Buy John Barrymore's Home for $42.5 Million, Includes Opium Den

Hollywood History Home!

Steeped in Hollywood history, one of Beverly Hills’ earliest movie star mansions has recently gone on the market at $42.5 million. Built in the early 1920s by architect John Byers for film director King Vidor (War and Peace, Ruby Gentry, The Fountainhead), the mansion was eventually sold to actor John Barrymore.

From its earliest days as a lima bean farm and then a failed oil field, developers began selling large home lots in the early 1900s naming the Los Angeles neighborhood “Beverly Hills,” based on Beverly Farms in Massachusetts. The Beverly Hills Hotel was built in 1911 and attracted many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, some decided to build their own homes in the nearby hills. In 1919, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford transformed an 18-acre hunting lodge into “Pickfair,” a mansion estate with horse stables, tennis courts, bowling alley, movie screening room, Old West saloon and the first private swimming pool in Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin soon moved in next door and King Vidor’s home was built nearby. Will Rogers and Rudolph Valentino were early Beverly Hills home owners followed in later years by the biggest celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Tony Curtis.   

John Barrymore was born into the famous Barrymore acting dynasty and became its biggest star performing on Broadway, radio and silent films.  In 1925, he achieved something American actors rarely do - his portrayal of Hamlet on the London stage brought great recognition in a country that demanded their actors be Shakespearian trained.  Prior to that success, he was known for his films Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1920, Sherlock Holmes in 1922 and Grand Hotel in 1932.

By the time Barrymore bought Vidor’s Beverly Hills mansion, he was well on his way to a spectacular career and one of Hollywood’s most prolific entertainers.  He added to the house and bought neighboring properties to expand the grounds.  He entertained lavishly and housed his eccentric collections there including that of shrunken human heads.  Barrymore lived in the home until he died in 1942, at which time the mansion was purchased by the Grimaldi family who sold to Louann Zellers of the famous lumber baron family.

It was later sold to Tony Scott, one of the largest grossing directors in Hollywood history with a string of hits such as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide and The Good Wife.  Having passed away three years ago, the home is now for sale.

Bella Vista, a Spanish-style home on 3.44 acres, consists of 6,976 square feet with seven bedrooms and eight baths.  Retained for posterity of its golden Barrymore years are the opium den above the master suite and the redwood tree trunk floor in the pub where many of the Hollywood elite were entertained.  Included are an octagon-shaped living room, a study, and an oversized paneled second library. There are two guest cottages on the grounds and a newly constructed 21st century two-story guest house with two additional bedrooms, two kitchens, and two living rooms.  Lush grounds surround the property with meandering paths, garden statuary, stone walls and swimming pool with rock waterfall.  

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