“My home?” asked Marilyn Monroe. “It will be a place for any friends of mine who are in some kind of trouble. As for me, I just want to be an artist and an actress with integrity.” Throughout her life, Monroe occupied a series of residences, owned no jewelry and counted books, records and a picture of legendary actress Eleonora Duse among her most cherished possessions. Even after attention-getting roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve (both 1950), she still kept a modest, one-room apartment at the Beverly Carlton Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I’m not interested in money,” she once said. “I just want to be wonderful.”
Hollywood romances are known to be fleeting, but it’s true that every rule has an exception. After 50 years of marriage, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward exemplify togetherness, with Newman once famously declaring, “Why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?” After their 1958 wedding, the couple purchased a house in Hollywood, where the backyard swing set and shaded lawn created an idyllic playground for daughters Elinor, Melissa and Claire. Woodward, a best actress Oscar winner for The Three Faces of Eve (1957), was, in 1960, the first actor to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Newman received an honorary Oscar in 1985 and won an Academy Award for best actor in The Color of Money (1986).
“I don’t know whether it was the weather, the people or the music,” actress Ava Gardner wrote about her feelings for Spain, “but I’d fallen head over heels in love with the place from the first moment I’d arrived.” She would go on to develop an interest in bullfighting — as well as in bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin. In December 1955, following a separation from third husband Frank Sinatra, Gardner moved to Spain and found a ranch-style brick house set on two acres outside Madrid; later, she settled into an apartment in the city. “The only necessities I couldn’t seem to get — Hershey bars, Kleenex and Jack Daniel’s whiskey,” she wrote, “were replenished by visiting friends.”
Carole Lombard wasn’t born a screwball heroine; she and the genre evolved together. The actress liked to say that her feature movie career (which followed an important apprenticeship in a dozen Mack Sennett two-reel shorts) began with “17 flops in a row.” Before he directed her in Twentieth Century (1934), her breakthrough movie, Howard Hawks called her the worst actress in the world. But he is also said to have told her costar John Barrymore that she would be a sensation — if only they could keep her from acting. What the notable director and actor did was encourage Lombard to be herself, and this turned out to be the key to liberating an antic original from the restraining shell of a gifted, if not particularly inspired, contract player.
Doris Day, one of the best-loved and highest-paid female stars of the 1950s and ‘60s, purchased a house in Los Angeles’s Toluca Lake area from comedienne Martha Raye in 1951. Interested in design, Day visited an upholsterer immediately after her wedding to Martin Melcher. “I remember Marty standing there…muttering, ‘I don’t believe this is happening on my wedding day.’ [The day] we returned from our wedding trip to the neat house in Toluca Lake, [my son] Terry excitedly running to the car, Alma in the kitchen preparing a welcome-home dinner,…was the answer to what I had prayed for,” the actress told A. E. Hotchner, who wrote her 1975 memoir, Doris Day: Her Own Story. “From the time I was a little girl, my only true ambition in life was to get married and tend house and have a family.”
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