Silent film superstars Mary Pickford, with the long golden curls, and dashing Douglas Fairbanks were the primary Hollywood royalty. They were the Brad and Angelina of our day, wildly famous the world over. Their legendary home was called Pickfair, a joining of their last names.
Pickfair started as a hunting lodge built in 1911. Douglas found the property while riding in the wild Hollywood Hills. Married in 1920, Doug and Mary renovated the snug lodge on Summit Drive. Prominent architect Wallace Neff expanded it to an L-shaped, 22-room Tudor mansion with a copper roof and green gables.
Furnishings were department-store French ageold reproductions. Through gifts and their travels, Doug and Mary assembled fine art and antiques, creating a warm yet graceful place to entertain.
And entertain they did! Pickfair was the center of Hollywood society. Everyone wanted an invitation, not only actors and actresses, but likewise scientists, athletes, political figures and royalty from all over the world.
Doug did not drink and so some guests at Pickfair were astonished (and dismayed) to find no wine at the dinner table. After dinner and a movie, Ovaltine was served!
Because of the popularity of the King and Queen of Hollywood, others in the film industry built mansions nearby, creating the luxurious Beverly Hills we know today.
But things changed. Talkies arrived in 1929 and Doug and Mary saw their careers foundering. They were older, movie tastes had changed, Doug was restless, and they divorced in 1936.
Mary kept Pickfair, marrying handsome actor Charles “Buddy” Rogers the following year. She and Buddy raised a family and opened their home to charity events. But as the years went by and life at Pickfair quieted, Mary became more and more reclusive, spending all her time upstairs in her bedroom.
Mary Pickford passed from physical life in 1979. Buddy sold Pickfair to Jerry Buss, proprietor of the Los Angeles Lakers, who in turn sold it in 1988 to businessman Meshulam Riklis and wife actress Pia Zadora.
In 1989, Riklis and Zadora said that Pickfair was so riddled with termites that it was beyond fix and they had it torn down.
Preservationists were aghast. The house had been a symbol of Old Hollywood. Riklis and Zadora built an enormous Venetian mansion on the property. Completed in 1991, only a few initial features of Pickfair were saved. They sold the property to a corporation in 2005.
Although still called “Pickfair,” this is not the house that saw the beginnings of the business of making movies, the meetings resulting in the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the scores of famous humans who visited and the romance of the firstborn Hollywood super couple. That house is gone and with it the mystique.