The Great Estates: St. Cloud Road
For decades in the mid-20th century, a 10,000 square foot Bel Air mansion exchanged hands of the most powerful people in Hollywood. In 1934, director Frank Capra purchased the St. Cloud Road Estate to celebrate one of the most successful years in Hollywood history. His film, “It Happened One Night,” became the first film in American history to win the top five Academy Awards. After the film won for best picture, best actor, best actress, best screenplay, and best director, Frank Capra became the most sought after director in Hollywood. He lived and worked at the estate for four years before selling the property to recently married Warner Bros. stars, Dick Powell and Joan Blondell.
After living in the mansion for just one month, the newlyweds sold the estate to a close friend and director named Mervyn LeRoy. LeRoy was known for box office hits like “Gold Diggers of 1933” and “Little Ceasar.” After years of success, he became head of production of MGM studios and helped direct famous films such as “The Wizard of Oz.” LeRoy continued the homes glorified tradition in 1949 and sold the estate to another Hollywood legend named Louis B. Mayer.
At the time, Mayer was possibly the most controversial figure in Hollywood. As the founder of MGM studios, he believed that image was everything. The massive appeal and personality of this mansion paralleled his lifestyle. He wanted nobody to challenge his authority and would even go to the extent of tampering with the lives of Hollywood stars for the sole protection of his company and image. He treated his prized actors and actresses like his own children, showing great interest and pride in their work. He once forced Judy Garland to only eat chicken noodle soup during her “awkward” phase so she would lose weight and be more aesthetically pleasing on film. Feared but respected, Mayer became the highest paid business executive in America throughout the 1930s. While he lived in the St. Cloud Estate, he hired the Hollywood-popular Wallace Neff as his architect to make a few changes on the property. When describing Mayer as a client, Neff said, “he was an easy client… he was so busy he didn’t even look at it.” Mayer passed away in 1957,as his estate was sold and resold multiple times before it was demolished in the late 1980s.
The home that now sits in its place is an 18th century mansion named, “La Belle Vie.” The newly constructed home reaches the standards of the previous great estate in terms of presentation and design, and holds the record for the world’s largest private collection of Rodin sculptures. The St. Cloud Estate will forever be remembered as a constant residence in the rotation of powerful Hollywood owners.