Chances are great that if you don't know the name Robert Evans, you certainly know his work. While head of Paramount Studios and later as a producer he was responsible for such films as Barefoot in the Park, The Great Gatsby, Love Story, The Godfather, Chinatown, and many more. Actually, you really should know the name Robert Evans because he is a legend. He was also married to Ali MacGraw but even more famous than all of these things is his house, Woodland, in Beverly Hills. The New York Times has just published a story about the home in T magazine. I knew it looked familiar and I finally remembered that Matt Trynauer had written a very interesting article, Glamour Begins at Home, for Vanity Fair about the architect, John Woolf. It was built in 1941 for interior designer James Pendleton and is considered a masterpiece. The style became known as Hollywood Regency and John Woolf's life story is almost as interesting as that of Robert Evans.
In his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, as well as the wonderful video on The New York Times website, Robert Evans tells the story of how he came to fall in love with the house. Actress Norma Shearer took him on a walk about 10 minutes from the Beverly Hills Hotel. "We entered a hidden oasis, protected by hundred-foot-tall eucalyptus trees. It was Greta Garbo's hideaway whenever she snuck into town. The house, a formal pavilion with a mansard roof, was beautifully proportioned. But what really got me were the grounds-nearly two acres of towering eucalyptus, sycamores, and cypresses, thousands of roses, all behind walls."
"Nature couldn't be improved on when it came to the garden's prize. Standing among the over two thousand rosebushes was an enormous spreading sycamore, several centuries old, with branches covering half an acre. Anything that's been breathing that long needs lots of help. For the circumference of the half acre, every three feet the roots are intravenously fed. Many a time I've given it an anxious look: 'You're one hell of an expensive lady.' But it's more than a tree - it's a piece of art. I'd take a night job to keep its leaves aglow. Twenty-one weddings have been blessed under its far reaching branches. I'm sure its batting an average higher than any alter in the world. Nineteen for twenty-one. Not bad huh? Only two have failed - mine."
Artwork and objects collected by Robert Evans over the years.
Robert Evans had help decorating his home from Paramount since it would also be used for "clandestine meetings for historic deals - both legal and illegal." Evans himself bought the art including a wonderful Monet from the Wildenstein Gallery in New York. You really do have to read The Kid Stays in the Picture for the full account of Robert Evans life and the life of the house.
The dining room has a view of the garden.
A hallways is lined with photographs that chronicle Robert Evans' life in pictures.
His signature glasses.
The pool and house today which is barely visible behind the ivy.
Robert Evans by the pool in 1968.
A view of the pool house with the Pendletons and friends around the pool by Slim Aarons.
All of the following photos are from 1968 and show Robert Evans and his friends enjoying the house. It's no wonder that he's remained in it to this day. It really does look like a dream house.
Photos: 1-10 Jason Schmidt; 12 Slim Aarons; 11, 13-22 Alfred Eisenstaedt