The Chaplin Court Apartment ComplexDec 8th, 2011 | By Lindsay | Category: Celebrity Homes
While doing research on the Sierra Bonita apartments from the 2001 thriller Mulholland Drive, which I blogged about back in October, I came across a mention of an absolutely adorable courtyard apartment complex in Hollywood about which legends abound. The complex is known by quite a few different monikers across the web, including Chaplin Court, the Hansel and Gretel Cottages, and the Charlie Chaplin Apartments, but for the purposes of this post I will refer to the cluster of tiny dwellings as Chaplin Court. While not a filming location, the four-bungalow complex is rumored to have been lived in by countless stars over the years, but it was actually the charmingly unique storybook architecture that lured me, Grim Cheaper in tow, out to go stalk the place back in mid-November.
The main rumor which persists about Chaplin Court is that the property was commissioned by the Little Tramp himself to be used as everything from dressing rooms during filming to studio housing for his stars to a movie set for his film A Woman of Paris. But Allan R. Ellenberger, of the Hollywoodland blog, watched the 1923 flick for an April 2009 post he wrote about the complex and did not notice anything resembling it popping up onscreen. So I think it is safe to put the A Woman of Paris rumor to rest. And after conducting much online research myself yesterday, I think it is also safe to say that Chaplin likely never had any sort of connection to the place. But because the property is located a scant two and a half blocks from the former Charlie Chaplin Studios/now Jim Henson Company Lot and bears a striking resemblance to it, it is not very hard to see why there has been some confusion over the years. And the legends do not stop there. According to a September 2009 write-up on fave website CurbedLA, an old real-estate listing for the property purported that Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Rudolph Valentino, John Barrymore Sr., Judy Garland, and Patrick Dempsy all lived at Chaplin Court at one time or another. The listing even goes so far as to claim that Drew Barrymore was born on the premises!! As does the John Robert Marlow website, which further speculates that Drew’s father, John Drew Barrymore, also once lived onsite. But thanks to my friend/Drew Barrymore aficionado Ashley, of The Drewseum website, I can at least put part of that rumor to rest. Drew was, in fact, born at Brotman Memorial Hospital in Culver City and not at Chaplin Court. Whether or not she ever spent any time at the complex during her early years is anyone’s guess.
In actuality, Chaplin Court was built in 1923 by Arthur and Nina Zwebell, the husband-and-wife architecture team who designed Villa Primavera (the In a Lonely Place apartment building) and El Cabrillo (the ‘Til There Was You apartment building). According to a commenter named “MHP”’ on he CurbedLA article, the complex was only the second multi-unit project that the Zwebell’s attempted and is currently the oldest surviving of their designs.
As luck would have it, when we showed up to stalk Chaplin Court the front gate was standing open, so the GC and I ventured a few feet inside. One of the residents happened to be standing in the courtyard area and said that the two of us were free to poke around. YAY! I so love homeowners who recognize that they live in a unique, photo-worthy spot and do not mind the occasional stalker dropping by. As you can see above, the architecture of Chaplin Court is nothing short of incredible! With its miniscule sizing, rounded turrets, swayback roofs, and beveled glass windows, it is not very hard to see why the place is rumored to have once been a movie set. The property looks like it came straight out of the pages of a Grimm Brothers Fairytale or the streets of Disney’s Fantasyland! Love it! You can see some great photographs of the interior one of the bungalows here. And while the interior is, for the most part, also adorable, I have to say that the bathroom gives this stalker the heebie-jeebies.
A Chaplin Court resident named Sean who commented on the Hollywoodland blog post mentioned that he does the complex up each year for both Halloween and Christmas. Thankfully, even though it was mid-November at the time, some of the Halloween decorations were still up when we stalked the place. I fell in love with the little “Enter at your Own Risk” sign pictured above. So cute! And I am SO going to have to re-stalk the property later this month to see it decked out in all of its Christmas glory. Pictures to follow, of course.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The so-called Chaplin Court apartment complex is located at 1330 North Formosa Avenue in Hollywood.