Charlie Chaplin's "Magical Courtyard" Review - A Hidden Treasure

Charlie Chaplin was a charmer, and his work and his life continue to fascinate people all over the world. His first film was “Making a Living” 1914 when he was 24.  Exhibitions showing his work in photos and film draw large crowds in places such as the London Film Museum, Helsinki Art Museum Tennis Palace, Newcastle Museum, Musée de l’Elysée and more in recent years.


The front door

I have found Chaplin exhibitions in unexpected places when I was traveling in Europe a few years ago.  Once, long ago, I stayed at a bed and breakfast where the Chaplin family spent summers.  This was in Nairn, in the North of Scotland.  My husband and I have enjoyed DVD’s of Chaplin films. My husband’s favorite among the Chaplin films is “The Gold Rush” and mine is “Modern Times”.  Although Chaplin was born in England and died in Switzerland, his time in Hollywood profoundly impacted the film industry and Los Angeles.



Wikipedia states,” Charlie Chaplin Studios is a motion picture studio built in 1917 by silent and sound film star Charlie Chaplin just south of the southeast corner of La Brea and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.


The courtyard

After being sold by Chaplin in 1953, the property went through several changes in ownership and has served at various times as Kling Studios, the Red Skelton Studios, the shooting location for the Adventures of Superman and Perry Mason television series, and as the headquarters for A&M Records and The Jim Henson Company. In 1969, it was designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.”


The tower


A group of cottages very near the studio was built in 1923. Chaplin commissioned Arthur and Nina Zwebell, a husband-and-wife architectural team to build them.  The cottages were charming but unembellished, intended as dressing rooms or housing for short periods of time.


Once a Fountain

As a place where actors could change and stay temporarily while working on films at nearby studios, it is reported that among others, besides Charlie Chaplin, the following stars stayed there: John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks Sr.,(the Z for "Zorro" left for Fairbanks) Rudolph Valentino, and Judy Garland. This property is an important part of early Hollywood and has so much history as well as, architectural interest.


Z for "Zorro"

Though many years old, Robert Marlow’s Blog is a wonderful place to really to explore this story.


“According to the current owner, who acquired the property in the mid-1990s, a journal left by former tenant John Barrymore reveals that Chaplin himself occupied the right rear cottage, and John Barrymore the left rear cottage—which was subsequently occupied by his son of the same name, and in which Drew Barrymore was born. Rudolph Valentino resided in the front left cottage, and Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) in the front right.”


Inside, looking out

Because I knew the owner well, I had the chance to see the apartments before they were updated and embellished.  However, the new work preserved the look and feel of the original. There is something unique and special about the gnarled trees and the cobblestoned courtyard – a kind of magic.  Another special feature is that the unites were kept original as much as possible with hardwood floors, leaded glass windows, beautiful ceramic tiles, spiral staircases, and odd shaped doors. 


The four apartments were eventually rented, as it turned out, to people with creativity and vision.  They love living there and have formed a small community. It is amazing to walk into the courtyard, feel transported into another realm. You need to remind yourself that you are in the middle of LA.


Graceful lines

Now, this historic, magical property is up for sale.  Anyone wanting to purchase a piece of Hollywood history should contact: BrianByhower (310)621-2819


All Photos: Brian Byhower

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