The Patio del Moro. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? It is the rare case where the sound of something matches its content. I could spend hours looking at this house in West Hollywood (if only it paid to meditate); perhaps they’d agree to let me stand across the street, although sitting is even better. And thanks to the Benjamin Eye Institute, I am allowed to see such things. Without vision, there would be nothing to do but touch and smell.
The color of the facade and windows causes those of a delicate nature to howl with pleasure, and I was far from being the first – many famous people have spent time here. The patio was rented for the girlfriends of Charlie Chaplin, so we can safely assume that he was here, and Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland lived here, as well. The Hitchcock actress, more popularly known as Joan Fontaine, lived to be almost 100 years old. When she received an Oscar for one of her Hitchcock roles, her sister Olivia de Havilland was so enraged that they did not talk until her death. Olivia herself also received two Oscars, and in July of this year (I hope) will celebrate her own 100th birthday.
Humphrey Bogart lived here at one time, who is recognized by multiple academies as the best actor of all time. It seems to me, though, that the title is very conditional (except for the best hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky). For example, very similar to Bogart is the iconic Russian actor Georgiy Zhzhonov, who is also famous for his dry, but fresh, approach. Furthermore, would you really consider Charlie Chaplin to be worse than Bogart? And I would have given the last Oscar for supporting actor to our Sylvester, and not the wooden Mark Rylance, who mechanically recites his script.
But before I return to speaking of the Bogie, let’s say a few words about the building itself. It is the fruit of the labor of a husband-and-wife architectural team, Arthur and Nina Zwebell. For a long time, there was nothing in our city similar to the Patio del Moro, and descriptions of it usually resort to using words like Andalusia, Morocco, and Tunisia. The first (Andalusia) originated from the Arabic word Al-Andalus, which according to one account means “land of the Vandals”, or “Vandalusia”, so to speak. The Vandals, quite frankly, were not that much different from other fraternal peoples. But unlike today’s barbarians, the Vandals did not destroy their spoils of war, and all were hauled back for themselves. They were thought to be the forefathers of the Baltic Slavs, as well. No history is as troubled, though, as History itself.
And with Bogart, it was much of the same. Like many of the greats, he was a dropout, and he was expelled from Yale University. One account states that it was because he threw the headmaster into Rabbit Pond, and another for smoking, drinking, and poor academic performance, as if the two are mutually exclusive. Just like Russian-American poet Joseph Brodsky, Bogart studied very little, but did a lot of reading. He could recite poetry from memory for days, from Shakespeare to Alexander Pope, making a brilliant display of Plato, and not to mention Emerson.
Bogart’s career began with a debut on the New York stage as the Japanese Butler in the play Drifting, uttering just one line, which was something like, “Dinner is served.” He performed it so poignantly, however, that he was given a second role, which he would have played for the rest of his life, had it not been for the 1929 stock market crash so adeptly predicted by John Keynes. Unemployed actors then rushed to Hollywood.
Here, Bogart worked for years on end without air conditioning (how did he live?), playing killers and victims, but eventually signed a contract for $750 a week with Fox Film Corporation. Even today, that amount doesn’t sound too bad… Truly, he soared into the sky with “The Maltese Falcon”, which was arguably the first film noir piece ever made. And after Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart (who, by the way, was a great chess player, and played to a draw against grand-master Reshevsky) finally became, so to speak, the world champion.
Bogart is associated with one of the most famous Hollywood phrases. During the shooting of one of these films, the 45-year-old actor was fascinated by the young Lauren Bacall, cousin of the 9th president of Israel.
Under the influence of her charm, he fell under the direction of Howard Hawks (part-time aviator, race-car driver, sailor, breeder, mountain skier, fisherman, hunter, carpenter, collector of ancient weapons, collector of Western paintings and engravings, jeweler, and designer of race cars and airplanes), whose jealousy of the couple spawned the remark, “Bogie fell in love with the character she played, so she had to keep playing it the rest of her life.”
And this is only one of the innumerable stories, either directly or indirectly, associated with the Andalusian-Moroccan-Tunisian treasure lost in Los Angeles.
I encountered this nightmare along the road:
At dusk, the house looks noirish enough:
And this sweet car stood nearby:
Text: Sebastian Varo
Translation: Richard Crenwelge
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