The Hollywood Ghosts of Roxbury Drive

Roxbury Dr., which is located in Beverly Hills, was the home to many of the biggest stars in Hollywood during its Golden Age. A few of the big names include Lucille Ball, Agnes Moorehead, Jimmy Stewart, Spencer Tracy, and Jack Benny. All of these and more will be covered below, nearly 2 dozen in total.

These stars are all dead now and a great number of their homes have been demolished, replaced with larger and more modern structures. The destruction of these landmarks is a disgrace on architecture as well as historical levels. If a house wasn’t demolished it was easy to include the size specifications. If it was demolished, typically, this information was difficult to ascertain so it was not included.

So let’s step back in time and dive into these wonderful homes and their owners that have been lost to time.

Note: the title of this article is figurative. There are no actual ghosts in this article (okay, there is 1).

The 1000 (‘Ten Hundred’) Block Of Roxbury Dr.

1000 N. Roxbury Dr.

1000 N. Roxbury was the home of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Jimmy Stewart lived in the house next door to the South (918 N. Roxbury) and Jack Benny lived next door in the house to the North (1002 N. Roxbury).

The 1955 episode of I Love Lucy called “The Tour” was shot in the yard of this house. In the episode, the house is supposed to belong to Richard Widmark, but they decided to just use their own house instead. Lucy and Ethel steal a grapefruit from the backyard.

They were inspired to do that episode because they hated the tour buses that would drive around and drop people off in front of her house. Apparently, people would pack a picnic basket, and then eat lunch in her front yard when the bus let them out.

Like anybody else would, she despised this. One day when complaining to Stewart about it, he told her that she should do what he did and turn the sprinkler system on from the back yard as soon as they started eating.

When Dezi Arnaz Jr. was 11 years old he set up a lemonade stand in the driveway. He would go up to cars that stopped to see his mother’s house and lie to the occupants, telling them the star maps were out of date, and that a bunch of stars had moved. He would then charge them $1 for the updated addresses. Everything he told them was completely made up.

Once, Jack Benny entered Ball’s house (now married to Gary Morton) through the backdoor unexpectedly at suppertime while the family was eating its meal. He was in character, dressed in what he would wear on television, and playing the violin. Ball was in tears from laughter and Morton gave Benny a tip. When Benny arrived back at his house, he realized he was locked out.

Ball lived in this home until her death in 1989. One of her favorite annual activities was to personally hand out the Halloween candy to neighborhood children that came trick or treating. She dressed as a witch with blacked-out teeth every year.

After her death, Morton sold the home. The new owners essentially replaced the entire exterior of the home with beige stucco, making it unrecognizable. They also destroyed the front garden making it into an expanded parking area.

A number of people have claimed that Ball still haunts this home. During the remodeling of the house by the new owners, one of Ball’s friends claimed that he could see her ghost looking at him from her bedroom (the exterior wall was missing) as he drove past.

One of the owners of the house claims that her spirit frequently moves around boxes and items stored in the attic. Another member of that family stated that sometimes the music from I Love Lucy can be heard once in a while, coming from the attic as well.

1002 N. Roxbury Dr.

In 1937, Jack Benny bought this house brand new for $250,000. At nearly 15,000 square feet the home boasts 8 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms.

They sold the house in 1965 and Benny regretted it for the last 9 years of his life. Years later, Benny’s daughter Joan wanted to buy it back when it went on sale, but was priced out of the market for it.

The property has not been remodeled and looks the way it did when Benny lived there.

1004 N. Roxbury Dr.

This house was the home of Peter Falk. The house was built in 1932 and Falk lived there from 1979 until his death in 2011. The house is just under 6,900 square feet with 5 bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

1015 N. Roxbury Dr.

Across the street and slightly north of Falk’s house is 1015 N. Roxbury. This house was designed by legendary Pickfair architect Wallace Neff in 1926. This house is 6,500 square feet and contains 7 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and 2 guest houses.

Harry Cohn, co-founder of Columbia Pictures owned this house. After he sold it, the estate ended up in the hands of Betty Grable and her husband Harry James.

It eventually ended up in the hands of Diane Keaton, who had the interiors gutted and redesigned.  After this disgrace, it fell into the hands of Madonna and David and Posh Spice-Beckham.

1019 N. Roxbury Dr.

1019 N. Roxbury has a lot of history to it.

The first person to own it was a photographer named Lansing Brown. In 1934, Brown accidentally shot Russ Columbo, a famous singer at the time that was Bing Crosby’s main recording rival.

Lansing Brown on the incident:

  “I was absent-mindedly fooling around with one of the guns. It was of a dueling design and works with a cap and trigger. I was pulling back the trigger and clicking it time after time. I had a match in my hand and when I clicked, apparently the match caught in between the hammer and the firing pin. There was an explosion. Russ slid to the side of his chair.”

The bullet hit Columbo in the eye and he died 6 hours later.

Rosemary Clooney, who owned the home years later, said that in the 1950s when she and Crosby would record their radio shows in the house he would refuse to enter the den, which is the room in which Columbo was shot.

