Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino House for Sale + Baby Peggy Talks! Silent Era Child Actress Reminisces

Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino + Doris Duke Bel Air mansionFalcon Lair. Erected in 1923 in the hills of the recently founded Bel Air, at the time a little-developed Los Angeles suburb, Falcon Lair was to have been the home of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Sheik star Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova (born Winifred Kimball Shaughnessy in Salt Lake City). As it turned out, Valentino would end up living by himself in Falcon Lair, as his marriage fell apart shortly after he bought the property in the mid-1920s. Future residents included silent era cowboy star Harry Carey (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939) and billionairess Doris Duke.

Falcon Lair for sale: You too can own Rudolph Valentino & Doris Duke Bel Air mansion

Falcon Lair, Rudolph Valentino's mansion located in the Bel Air hills above Benedict Canyon overlooking Beverly Hills, is up for sale.

As per TheStreet.com, Falcon Lair can be yours if you're willing and able to shell out $7.95 million.

The Blood and SandThe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and The Sheik star bought the house for $175,000 (adjusting for inflation, approximately $2 million) in 1925. Falcon Lair's other famous owner, billionairess Doris Duke, bought it in 1952; following several surgeries and a debilitating stroke in the early 1990s, she spent her final months in seclusion at the house. The Duke estate sold the five-acre property in 1998.

Nicholas Yulico's TheStreet article explains that “the current owner says he has spent millions transforming the house …. Renovations are still under way. From the outside, the house will look roughly the same as when Valentino had it built in the 1920s, highlighted by its Mediterranean stucco and red tile roof. But the interior is undergoing significant updating.”

Would-be castle & palace

Named after Valentino's never-completed star vehicle The Hooded Falcon, Falcon Lair was to have been, in the words of Valentino website owner Donna Hill, his “retreat from public life, his castle and the palace to share with his lady love, Natacha Rambova.” As it turned out, Rambova never lived in the house, having filed for divorce shortly after its acquisition.

One of the biggest silent film stars, Rudolph Valentino died of peritonitis at age 31 in 1926. His final film, George Fitzmaurice's The Son of the Sheik, was released shortly before his passing.

Falcon Lair bulldozed

Update: Falcon Lair was bulldozed in 2006. One more piece of Los Angeles history literally gone to dust. According to Donna Hill, “only the outer gates/fence structure and garage area remain extant and recognizable from Valentino's time.”

See also: “Q&A with Author Allan EllenbergerValentino” & “Rare Silent Screening: Beyond the Rocks with Rudolph Valentino & Gloria Swanson.”

Baby Peggy: Child Actress of 1920s resurfaced as author + Hollywood chroniclerBaby Peggy. A popular child performer in about three dozen comedy shorts of the early 1920s (Get-Rich-Quick Peggy; Little Miss Mischief; Peggy, Behave!), Baby Peggy had a modest feature film career: only five star vehicles in mid-decade. The titles: The Darling of New York (1923), The Law Forbids (1924), The Family Secret (1924), Helen's Babies (1924), and Captain January (1924). The first three were Universal releases; the last two were made by producer Sol Lesser's indie company, which also handled the biggest child star of the silent era, Charles Chaplin's The Kid co-lead Jackie CooganCaptain January would be remade with Shirley Temple in 1936.

Baby Peggy talks!

In other early 21st-century silent era news, Baby Peggy talks!

“It happened quite by accident when my mother took me to Universal Studios to watch a film being made. A film director saw me as he walked past. He needed a very small person to star with Brownie the Wonder Dog,” recalls Diana Serra Cary, known as Baby Peggy in the 1920s, in an interview with Geoffrey Macnab for The Independent.

Now, claims of million-dollar contracts don't sound right – even if we're talking about inflation-adjusted figures.

Although undeniably popular in about 40 comedy shorts of the early 1920s, the San Diego-born Baby Peggy (Oct. 9, 1918) was never a top box office draw like her contemporary Jackie Coogan or, in the 1930s, Shirley Temple. Moreover, with a few exceptions like actors-producers Mary Pickford and Charles Chaplin, even the major stars of that era were extremely lucky if they found themselves earning more than $50,000 or so (or about $600,000 in current dollars) per film.

