This grand Santa Monica vacation home of movie star Norma Shearer and her powerful producer husband, Irving Thalberg, was designed in the French Provincial style by architect John Byers. Here they hosted the cream of Hollywood society in the 1930s, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was attempting to launch a second career as a screenwriter.
Fitzgerald was fascinated by the couple and their homes, which he claimed were “built for great emotional moments.” In his unfinished masterpiece The Love of the Last Tycoon, inspired by the tragic, brief life of Thalberg (he died of heart disease in 1936 at the age of 37), Fitzgerald’s main characters take a drive to the “Gold Coast,” the stretch of Santa Monica beach where Shearer and many other celebrities had their second homes:
They reached Santa Monica where there were the stately houses of dozens of picture stars, penned in the middle of a crawling Coney Island. They turned down the hill into the wide blue sky and sea and went on along the sea till the beach slid out again from under the bathers in a widening and narrowing yellow strand.
“I’m building a house out here,” Stahr said. “Much further on. I don’t know why I’m building it.”
“Perhaps it’s for me,” she said.
Although heavily remodeled, the house that inspired Fitzgerald still stands, and is a lovely relic to view on a Sunday Santa Monica stroll.
How to visit: The house is a private residence, but the beach in front of it is not. Throw your own 1930s themed beach day, and enjoy a day soused in the sun, like the many authors, actors, and musicians who whiled away their youth on what was once know as the “American Rivera.”