The Garden of Alla(h): Hotel, Party, Radical Hotbed
March 7, 2015 5:43 AM   Subscribe

in the 1920s and 1930s, the hottest spot in Hollywood was The Garden of Alla(h). In the mid 1920s, the actress Alla Nazimova turned her mansion into a hotel and surrounded the pool with cottages rented to famous actors, artists, musicians, mobsters, and writers. It was a legendary for its parties, affairs, feuds, and star power. It was also a "radical hotbed".

Nazimova (1879-1945), as she was later billed, was a Russian-born actress who reinvented her career and herself over and over, finding fame, acclaim and infamy at every stage. This interview with Grayson Lambert, her biographer is a blunt take on her life. The Women Film Pioneers Profile focuses on her silent film work, while the Alla Nazimova Society has a more fannish biography. Most of her critically acclaimed work on the stage was never recorded; many of her early silent films are lost, and the movies she made in the 1940s feature her as a supporting character actress.

The Alla Nazimova Society has a collection of pictures and photos of the Garden of Alla - as part of a larger group of Nazimova photos in private and public life.

Alla Nazimova went bankrupt a year after building the Garden, and ended up renting a cottage there for the rest of her life; in the 1950s, the entire property was razed and replaced with a parking lot and a strip mall.
posted by julen (15 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhat related, for your listening pleasure.
posted by the sobsister at 6:27 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just watched a doc about the Sunset Strip with some hilarious interviews with like Kenneth Anger talking about visiting silent movie stars in the Arms in the 70s. Awesome stuff. And awesome post!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:28 AM on March 7, 2015

Great stuff—I'd heard of the Garden but had no idea of any of this!

For those wondering (as I did) about the "(h)," Nazimova called the place The Garden of Alla, but:
In 1927, The Garden opened to the public, setting the standard with a star-studded shindig that lasted through the night and long into the next day. Only a year later, though, the Russian actress’s grand scheme had financially ruined her and she was forced to sell. Wanting to strip the place of its association with its former hostess, the new owners added an ‘H’ to Alla, leaving a name that some could barely credit: “I’ll be damned” Thomas Wolfe wrote to Scott Fitzgerald in 1939 on discovering his friend’s new address, “if I’ll believe anyone lives in a place called ‘The Garden of Allah.’” Tallulah Bankhead thought it “the most gruesomely named hotel in the western hemisphere.”
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

When F. Scott Fitzgerald first moved into the complex of furnished apartments that comprised The Garden of Allah in West Hollywood between Havenhurst & North Crescent Heights Avenue, he wrote this in jest to himself.

Or maybe he is just confirming that the Post Office has him correctly registered, like pretty much everyone should do when moving.

That's what I would do if I moved in there, and believe me, I would.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:05 AM on March 7, 2015

My Great Aunt, Glesca Marshall, was Alla Nazimova's partner & lived with her at The Garden until Alla's death. Aunt Glesca has been my favorite eccentric relative for some time now & I'm so glad that other people are starting to appreciate Nazimova & The Garden for all its wacky, often shady, & always dramatic connections! It's rumored that The Garden of Allah may be the set for the new season of American Horror Story: Hotel.
posted by gkr at 8:05 AM on March 7, 2015 [10 favorites]

The story of Harpo Marx living there with the great composer Serge Rachmaninov as his neighbor is fascinating, if not surreal. The story is documented many times elsewhere in Marx-related literature.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2015

Radical Hotbed!

I want one of these, cam someone please invent it?
posted by Oyéah at 8:31 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I lived in LA in the late 80s there was still a model of the Garden under a plexiglass box in a bank lobby across the street from the site, dunno if it's still there.
posted by Rash at 8:32 AM on March 7, 2015

The model's been moved.
posted by gkr at 8:41 AM on March 7, 2015

I recently finished reading Harpo Marx's autobiography, Harpo Speaks! which contains the Rachmaninoff story from TFA as well as other anecdotes abut his time at the Garden. It's a great read if you're interested in wild celebrity stories of that period.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:11 AM on March 7, 2015

Holy cow, gkr! That's awesome! As soon as I read about the archive of papers she donated, I added "go and read Nazimova's autobiography" to my bucket list.

And I also recommend Harpo Speaks! (Still can't get over the image of him playing croquet on rooftop.)
posted by julen at 10:19 AM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

> in the 1950s, the entire property was razed...

They really did pave paradise and put up a parking lot. Huh.
posted by ardgedee at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

There's a model of the Garden that's been changing hands quite a bit recently. Apparently there's new interest now that the land is being reused again.
posted by creade at 12:46 PM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Our local Trader Joe's is across the street at the southwest corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset, and I wince every time I walk up there, thinking that this corner used to be something other than really ugly.

Lauren Bacall mentions in her memoirs staying there with Bogart.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:16 AM on March 8, 2015

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