After all, most mid-level movies in those days were shot in about four weeks, as studios cranked out several star vehicles per star, per year. For instance, Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount superstar Gloria Swanson had five films released in 1922, three in 1923, and no less than six in 1924.

From actress to author

In addition to her comedy shorts, Baby Peggy was seen in a handful of features in the mid-1920s (Helen's BabiesCaptain January) until her movie career came to an abrupt halt at the age of 6 in 1924. Future appearances would be restricted to minor roles and minor fare.

More recently, as Diana Serra Cary, she has authored several books. Titles include Hollywood's Children: An Inside Account of the Child Star Era, The Hollywood Posse: The Story of a Gallant Band of Horsemen Who Made Movie History, and What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood's Pioneer Child Star.

Along with the likes of Anita Page, Barbara Kent, Miriam Seegar, and Dorothy Janis, Baby Peggy is one of the last surviving leading ladies of the silent era.

See also: “How to Sell Your Soul: Must-See Long-Thought-Lost Classic Resurfaces in Restored Print” & “L.A. Tribute for Oscar-Nominated Gay Author-Screenwriter Gavin Lambert.”

 

“Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino House for Sale + Baby Peggy Talks! Silent Era Child Actress Reminisces” last updated in August 2018.

Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino House for Sale + Baby Peggy Talks! Silent Era Child Actress Reminisces © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
Text NOT to be reproduced without prior written consent.

Leave a comment about 'Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino House for Sale + Baby Peggy Talks! Silent Era Child Actress Reminisces'

COMMENTING RULES:

Don't waste time and energy disagreeing with and/or being deeply offended by the presentation of factual information.

On the other hand, it's perfectly okay to disagree with and/or, if you're so inclined, to be deeply offended by the views & opinions (and/or likes & dislikes) found on this site. And to let us know about any omissions or, heaven forbid, errors.

Just bear in mind that *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative.

In other words: Feel free to add something reasonable & coherent – AND fact-based – to the discussion.

Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped and offenders may be banned.

And finally, links found in comments will generally be deleted.

Most recent comments listed on top.

12 Comments to Falcon Lair: Rudolph Valentino House for Sale + Baby Peggy Talks! Silent Era Child Actress Reminisces

  1. Chris Riordan

    That stupid film “Return To Babylon” shouldn't be promoted here. It was never released in theaters for a reason and showings in people's backyard with a white sheet strung up don't count as being released. Go promote your YouTube video elsewhere. This site is for Falcon Lair and sneaking onto the property of the estate and filming a few mins doesn't qualify you for anything other than jail time. You are lucky charges weren't pressed.

  2. mark mccardell

    I also feel the destruction of historic properties is awful. However this case may be unique. After Doris died, the house sat on the market a long time. It eventually sold for about half the listing price. Going thru Doris s household accts on line it appears she spent alot of money on structural engineers on the property prior to her death. It is built on a substantial sloping lot and was 85 years old. It also suffered significant damage in the 94 quake. An architect bought the property and after much construction/ remodel I am guessing the structural issues were too much to overcome. I dont know all of this for a fact but reading the available info on line this is my guess. Also nobody has rushed in to build an ugly mac mansion on the property after it was demolished………plus they kept the original elaborate garage and 6 room staff quarters above garage building, indicating they recognize the historic value. I dont think this was a ruthless tear down for profits sake, I think it was prohibitively expensive to try and repair or couldnt be at any cost, and the last owner suffered alot of anquish over the situation as an educated guess.

  3. Chris Hough

    I'm a real estate agent in Atlanta and I hear/see this all the time. People tend to want the history, but they want a 2011 house at the same time. So what often happens is that they either renovate the house beyond recognition or worse: tear it down and just say the house was once there. It makes me really sick.

