Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Temple Tuesday: Behind the Scenes of Rebecca

This behind-the-scenes image from Shirley Temple’s “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938) shows the child star at the piano with Jack Haley leaning in over her shoulder. A detailed view of Shirley and Jack, best known as the Tinman from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939):

Below in the detailed view you can see the crew, which includes Cinematographer/Photographer Arthur C. Miller at far left in glasses, Joseph LaShelle (uncredited second cameraman) behind the camera, and director Allan Dwan in front. Shirley’s brother Jack (uncredited second assistant director) is sitting in the background near the fireplace. Apparently this scene was filmed before he was removed from the picture by Director Dwan for an altercation he had with his famous sister over a prop turkey (you can read more about it here). Note the label on the camera for the Shirley Temple Police. The badges began on Shirley’s previous film, “Heidi” (1937).

One of the most coveted (and personal) pieces of Shirley memorabilia is an authentic Shirley Temple Police Force badge. The idea began when Shirley put a paper clip on still photographer Anthony Ugrin’s coat one day. She wrote about its origin in her 1945 autobiography My Young Life:

I told him that wearing the clip made him a policeman and I was chief of police. One of the prop men asked to join the force, so I put a paper clip in his lapel too, and pretty soon everybody on the set was going around ornamented with paper clips. Then I decided that the director (Allan Dwan, on the set of “Heidi”) should be chief of police and offered to abdicate, but the director wanted me to retain my high position and joined the ranks instead. Finally, the director presented me with a box of little tin badges with the inscription ‘Shirley Temple Police Force,’ painted on in black lettering. First thing every morning I’d line up the Shirley Temple Police Force for inspection and look at their badges. There was a 5-cent fine for people who had forgotten their badges, and a 1-cent fine for not having it polished, and thumping $5.00 fine for anyone who had lost a badge or given it away.…I made scads of money on fines, but I didn’t keep it. Part of it furnished a Girl Scout room in Santa Monica, another part helped to build a recreation room for boys in a Santa Monica school and the rest went to the Babies Milk Fund.

Members each signed the declaration that “I wish to join this police station for $10,000,000 per week. This will not be paid if I leave within 10 years.” The badge shown below was auctioned off in 2015 for $3,600.

Another behind the scenes shot from the musical number, “Come and Get Your Happiness.” Once again, LaShelle is behind the camera, Dwan in front of it, and Photographer Arthur C. Miller in the back leaning against the table:

Shirley is directing two pretty singing twins, who also appeared in “Just Around the Corner” (1938).

Below are announcer George Fisher and Shirley Temple at the Press Preview of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on March 4, 1938. Shirley had the opportunity to speak over the radio airwaves of the Mutual Broadcasting Network at 8:30pm Pacific Time.

The great Rita Dubas, Shirley expert supreme, identified the object in Shirley’s gloved hand as one of the coveted Police Force Badges. Not quite sure though…

Maybe this alternate shot from the evening will reveal what’s in Shirley’s gloved hands.

Bingo! It’s a Shirley Temple Police Badge. Of course Rita was right!

Rita also put together this incredible video with clips and other goodies from the preview:

See more “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” photos at my main website.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Marilyn's Manse: To Save Or Not To Save

More than sixty years after her death, actress Marilyn Monroe is still making headlines. The one residence that she owned (and where she passed) at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California was destined for demolition by its current owners. The one-story, 2,900 square foot Hacienda-style home was built in 1929, three years after Marilyn was born.

According to Architectural Digest:

The 2,900-square-foot, one-story, L-shaped, Spanish colonial-style home had adobe walls and a red-tile roof and was protected by a high wall. It had two bedrooms, a small guesthouse, an oval swimming pool and a large garden. The interior had white stucco walls, white carpeting, cathedral beam ceilings and tiled fireplaces in both the living room and master bedroom. Monroe bought some essential furnishings on shopping trips to Tijuana and Mexico City: tiles for the kitchen, tin masks and mirrors for the walls, and textiles depicting Aztec figures. But the house was sparsely furnished, and her phonograph remained on the floor.

She called it “a cute little Mexican-style house with eight rooms” and regretfully added, “I live alone and I hate it!” She loved animals and had always been fond of pets, who soothed her loneliness. Frank Sinatra gave her a white poodle called Maf (short for Mafia), whose name referenced his mob connections. Proud of the house and the improvements she made, she keenly showed visitors around and called it a “fortress where I can feel safe from the world.”

In an eerie case of foreshadowing, the tiles on the front doorstep say, “Cursum Perficio,” which translates to “I have completed my journey.”

From Curbed LA, April 20, 2017, when the house was put up for sale:

Before her death, a reporter with Life magazine spent a day with Monroe in the home, telling him, “Anybody who likes my house, I am sure I will get along with.” She had “[thrown] herself into making a home for herself. She planted an herb garden and in early 1962 traveled to Mexico to purchase authentic furniture, art and tapestries for her new home,” according to Variety. Listing agent Lisa Optican said it, “retains many of the design elements selected by Monroe.” “When you walk the house and grounds, you’re immediately struck by its serenity and warmth,” she said. “Every owner who has called this property home has been drawn to the same character ... The property is romantic, intimate and private.”

