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Buster Keaton estate in Beverly Hills comes full circle after $16.2-million sale

Hot Property | Buster Keaton Estate
A section of the original Buster Keaton estate has sold in Beverly Hills for $16.2 million in a probate sale.
(Everett Fenton Gidley)

More than 60 years after it was subdivided, the Buster Keaton estate in Beverly Hills is now back together, nearly as it once was.

Bill Guthy, co-founder of the TV direct-marketing company Guthy-Renker, and his wife, writer and makeup entrepreneur Victoria Jackson, bought a property that was once part of the silent-film comic’s former home for $16.2 million through a probate sale. The purchase reunites the property with the main Keaton estate, which the couple acquired in 2002 for $17 million, public records show.

Originally built for Keaton in 1926, the storied estate has a chain of ownership that also includes leading man Cary Grant and his wife, Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, and, later, actors James and Pamela Mason. 

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Actress Marlene Dietrich made a cameo in its history as a former tenant; Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole stayed as guests of the Masons when they first came to Hollywood.

It was during the Masons’ ownership that the estate was split into three parcels, including the one just sold to Guthy and Jackson.

The roughly half-acre property had been owned by longtime Beverly Hills resident Lillian Portnoy, whose family had a home built there in 1954.

Portnoy told The Times in May that the house became a gathering spot to the stars over the years. Among guests were Sean Connery, Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Jean Ronald Getty. Portnoy said her former beau Elvis Presley often enjoyed the cabana houses and the 60-foot-long swimming pool — structures retained from the original estate.

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“This is the best part of the original estate that is going to be reunited,” listing agent Aitan Segal of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices said. The formal gardens, an exterior staircase, a fountain and a covered pavilion are other holdovers from the original property, he noted.

The 3,007-square-foot house was placed in a conservatorship prior to listing for sale in May for $8.795 million. The situation allowed prospective buyers to present higher offers at the courthouse, even with a pending contract, according to Linda Cotterman, the conservator for Portnoy.

With the purchase, Guthy and Jackson now own more than two acres of the original 3.5-acre estate, including Keaton’s former home, an Italian villa of about 11,000 square feet.

The third, unincorporated parcel was never developed during Keaton’s ownership, which extended through the the early 1930s, and was sold vacant by the Masons.

neal.leitereg@latimes.com

Twitter: @NJLeitereg

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