  4. Trina Dolbeare

    I just was there at Falcon's Lair in November 2009. They still have the sign Falcon's Lair on the gate but it's so sad that the only thing left is the garage. I don't understand how people can do this to history, Pickfair, Jayne Mansfield's Pink Mansion, Jimmy Stewart's home, Marlon Brando's home are all gone just to name a few. Don't they understand that these people made help make the film industry what it is today and that we should preserve that history. Just like the original MGM studio is gone, not one trace of it as well as The Brown Derby and many other historical places that should have been museums. I love the history of the entertainment industry but it really saddens me when people of that industry doesn't take pride in preserving it. I read that when Englebert Humperdinck sold the Mansfield Mansion, he specifically told the new owners that he would only sell them the home if they promised him that they wouldn't change it or demolish it but low and behold, a few months later, they tore it down to build a new mansion. If I was him, I would have put that in writing before I sold the home to them. And also, the only thing left of Pickfair is the front gates. How sad this is.

  5. michael

    As a silent film fan and an antique automobile enthusiast I had thought about the possibility of approaching investers about the Falcon Lair property. I saw no reason why something like Monticello or Graceland couldnt have been put together with a museum near the home. Several of the Valentino automobiles still exist , the famous Issotta Fraschini , Avion Voison , the Stearman aircraft. Im not sure about the Pheonix Yacht however many of these things could have been housed near the home which could have been toured as well. The tourism would have easily paid for the upkeep. Why is Hollywood history any less improtant than any other kind ?

  6. geneen cook

    I think the show was called haunted hollywood. They would show it at halloween. it was a tour of hollywood homes that were haunted.They would interview the people that lived in the homes. I remember the guy(at the time)that owned falcons lair. he proudly gave a tour of the home and told of the things he saw. I wish he would have sold the home to someone who promised to preserve and love it as he did. It's sad…we are losing our history, our stories. all for mcmansions that have the warmth of stone cold cement.

  7. Frances Hixenbaugh

    One day while watching SUNSET BOULEVARD I suddenlly
    had a thought: What if it had been a young Ste-
    phen Spielberg who'd happened into Norma Desmond's
    property. Would he have called her a has-been, her
    friends “relics” or disdainfully looked at her past,but glorious career!!! CERTAINLY NOT!

    He'd have had every one of Norma's scrapbooks out,
    spread across the floor, taking notes, asking end-
    less questions of her—writing everything she said down, and absolutely basking in the film history she was providing him…all the while,
    contemplating the great film he'd make about her
    life in the glory days of film.

    Like everyone else, I was saddened to hear of the
    loss of Falcon Lair-truly a piece of Hollywood
    history. I hope that someone had the good sense
    to save the scrap lumber—so that some of it can
    be sold on the collector market! I personally
    would buy even a small piece of concrete from
    that mansion.

  8. alex monty canawati

    i filmed at FALCON LAIR for my “silent” film RETURN TO BABYLON. the film is a tribute to the stories of the silent movie stars of the day.

    i was quite saddened to know that this icon of architecture has been torn down.

    *alex monty canawati

  9. Manon

    I am horrified by the tear down of historical places like Falcon Lair and Pickfair. It too sickens me. One thing I have noticed about Hollywood and Southern California in general: they don't value the great Hollywood history. If this occurred anywhere else in the country or in Northern California, you would have several museums filled with old film history, wardrobes, artifacts, etc. But no one here has that value or insight or the ones that do, like me don't have the money. I can't believe there isn't one decent museum with all of our film/hollywood history. Unless I am missing something. The only thing I have seen that has come close to preserving some history is the Max Factor Museum and I can guarantee that will be gone before we know it, if it isn't already. Such a shame. Such a loss. If I had had the money, I would have purchased Pickfair and made it a museum, a landmark where everyone from around the nation and the world could celebrate our great silver screen history.

  10. lydia lomonosow

    i filmed the place when they torn it down the only thing they kept was the fireplace. i cried they left the left side known as the stable alone as far as iv last seen i met doris there and her butler. im a fan i own property at hollywood cemetery where rudy is buried and the street in front

  11. Jinia

    When are people going to wake up and realize their history is in danger.I don't understand the tear down craze and never will.Our older homes have a quality and presence which lets us go back in time and have a learning experience far beyond what a book can give us.

  12. Patty

    I know my opinion isn't worth anything since I did not have the money to buy,
    “falcon lair.” However, I don't understand why the person who purchased the house stated that he liked it because it was liveable, than proceded to tear it down. As a lover of history, antiques and old houses this always sickens me. I wish hollywood would start doing more to protect some of these old historic mansions.