The now defunct Mercervine brokerage website (due to bankruptcy), reported the sale on June 23, 2017:

Mercer Vine’s Lisa Optican has sold 12305 5th Helena Drive in Los Angeles’ Brentwood neighborhood for over asking price at $7.25 million.
Considering Marilyn bought the house for $77,500, that would have been quite an investment for her!

Set back from the road enough to make it difficult to view, Marilyn’s house was still a place where fans would do their “looky-loo” thing to the annoyance of the owners and neighbors. And then the unthinkable happened — the threat of demolition. Edited from the Robb Report on September 6, 2023:

It’s another sad day for fans of historic architecture and Old Hollywood lore alike. As first reported by the New York Post, the house located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood, a 1920s Spanish hacienda-style structure, may soon be demolished by its new owner. Despite its modest scale and unpretentious nature, the 2,600-square-foot bungalow gained worldwide fame in 1962 as the location of Marilyn Monroe’s sudden death. The walled and gated property was also the only house ever owned by the legendary actress, and in the six decades since the half-acre estate has become one of the city’s most famous local landmarks.…While the home’s exterior architecture remains incredibly alike how it appeared in 1962, the interiors have been significantly altered. Most notably, the kitchen and bathrooms have been modernized, and the estate’s formerly detached guest casita has been merged into the main house. Still, numerous original features — casement windows, terracotta tile floors, wood-beamed ceilings — happily hark back to Golden Age times. Out back, a brick patio spills out to a notably large swimming pool; beyond that, a grassy lawn is surrounded by mature trees, tall hedges and a citrus orchard. Out front, bountiful bunches of bougainvillea arch their way across the home’s fa├žade, and there’s a two-car garage. Teardowns have become increasingly commonplace in the area surrounding Monroe’s former home, as soaring property values and record-breaking sales entice developers to build ever bigger and fancier. That this particular property survived intact is a testament to the hacienda’s enduring charm, and to Monroe’s legendary status, of course. Back in 2014, Emerald Lake hedge fund manager Dan Lukas and his wife Anne Jarmain paid $7.3 million for the Monroe estate, and have lived at the property in the years since. Six months ago, however, the couple paid $13 million for a larger home in the same neighborhood. Last month, Lukas and Jarmain quietly sold the Monroe house to a buyer who has not yet been publicly identified. That person paid nearly $8.4 million for the property, in cash, and almost immediately applied for a demolition permit. The L.A. Department of Building and Safety recently approved the request for a “plan check” of the proposed work, though an official permit has not yet been issued. But if similar situations in the recent past are any indicator of this property’s future, it seems likely that the Monroe hacienda will soon be added to a long list of historical real estate treasures that continue to be lost.

Shortly after the news broke, a Change.org petition started, requesting that the City convert the house to a museum:

This house should become a museum in memory of Marilyn Monroe for visitors, tourists and fans. Like they did with Elvis Presley’s house named “Graceland,” who has been transformed into a museum in his memory.

The news even made it to Vanity Fair. Edited from their September 9, 2023 article:

…[I]t’s a building that a shadowy and nameless owner almost destroyed until the Los Angeles City Council stepped in to stop it. News that the owner of 12305 Fifth Helena Drive wanted to destroy the home spread quickly this week after the New York Post reported that it was in “the initial stages of the demolition process.” The four-bedroom, three-bath Spanish Colonial hacienda, which Monroe bought for $75,000 as her third marriage, with playwright Arthur Miller, came to its end, had been evaluated for landmark status in 2013, but that process stalled, despite it being—as movie producer and neighbor Rodney Liber put it to the LA Times—“one of the most famous houses in the world.” That famous house was sold in 2017 to an LLC called Glory of the Snow for $7.25 million; in July, it was sold to the similarly named Glory of the Snow Trust for $8.35 million, the LAT reports. However, the actual humans behind the company names are unclear. The LLC was managed by Emerald Lake hedge fund manager Dan Lukas and his wife Anne Jarmain. The trust names a person called “Andrew Sahure” as its trustee, but that's a moniker which boasts no Google or public records results beyond this matter. (Gardners will note, however, that “glory of the snow” is the common name for chionodoxa luciliae, a spring-blooming perennial known for its purple flowers. Do with that what you may.) It’s unclear if anyone currently lives in the house, or why its owners want to destroy it, but as news spread of the plan, neighbors and preservationists sprang into action. A spokesperson for LA Councilwoman Traci Park says that their office received “hundreds of calls” asking her to step in, Reuters reports. And step in she did, introducing a council motion Friday asking the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) to consider the home for inclusion in LA’s list of historic cultural monuments. The motion was approved unanimously, giving the CHC 75 days to evaluate and approve the house as a landmark.

In response, LA’s Board of Building and Safety Commissioners paused any potential work at the site, saying in a letter to the owners that the preliminary approval for demolition was “issued in error.” “Under the Cultural Heritage Ordinance, this action immediately triggers a temporary stay on all building permits while the matter is under consideration by the Cultural Heritage Commission and City Council,“ KTLA reports the letter as reading. “Also, the property, regardless of whether a permit exists or does not exist, shall not be demolished, substantially altered or removed.”“This will be the first step in ensuring that we can protect this home against demolition,” Park told ABC 7. “The overwhelming sentiment here is clear. This home must be preserved as a crucial piece of Hollywood’s and the city of Los Angeles’ history, culture and legacy.”

