Archives for posts with tag: Hank Saperstein

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We only lived at 904 Benedict Canyon Drive for about a year, moving from Fryman Canyon in Studio City just before I turned three and then into Darren McGavin’s house on Canon Drive around the time I turned four. Though both the Fryman and Canon houses were lovely and spacious, the Benedict Canyon one was surely the grandest house I will ever live in, though I have only a few fleeting memories of it.

Known as El Encanto, the huge estate was built in 1927 and my mother used to say that if you forgot your hankie, you certainly weren’t going back from the driveway to the master bedroom to get it, since it would be such a trek. So it was already large, but according to current real estate listings, it seems to have gained even more square footage since it’s now listed with a whopping 12 bedrooms and 11 baths, which exceeds even what my sister recalls.

She remembers it being called “The Otto Preminger house” though I can’t find any record of him living there or owning it. However it was owned by “El Cid” screenwriter Philip Yordan and department store heir David May II at some point. It was on the market in 2012 for $15 million, after having last been sold in 1975 for a nausea-inducing $414,000.

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During the 1970s it is said to have been a swinging party pad, according to photographer Brad Elterman, who snapped some great pics of debauched events there. According to the Then and Now blog, the architect or builder was Theodore J. Scott, who played a large part in giving L.A. its Spanish-Mediterranean look in the 1920s and ’30s.  It was also once home at to George Axelrod, screenwriter of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and playwright of “The Seven-Year Itch.”

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Just about all I remember is having my third birthday in the dining room, my parents bickering over adjusting our first color TV in the long solarium and being scared the the lions from the L.A. zoo might escape, run down Sunset Blvd. and leap onto the second floor balcony outside my room. The current updates seem to include some ill-advised nouveau Moorish fountains and extra stonework that does the clean vintage Spanish lines no favors.

It’s too bad I was too young to appreciate my only chance at living in a famous Beverly Hills mansion, but it’s fun to see the history behind it.

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One of my biggest regrets is not realizing until it was too late that the UPA studios, which I spent my childhood roaming, were a pristine example of mid-century architecture and design. The studios were sold and torn down around the time I was away at college, and though I couldn’t have prevented the demolition, I certainly could have salvaged more of the furniture. At least I was lucky enough to inherit a Herman Miller credenza and a cel depicting John Lautner‘s clean-lined modern design.  My memory banks are full of pastel ’50s colors, pots of animation cel paint, men with skinny ties and white shirts bent over drawing boards and an editing room full of whirring projectors and Moviolas. I know my dad just bought the studio, didn’t build it himself, and was then responsible for its destruction. But it was another time and as I pointed out in another post, he never claimed to be an artist, just a businessman.

UPA, the studio my dad bought on the verge of bankruptcy, is getting quite a bit of attention this month.  The long-in-the-works book about the studio, When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA by Adam Abraham, is now available. I haven’t seen the book yet, although I talked to Abraham about UPA a few years back.

Most everything written about my dad and the entertainment business is fairly negative, but naturally I take a more charitable approach. UPA was started by visionary ex-Disney artists who tried to keep their studio going as long as possible,  producing advertising spots and making theatrical shorts. As I understand, the founders were better artists than businessmen, leading my businessman dad to get involved and take over the studio.

He moved the studio into television production, where the money was, keeping UPA chugging along for another decade or more. Of course the cartoons produced for TV were less labor-intensive than the early shorts, possibly less creative too. But the world had changed — theatrical shorts were never a money-making proposition anyway — and at least “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” which he produced, was still held in high regard.My dad knew absolutely nothing about the reasons why the Oscar-winning artists that founded UPA hired John Lautner to design the Burbank studio and stocked it with Eames furniture, but he tried as hard as he could to keep the lights on and the bills paid.

The Los Angeles County  Museum of Art is holding a UPA night March 30 called Madcap Modernism in conjunction with the California Design exhibition, which features UPA’s colorful letterhead. An evening program will screen 10 newly-restored 35mm UPA cartoons from the 1950s theatrical shorts era, and Abraham will be present signing his book. A new Jolly Frolics DVD of these theatrical cartoons was just released by TCM.