It is a well-known fact, even among those who have zero interest in filming locations, that the Elrod House, John Lautner’s famed modernist creation which sits edged atop a jagged cliff in Palm Springs, portrayed the concrete-walled homestead of reclusive tycoon Willard Whyte (Jimmy Dean) in “Diamonds Are Forever.” A far lesser-known tidbit? A different architecturally significant Coachella Valley abode, this one with quite the Hollywood pedigree, also made a memorable appearance in the beloved 1971 spy thriller.
Located at 515 W. Via Lola in Palm Spring’s well-heeled Old Las Palmas neighborhood, the single-story post-and-beam structure was originally commissioned in 1954 by Academy Award-nominated actress Andrea Leeds and her husband, sportsman Robert Howard, the proprietor of the nearby Howard Manor hotel (now the Colony Palms) who is perhaps best-known thanks to his father’s ownership of the legendary racehorse Seabiscuit. (Please remember this is a private home. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the property in any way.) To design the modernist dwelling, the couple hired then-unknown architects Richard Harrison and Donald Wexler, the latter of whom would go on to create the Dinah Shore Estate (which is now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio) and the Palm Springs International Airport.
Tucked behind a pair of picturesque palm trees, one playfully bent in a zigzag fashion to the rear of the other, and a pristine foliage-covered fieldstone wall with a glorious mountain backdrop, the low-slung property looks like a vintage Palm Springs postcard come to life!
Robert and Andrea did not stay on the premises long, though. In 1957, they put the pad on the market, eventually selling to none other than legendary actor Kirk Douglas and his second wife, Anne Buydens, who tied the knot in 1954.