resist an offer by Alfred Hitchcock only a few months later when the Master of Suspense drove down to Palm Springs with the script for TO CATCH A THIEF (1955). The film revived Grant’s career as surely as the house revived his spirit. He kept the house for 18 years.
Located two miles from downtown Palm Springs, Frank Sinatra’s home, dubbed “Twin Palms,” befits his Rat Pack image as surely as Cooper’s and Grant’s homes seemed to contradict theirs. Designed by noted architect Stewart Williams in 1947, it was radically modern by the standards of the time with a sleek, flat roof, walls constructed of stone indigenous to the area and solid glass walls overlooking the piano-shaped pool and cabana in the backyard. Former owner Marc Sanders restored the home with minimalist 1950s furnishings, but when Sinatra moved in with wife Nancy and their two young children, they chose the kind of ordinary, comfortable furniture that suited a growing family. Sinatra’s time at Twin Palms was not to be the tranquil existence the architecture might suggest, however. He and Nancy divorced after Sinatra embarked on a highly publicized affair with Ava Gardner in 1948. He married the fiery actress in 1951, but the years they spent together were tempestuous. When their marriage was over, Sinatra sold the house and never looked back.
Flamboyant Las Vegas showman Liberace owned several Palm Springs homes over the years, but his favorite was Casa de Liberace, a Spanish villa on the outside, but decidedly Liberace-esque on the inside. The rococo furnishings transformed what had once been called The Cloisters from a modest retreat into an elaborate 7,000-square-foot palace where the pianist spent his final days. In homage to his favorite celebrities, he turned his guest suites into themed rooms, such as the Gloria Vanderbilt Room done in shades of pink and The Rudolph Valentino Room in more somber tones. His own bedroom was embellished with velvet drapes, arched ceilings, a brass chandelier and a wood-burning fireplace. Some of the bathrooms featured 24-karat gold faucets, and priceless ornate antiques shared space with reproductions from bargain basement stores, according to friend Phyllis Diller. Many of Liberace’s personal touches remain intact, thanks to the new owner: A lifelong Liberace fan, Stefan Hemming, bought Casa de Liberace from the performer’s estate following his death.
LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD HOMES II is produced by Scripps Productions in association with AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS. Executive producers are Marc Juris and Jessica Falcon of AMC and Barry Gribbins of Scripps Productions.
AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS is the premier 24-hour movie network, featuring award-winning original productions about the world of American film. AMC is available in 75 million homes.
Jaime Saberito/Dina White
Fenot Tekle/Lynn Weiss