Frances’ House from “Behind the Candelabra”Jun 13th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
One Behind the Candelabra location that I was not able to stalk two weekends ago was the palatial Palm Springs abode belonging to Frances Liberace (Debbie Reynolds), the flamboyant pianist’s overbearing mother, in the 2013 HBO biopic. So I dragged the Grim Cheaper right on out to do so this past Saturday morning. And, as it turns out, the residence has quite a fascinating history.
The ornate Hollywood Regency-style dwelling was originally designed in 1962 by James McNaughton, a Palm Springs-area architect who initially got his start in set decoration. In fact, he has the distinction of being television’s first set designer. McNaughton won numerous awards during his stint in show business, including a Look Award, a Christopher Award, and a Peabody award, and he also received quite a few Emmy nominations. I am fairly certain that the residence was commissioned by George Randolph Hearst, Sr. (the eldest son of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst) and his wife, Rosalie. If the couple did not actually commission the property, they were at least its first owners.
After George’s passing in 1972, Rosalie held onto the residence. It was there that Patty Hearst, George and Rosalie’s niece, hid out in 1977 while on probation awaiting an appeal for her bank robbery conviction. In May 1991, Rosalie sold the house to Harvey and Lori Sarner for a whopping $1,650,000. The Sarners still own the property to this day.
The 7-bedroom, 4.75-bath, 7,557-square-foot house, which sits on a 0.62-acre plot of land, is quite eccentric. According to an August 2012 MyDesert.com article, the dwelling was so lavishly appointed in George and Rosalie’s day that it was known as “Little Hearst’s Castle.” From the looks of things, not much has changed since that time. The place actually has a very Liberace feel to it, ironically enough, and reminds me quite a bit of the pianist’s third desert home, which I blogged about here.
As you can see below, the entire property is surrounded by double-sided Greek goddess statues, which, according to the Radiant Writing blog, are holdouts from the George and Rosalie days. The Radiant Writing author describes the property, which she remembers from her childhood, as such, “This home was gaudy on a small scale and no doubt a son’s attempt at mimicking his father’s extravagant San Simeon Castle. All it looked like to me was a morgue. The home had lion statues guarding both sides of the front door and was surrounded by a wrought iron fence, reminiscent of the Haunted House at Disneyland. The most haunting thing about the always dark house was the presence of the Romanesque goddess bust type statues placed within 3 feet of each other along the scary fence. The goddess busts had 70’s style light globes on their heads.”
The Hearst house appeared once in Behind the Candelabra, in the scene in which Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his boyfriend, Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), visited Frances in Palm Springs and listened to her complain about being lonely. Only the property’s backyard was featured in the flick. As you can see in the screen capture below, the home’s pool area is very reminiscent of the iconic Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
Amazingly enough, Behind the Candelabra filming in Palm Springs took place in August, the city’s hottest month of the year, during which high temperatures average 107 degrees! Being that a one-minute segment can take hours upon hours to shoot, the cast and crew must have been absolutely miserable filming the scene in Frances’ backyard! I mean look at the clothes they are wearing! Ugh!
While stalking the house, I was floored to discover that the backyard is partially visible from a neighboring street.
On a Behind the Candelabra side-note – I did not even recognize Debbie Reynolds in the role of Frances Liberace and, in fact, had no idea it was her until after I had finished watching the movie and was researching its locations online. Talk about a fantastic make-up job!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Frances’ house from Behind the Candelabra is located at 701 West Panorama Road in the Little Tuscany Estates area of Palm Springs. The backyard portion of the residence can be partially viewed from the intersection of West Vista Chino and North Via Monte Vista. The world famous Kauffman House (which I blogged about here) is located right around the corner at 470 West Vista Chino.