King Vidor loved to acquire real estate.
The director of film classics such as “The Crowd,” “The Big Parade” and “The Fountainhead” moved from Hollywood’s most modest neighborhoods to the hilltops of Beverly Hills, trailing wives and children and business deals as he traded up in addresses.
Suzanne Vidor Parry, of Los Angeles, a daughter from his first marriage to actress Florence Vidor, believes her father had lived in at least a dozen local boardinghouses, apartments and mansions.
From the lean days, when he and his casts took the red streetcar to get to Hollywood locations, to the gravy days when two trains were needed to carry crew and equipment to Idaho for the filming of “Northwest Passage,” Vidor was a Hollywood insider.
His name hadn’t come up much for years, however, until author Sidney D. Kirkpatrick wrote “A Cast of Killers,” based upon records and diaries found in Vidor’s garage.
Film Director’s Murder
Vidor had investigated the mystery of silent film director William Desmond Taylor’s murder in hopes of using the evidence and conclusions in a screenplay. Kirkpatrick’s 1986 account of the 1967 investigation of the 1922 murder was a “page turner” that some day may be seen on the screen.
Last July, Vidor’s name appeared in print again, this time in an advertisement placed by Stan Herman & Associates in the Hollywood Reporter. One of Vidor’s homes with a Beverly Hills mailing address is for sale at $7 million. It was the small print, “remodel or tear down” that startled the Vidor family, who have not seen the house for years.
In 1936, soon after he helped to organize the Directors Guild of America, Vidor, who was reared in Texas and was named for an uncle, made plans to build one of his largest estates.
Paying $16,000 for a six-acre knoll on Summitridge Drive, he hired Wallace Neff to design a chalet-lke home, as well as a barn and guest quarters. Neff’s papers indicate that the complex was budgeted to cost $30,000, plus the architect’s customary 10% fee. Vidor moved into a house at 1120 Summit Drive, across the street from Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard’s home as well as from Pickfair, and kept an eye on the construction on the hillside above.
In late 1938, following the filming of “The Citadel” in England, he and his third wife, Elizabeth Hill, moved into “the ranch,” at 1636 Summitridge Drive and remained for a dozen years.
Chickens and Horses
The white clapboard house, made of redwood, was not baronial, especially during the war years, when chickens and horses were penned near the victory garden. Yet it was well cared for, with half a dozen rooms provided for maids and groundskeepers.
After Elizabeth’s son was killed in World War II, they decided to move, and after the war, hired architect Wlliam Stevenson to design a contemporary-style home on La Altura Road, not far from the Doheny Greystone estate.
According to his daughter, Vidor sold the Summitridge house in 1956, the year his film, “War and Peace,” was released, to Col. C.C. Moseley, an aeronautics pioneer, for less than $150,000.
Vidor died in 1982 at his ranch in Paso Robles.
Today, while the outside of the Summitridge estate has changed and the grounds are nearly wild with untended vegetation, the interior appears much as it did when Vidor lived there, including a kitchen and streamlined 1930s bathroom fixtures in black.
The living room walls have been covered by more ornate wood paneling and the porch, which enclosed the house, has been walled in, but those seem to be the only changes. A teak-railed staircase, hand-carved in a palm-frond motif, leads to a second floor master suite544696692department.
Rented to Film People
According to Stephan Shapiro, the Stan Herman & Associates realtor representing the buyer, the lot is one of the largest, flat view sites in the area.
The present owner, who resides in Europe, bought it in 1976 for about $600,000, and has rented it to film industry people ever since.
If the house is sold and demolished, it will experience the fate of the first mansion Vidor owned in Hollywood at 7919 Selma Ave. A year or so ago, the Tudor-style home that he and Florence Vidor bought after World War I was torn down and replaced by an apartment building.
“It had one of the finest tennis courts in town,” Suzanne Vidor Parry remembers. “Dad sold it to Fay Wray, and later owners included Lewis Milestone and Dick Powell.”