A FEW weeks ago, I was headed to a party in the Hollywood area. After doing my usual pre- Los Angeles driving rituals, such as making sure I had enough good songs to get through the drive, filling up on gas in case I ran out on the free way, programming my iPhone GPS, and leaving about an hour earlier than necessary in case of excessive traffic, I was on my way to what I thought was Greystone Manor, the night club located on La Cienega. However, it wasn’t until I entered an upscale Beverly Hills neighborhood with old-fashioned mansions lining the streets that I realized I was in the wrong place. Obviously, I should have realized this sooner, but I thought, “This is L.A. Maybe part of the appeal of this apparently very popular night club is that it’s hidden away in Hollywood Hills…” No. I soon discovered that I was actually at Greystone Mansion, a famous and historical movie set and park. As we discuss frequently in class, many times the “hidden gems” of Los Angeles are found my accident, so maybe it was not a coincidence that I should end up here, in light of my “Telling L.A.’s Story” class. The next day, I decided to research this mansion and find out more about it. What is it? What’s its story? Why is it tucked away in a neighborhood? How interesting would it be to live next door to a historical mansion?
In 1892, Edward Lawrence Doheny, a successful oil migrant, discovered one of the first oil wells in Los Angeles. (L.A. Trivia: Oil gushers soon became part of the landscape of Los Angeles). In 1926, he gave his son and daughter-in-law a piece of land where the mansion was built. It soon became “the largest undertaking of a family estate in the city of Beverly Hills.” The story gets interesting and twisted when, after moving into the mansion in 1928, Doheny’s son was found in the mansion “in a murder suicide with his long time trusted family assistant” at the tender age of 36, just four months after moving in. (Upon reading this, I realized why, when I started typing Greystone Mansion into Google search, one of the automatic engines that came up was “Is Greystone Mansion haunted?”
Now, Greystone is owned by the city of Beverly Hills and is famous for being the set of movies and commercials, as well as existing solely as a historical piece of land and park for people to enjoy. According to “Friends of Greystone,” a website of people dedicated to preserving and taking care of this mansion:
“Today, Greystone serves as the setting for a myriad of cultural and educational activities. Movies, commercials, T.V. shows and photo shoots are a major source of revenue for the upkeep of Greystone as are the exclusive weddings and reception sites located throughout the grounds. Most of all, Greystone provides the visitor with the opportunity for a quiet moment in a pastoral park, offering sweeping panoramic views of the city below, moments away from a busy urban environment.”
The idea of Greystone existing as a movie set reminded me of some of our class discussions, namely Chapter four of “The History of Forgetting,” entitled “Movie Locations.” In this chapter, the author discusses Los Angeles as a movie set for movies such as Heat, and one particular quote stands out to me:
“The locations for crimes are traditional as well. Murders look best on the western fringes of downtown….The flatlands are lit for violence near downtown. The safe houses are always up on hills, facing the lights of Hollywood.”
“Murders look best” in a specific location of Los Angeles reminds me particularly that in many ways, Los Angeles itself IS a movie set, a playground, a site.
This lead me to research what movies have been filmed in part at Greystone Mansion or on its ground, and the results were outstanding. Dozens upon dozens of major films have scenes filmed here, including Spiderman, X-Men, What Women Want, Indecent Proposal, Town and Country, Gilmore Girls, and more. (For a complete list, visit: http://www.seeing-stars.com/live/Greystone.shtml)
But despite all of this, the website featured above claims that not too many people know about Greyston Mansion, and it is “one of L.A.’s better kept secrets.”
--Photo Credit: greystonemansion.org