Nearly a year later on June 26, 2024, Variety reported an update on the situation:

Marilyn Monroe‘s house in Los Angeles’ Brentwood neighborhood was approved in its historical cultural monument nomination by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, a designation which is intended to help protect the landmark from demolition. “The Marilyn Monroe Residence in Brentwood is now a Historic-Cultural Monument! Today, L.A. City Council unanimously approved the nomination for Marilyn Monroe’s final home. Thanks to all who voiced their support and a HUGE thanks to Councilwoman Traci Park & team!,” wrote the L.A. Conservancy on X. …Owners Brinah Milstein and her husband, reality TV producer Roy Bank, bought the house last year for $8.35 million and planned to demolish it to expand their property next door. They waged a year-long battle to stop the historical designation, which they said would lead to more nuisance visitors. The owners have sued the city, accusing officials of “backroom machinations,” and the case is due to get a trial date on Aug. 13. In the suit, the owners say that the house has been substantially altered and that there is no evidence remaining from the time when Monroe lived there, so they contend it does not meet the criteria for a historic cultural monument.

The suit also says that several neighborhood groups and the Monroe estate did not support the historic designation. The council’s vote was 12 to 0 in favor of adding the house to properties of historical significance. The decision was backed by the City Council’s land use management subcommittee and the Cultural Heritage Commission. While the designation doesn’t completely stop a property from being demolished, the status subjects it to a stringent review process if demolition were proposed. L.A. City Council member Traci Park said before the vote, “We have an opportunity to do something today that should’ve been done 60 years ago. There’s no other person or place in the city of Los Angeles as iconic as Marilyn Monroe and her Brentwood home.” In response to the vote, Milstein’s attorney Peter C. Sheridan, who also represents the owner’s Glory of the Snow 1031 Trust and Roy Bank, released the following statement. Council Member Traci Park, in bringing a motion to designate the former home of Marilyn Monroe as a Historic Cultural Monument, said she has “worked closely” with the owners “throughout this process” to relocate this house to allow for public access. This is not true. Neither she nor her staff have worked closely with the owners, throughout this process or anytime else, to relocate the house to allow for public access. In fact, the opposite is true. The owners have made countless attempts to work with Ms. Park and her staff to find a solution that would work for everyone, only to be met with non-responsiveness by Ms. Park and her staff. Ms. Park has ignored the fact that her constituents — civic and homeowner’s groups in the community — are adamantly against the designation of the home. Ms. Park has also ignored that the City granted dozens of permits to over 14 different prior owners to change the home through numerous remodels, resulting in there being nothing left reflecting Ms. Monroe’s brief time there 60 years ago. The designation today was yet another step in an admittedly biased, unconstitutional and rigged process, as set forth in the owners’ lawsuit. Traci Park’s actions today and throughout the process, disregarding the interests of her constituents and the facts and merits, demonstrate that no one’s home or investment is safe.

Although there was an online celebration about the landmark status being achieved, it would seem that the home is far from being safe. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Marilyn doesn’t live there anymore, and based on photos and what I have read, a lot of work would need to be done to return the home back to the state it was in when Marilyn lived there for six short months. The quiet neighborhood would not be an ideal place for a museum, where traffic and tourists would be a constant annoyance. If the home is to be moved elsewhere, then it loses the geographic significance that attracted Marilyn in the first place. Even if a group was able to buy the home, would they also have the money to keep it going?

Time will tell, and within a month we should all know more.

See more Marilyn photos at my main website.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Il Posto: Eating Local

When it comes to picking restaurants, I typically stay away from the chains and prefer to support my local choices. Italian food is at the top of my list, and there are a number of decent choices here in San Diego to choose from. When Il Posto opened down the street from me in the old Eclipse Chocolate location, I was cautiously optimistic. 

The aesthetic is clean, modern, and spacious. Besides tables and seating that don’t make you feel squeezed in, there is a generous sized bar option as well as outdoor seating (perfect for people watching).

Staff is friendly, and most (including the chef) are Italian. That’s a good sign!

The food was off the charts. The caprese makes a great starter and the focaccia bread is the best around, just perfect for mopping up the leftovers on your plate!

Every meal I’ve had there has been a winner. Two of my favorites are the Gnocchi with Bolognese sauce (you can build your own pasta plate with sauce, toppings, protein, and cheese):

…and the Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce. The Orecchiette Salsicca e Friarielli is another favorite.

Dessert often fails at Italian restaurants, but not at Il Posto. So many good choices, including the Spumoni ice cream encased in chocolate:

The refreshing lemon sorbet, served in a frozen lemon with just the right amount of cannoli filling to hold it all in place:

…and the Tiramisu, which is hands down the best I have ever had.

If you find yourself in San Diego, be sure to put this one on your radar.
See more San Diego North Park/South Park neighborhood photos at my main website.