Jack Benny’s Holmby Hills Home Sold

Times Staff Writer

Jack Benny lived there--a 2.5-acre Holmby Hills home across the street from Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy Mansion"--and the old Benny home has been sold, again.

The house--a 1927 Italian villa with a long, private driveway, a motorcourt for 30 cars, a chauffeur’s quarters, a ballroom-size living room and rolling lawns--was the last place the famous comedian lived.

Benny died at the age of 80 in 1974. His wife of nearly 50 years, Mary Livingstone, lived there until she died at 77 in 1983. Then the house was sold in probate to a West Los Angeles businessman for about $3 million.


It has just been sold again, to another West L. A. businessman. “I represented the seller,” Jeff Hyland of Alvarez, Hyland & Young in Beverly Hills said, and Ronnie Kassorla in his office represented the buyer.

It’s been a good month for Hyland, who just got the listing on the old Harold Lloyd mansion along with Victoria Lockwood, at his company, and Joyce Rey of Merrill Lynch Realty in Beverly Hills for a nice round $9 million.

The 44-room house was the home of the silent screen star from the time it was built in the ‘20s until Lloyd died there at age 77 in 1971. It was bought in 1979 by Bernard C. Solomon, president of the Everest Record Group, and his wife, Dona, from Shahram Afshani, who subdivided the 15.7-acre Lloyd estate, leaving the mansion on about five acres.

The Solomons restored the house, which had been vacant and in great need of repair. The mansion was designed as a copy of an Italian Renaissance residence near Florence.

“Lloyd used to joke that he could dine with his friends while he sat in Beverly Hills and his friends sat in Los Angeles,” Hyland said. The boundary line between the cities runs through the dining room.

Remember the Hollywood Professional School auction last summer that seemed to fizzle when it came to selling the building on Hollywood Boulevard and Serrano Avenue?

Seems the auction was a success after all. Not only was much of the rest of the estate of the late Bertha Keller Mann, who owned and ran the 54-year-old school since 1949, sold at the auction, but after months of negotiating, the old school building and adjacent parcels are now in escrow and due to close in about a month. The buyer was the high bidder for these properties at the auction itself.

“Normally, we wouldn’t say anything until escrow closes,” Stanley Kottle, whose Marsh Dozar Auctioneers of Encino handled the property, said, “but it’s a solid buyer.” The offer: $1 million cash with a 10% deposit. The buyer is the owner of a big electronics firm in the Hollywood area and his son.

“He will renovate the building,” Sheila Ferrari, Mann’s niece and the estate’s executor, said, “but I don’t think it will reopen as a school. Still, I’m glad it won’t be torn down.”

The two-story, white structure is a link to Hollywood’s past:

Ryan O'Neal, Peggy Fleming, Connie Stevens and Mickey Rooney are just some of the celebrities pictured in old annuals as former students.

For Hollywood watchers who are afraid that more and more movie production companies may move out of California, here’s one that didn’t get away:

Cannon Films Inc.--which produced “American Ninja,” “Bolero” and “Invasion U. S. A."--bought a five-story office building in Brentwood to house its production, editing, screening, advertising and corporate facilities.

The firm had planned to move to New York City, David Lachoff of Grubb & Ellis, who represented Cannon in the transaction, said. Instead, the firm decided to buy the new, 75,000-square-foot building at 640 San Vicente Blvd.

The facility suited “nearly all their exact needs,” Lachoff noted, and it also has as many as six corner offices on one floor.

Architect Herbert Nadel’s Santa Monica firm designed the building, which was a project of Alanka Development Co., represented in the sale by Erick Broida and Arlene Sommer of Grubb & Ellis.