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Rumormongering at Villa Carlotta, Where Studios Fit Grand Pianos

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Having been built in 1926, the Villa Carlotta apartment building in Franklin Village has had a lot of time to accrue itself some juicy Hollywood lore, and to fall and rise with the fortunes of the neighborhood. The four story building on the northwest corner of Franklin and Tamarind was designed by Arthur E. Harvey for the estate of early filmmaker Thomas Ince, who died somewhat mysteriously in 1924 after a trip on William Randolph Hearst's yacht. One very persistent rumor about the Villa Carlotta is that Hearst financed it, or helped finance it, out of guilt over Ince's death (maybe related: one of the building's most famous long-time tenants was gossip Louella Parsons, who was on that yacht ride, along with Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin).

Another favorite story about the Villa Carlotta is that it was built as servants' quarters for cross-the-street neighbor Château Élysée (which we all know now as the Scientology Celebrity Centre) but there's plenty of evidence in the Wayback Machine that the Carlotta was actually fancy digs from the start.

A 1926 article in the LA Times called "Apartment structures to be finer" had the builder declaring the Carlotta "the last word in luxury," and a 1930 article says that Ince's own son, who was receiving an allowance from a trust fund at the time, lived at the Carlotta with his wife. An article in 1928, over a year after the Carlotta opened, announced the Ince estate's plans for what sounds like the Château Élysée--on the southeast corner of Franklin and Tamarind--which was supposed to have a moat and drawbridges.

In the decades after it was built, tenants at the Villa Carlotta included Davies, director George Cukor, producer David O. Selznick, and architect Wallace Neff.

Since those high times, and like plenty of Hollywood, corners of the Villa Carlotta have let themselves go. Like the studio apartment of Cynthia Loebe, "photographer, singer, actress, classic car enthusiast and table tennis player who once dressed as a woodland nymph for a photograph on an Iron Maiden album," which was rotten and holey when she moved in. The building is known for its laidback attitude toward renos, and the New York Times checks out Loebe's fixed up unit, with highlights including $1,000 in 1940s klieg lights in the dining area, original (lead) painted ceiling beams, and an honest to God grand piano. And it costs $925 per month, utilities included, which is maybe how those servant rumors got started.
· A Do-It-Yourself Rental in Hollywood [NYT]