There is some debate as to whether or not this accident occurred in this home or at 584 Lillian Way in Hollywood, which Lou Miano, author of Russ Columbo, The Amazing Life And Mysterious Death Of A Hollywood Singing Legend states in this biography.

The house was also the home of George Gershwin (his brother Ira lived next door at 1021 N. Roxbury Dr.), who lived here between Brown and Clooney.

In 1936 the Gershwin brothers wrote the music for Shall We Dance? in the living room including the big hits from the movie: “They All Laughed”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

Clooney was married to Jose Ferrer for most of the 1960s (divorcing him twice). They were once stopped by the police for violating Beverly Hills’ curfew by walking home from a party at Jack Benny’s house. In these simpler times, this was the worst thing that could happen on Roxbury Dr. None of the celebrities on this street bothered to lock their doors.

In the early 1980s, George Clooney lived with his aunt in the house and basically worked as her servant running errands for her.

When Ira Gershwin died in 1983, Fred Astaire walked into Clooney’s house, mistaking it for Ira’s since he used to spend a good amount of time at both 1019 and 1021 back in the 1930s and he misremembered which brother owned which house.

Rosemary Clooney lived in the house until her death in 2002. The house was torn down in 2007 and a larger house was built on the property.

1021 N. Roxbury Dr.

As previously mentioned, Ira Gershwin lived in this house until his death in 1983. This house was demolished years ago.

1023 N. Roxbury Dr.

1023 N. Roxbury Dr. had two famous owners. The first was Spencer Tracy and the second was Agnes Moorehead.

Tracy lived in the house for most of the 1940s. Agnes Moorehead lived in this property from 1952-1974.

Moorehead had her friend, interior designer Tony Duquette, decorate the home. Some of these refinements include a master bedroom in various shades of lavender to compliment her red hair. Moorehead also liked to incorporate tiger skin rugs throughout the house.

1025 N. Roxbury Dr.

This house was the home of actress Polly Bergen. It is 10,100 square feet and has 7 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms.

The 900 Block of Roxbury Dr.

900 N. Roxbury

900 N. Roxbury was built in 1954. It is 4,000 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.

Kay Williams, widow of Clark Gable lived at this house with their son, John Clark Gable in the 1970s. Williams was an actress under contract at MGM in the 1940s. With the exception of 1953’s The Actress all of her roles were uncredited.

This was John Gable’s childhood home. If he heard that a boy his age had moved into the neighborhood he would promptly go to that house and ring the doorbell to meet the child and see if they wanted to play.

901 N. Roxbury

901 N. Roxbury was the home of movie producer Arnold Kopelson. He produced PlatoonFalling DownSeven, and The Fugitive among other films.

This house was built in 1935 and is 9,700 square feet with 6 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms.

905 N. Roxbury

905 N. Roxbury was the home of Oscar Levant for many years. He was a pianist and composer that was a good friend of Ira Gershwin. He was a frequent visitor to Gershwin’s home on the Ten Hundred block in the 1930s before settling on Roxbury himself. He bought this home in the 1940s.

The house was built in 1925 and is 4,600 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.

906 N. Roxbury Dr.

906 N. Roxbury was built in 1925 and is 4,800 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.

Ginger Rogers lived in this property in the 1930s with her husband Lew Ayres. Rogers lived a block away from the Gershwin brothers when they wrote the music for Shall We Dance.

909 N. Roxbury Dr.

Hal March lived at 909 N. Roxbury with his wife actress Candy Toxton. March was the host of the $64,000 Question and was a co-star on the television series George Burns and Gracie Allen. The house was built in 1928 and is 6,300 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms.

918 N. Roxbury Dr.

As stated near the start of this article Jimmy Stewart lived at 918 N. Roxbury Dr.

Stewart bought it in 1949 when he married Gloria Hatrick McLean.

Stewart was an avid gardener and he liked his privacy. In the early 1970s, Stewart bought the house next door to the North and had it torn down. He then used the extra land to build a garden surrounded by a brick wall.

When this happened Lucille Ball was furious because apparently the now-demolished house was infested with rats and they relocated to her property. It took 3 weeks for exterminators to get rid of them.

The original house was built in 1926 by director King Vidor. It was demolished in 1998, a year after Stewart’s death.

919 N. Roxbury Dr.

This house was built in 1930 and was the home of Hedy Lamarr. It is 6,200 square feet and contains 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. Lamarr lived in this house when it was basically brand new in the 1930s.

Woody Allen shot a scene for Cafe Society in front of this house in 2016. The movie claimed it was Spencer Tracy’s house, but as stated previously he lived at 1023.

This house is still the original that Lamarr lived in.

The 800 Block of Roxbury Dr.

800 N. Roxbury Dr.

Constructed in 1926, this was the home of Lionel Barrymore. The original house still stands and no major renovations have taken place at this address. This home has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms and is slightly over 5,700 square feet.

809 N. Roxbury

This was the childhood home of Mia Farrow. She lived here with her mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, her father John Farrow, and her 6 siblings for several years.

Like the Barrymore house, this is the original house, which was also built in the year 1926.

In Closing

The 3 blocks on Roxbury discussed in this article were home to some of the biggest stars in Hollywood history. Unfortunately, not many of these vintage homes have survived the decades since they called it home.

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