Posts in category Mediterranean Revival
At a time when Hollywood screenwriter Elinor Glyn helped to make a star of actress Clara Bow, for whom she coined the label “the It girl” in 1928, little is remembered of her co-star, Antonio Moreno who appeared with Bow in the film It in 1927. It was Clara Bow’s first starring role; Moreno had already appeared in dozens of films, beginning in 1912, the year of his arrival in Los Angeles during which he appeared in seven films.
Moreno grew up in Gibraltar where he grew up knot a handsome lad of impressive charm, impressive enough to attract the attention (in more ways than one) of two important tourists: Benjamin Curtis, son of US Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis, and Enrique de Cruzat Zanetti (also known as Sheikh Birbal), a leader in the Sufi branch of Islam. Curtis and Zanetti invited the teenager to accompany them on the remainder of their travels with Moreno serving as interpreter to the ailing Curtis. Arriving in New York in 1902, Moreno wasted no time in attracting more patrons, including Charlotte Morgan, a wealthy widow who invited him to live her at her home in Northampton, Massachusetts.
In Northampton, Antonio caught the acting bug after playing in a summer production of the resident stock company, after which he moved with the company to New York City. Charming his way into the company, he made his Broadway debut in 1910, and by 1912 was doing Shakespeare with the touring Southern and Marlow Company. When English director Walter Edwin suggested he might do well in motion pictures, he moved to Hollywood in 1912 and appeared in seven films during the year of his arrival.
In all, Moreno appeared in 140 films, rising to fame as an exotic romantic hero, benefitting from the “Latin Lover” craze begun by Rudolph Valentino. He appeared alongside every dramatic star of the silent era including Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Norma Talmadge, Greta Garbo, Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson and the aforementioned Clara Bow.
In 1923 Antonio married oil heiress Daisy Canfield, daughter of Charles Canfield, who with Edward Doheny discovered Los Angeles’ black gold in the 1890s. The marriage was one of convenience, given alleged same-sex inclinations on the part of both. A perception of normalcy in sexual relations would have been especially important for a macho-playing movie star, who like Valentino, had to constantly fend off rumors about his sexuality.
With unlimited funds acquired through the divorce from her first husband, oilman J. M. Danzinger, Daisy hired noted architect Robert Farquhar to design a Mediterranean style villa on the crest of the highest hill in Silver Lake. Christened the Crestmont, the estate would become famous for its lavish parties attended by celebrities, socialites and prominent members of Los Angeles’ Spanish and Mexican era land grant families.
For more on the life of Antonio Moreno, the book, Silver Lake Chronicles: Exploring an Urban Oasis in Los Angeles makes for excellent reading.
Silver Lake has played a seminal role not only in the development of the film industry, but remains home to some of the most iconic architecture of the 20th Century. Among the more neglected of its iconic architects—albeit in the more romantic than modernist vein that has garnered the most attention–is Armand Monaco (1895-1981). Monaco, whose name couldn’t be better suited to the grandiosity of many of his projects, designed one of Silver Lake’s most elegant villas and other lavish homes for wealthy clients and celebrities, as well as commercial projects, public housing and churches. Also, unfortunately, as Los Angeles’ and Hollywood’s shadow side seemingly went with the territory, Monaco’s extended family would be touched by tragedy and an early Hollywood scandal.
Armand Monaco was twelve when his Italian parents joined the massive turn-of-the-century immigrant wave to the United States, settling with their five children in Chicago. After graduation from Northwestern University, Monaco joined the architectural firm of Jarvis Hunt as principal designer. By 1921. he was working in Los Angeles briefly in the offices of Robert D. Farquhar and Myron Hunt, after which he formed a partnership with William Bordeaux. The new firm designed several opulent Italianate-style residences, including one for actress Betty Blythe in Los Feliz and the Villa Monaco in Silver Lake, which Monaco designed for himself, his wife Carlotta and their two sons Renaldo and Rudolfo Raymond.
Seeking more creative self-expression, Monaco branched out on his own in 1927, designing the original French Hospital in Chinatown (now the Pacific Alliance Medical Center) and in 1928 built a mansion in Palos Verdes for men’s clothing magnate John Joseph Haggarty. It wasn’t all high-end design for Monaco. In 1937 he was among a select group of socially-conscious architects selected to design the William Mead Public Housing Project; the project was the eighth in a series of garden apartments created to offer a higher quality of life to low income families.
Monaco resided at his Silver Lake villa until 1965. In 1967, Renaldo, Armando’s first born son and his pregnant wife along with another child were killed in one of Los Angeles’ signature hazards–a head on collision on the Interstate 5 Freeway. Compared to this horrific tragedy, the Hollywood scandal that rocked the family was a minor inconvenience; and here’s where the tale gets really bizarre:
Having achieved near god-like status among his myriad fans, Rudolf Valentino’s crypt at Hollywood Cemetery was visited by an estimated 100,000 people in the first two years after his death in 1926. One of his most ardent admirers was a fellow Italian immigrant, Angelina Coppola, who reportedly visited Valentino’s crypt several times a week, located a few blocks from the cemetery. When her baby boy tragically died soon after birth in 1928, the Coppolas named him, Rudolph Valentino Coppola, in honor of the film idol. Two years later, she sued Dr. Rodolfo Monaco, the child’s pediatrician for malpractice to the tune of $75,000.
The circus-like trial that ensued featured Angelina’s claims that she had been warned by Rudolf Valentino’s spirit of the child’s endangerment. But the highlight came when a woman from the gallery burst out, claiming to be channeling the spirit of Indian chief Gray Eagle, alleging that Valentino’s spirit had sent her to the courtroom to protect Angelina! After this latest fiasco, the judge granted a motion for a mistrial. A second trial two years later ended in full acquittal.
Whether one is beckoned to Villa Monaco by the ghost of Rudolf Valentino, the palatial Villa Monaco estate on Waverly Drive remains one of the grandest of Silver Lake homes.
The Villa was dedicated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monumnet in 2010 No. 971), located at 2508 Mayberry Street in the Mayberry Heights neighborhood of Silver Lake.
The dramatic parlor/living room of the Villa Palombo-Togneri, complete with hand-painted walls and ceilings and art deco chandelier and wall sconces recalls the glamour of old Hollywood. Declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, January 27, 2010 (No. 971).
It gave me a great sense of personal joy to discover this Paul R. Williams home, surprisingly the only one in Silver Lake created during his long and illustrious career. The home was built for Restaurateur Rene Faron and his wife in 1935. Designed in an elegant traditional style, the home is set back from the street in a semi-enclosed motor courtyard.
Known as the ‘Architect of the Stars’, Williams created over 2000 private residences during a career that spanned almost sixty years. Among his celebrity clients were Anthony Quinn, Bert Lahr, Danny Thomas, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. His most well-known commercial projects were the futuristic Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport and the United Nations Building in Paris.
Williams was one of the most highly regarded architects that defined the Southern California lifestyle for a culture obsessed with a romantic notion of Hollywood. His achievements was all the more extraordinary given that he was an African American. Through perserverance, he overcame the many obstacles that confronted him. He was the first African American to become a member of the American Institute of Architects; in 1957 he became the first black elected to the distinguished AIA College of Fellows.
The Rene Faron Residence is located at 2081 Redcliff Street in Silver Lake.
Bresnahan, 44, has numerous film and television credits including ‘Private Practice’ (2008), ‘The Kingdom’ (2007), ‘Crossing Jordan’ (2001, 2007), ‘CSI:NY’ (2004) and ‘Ski School’ (1990).