After sitting on the market for three months with no takers, the Bel Air estate built in 1934 by “Ninotchka” director Ernst Lubitsch has just had its asking price taken down a couple notches, from $20 million to $17.95 million.
Born in Berlin in 1892, the filmmaker came to Hollywood in the 1920s and soon found great success and acclaim with a succession of sophisticated romantic comedies, including “Trouble in Paradise,” “Design For Living,” “The Shop Around the Corner,” and “To Be Or Not To Be.”
According to the Lubitsch biography Laughter in Paradise, the director commissioned his friend Walter Willrich to design his Bel Air abode, with studio art director Harold Grieve enlisted for the home’s interior. During the 1930s, Lubitsch’s block and the streets nearby became home to numerous members of Hollywood’s European emigré community; close neighbors included Otto Preminger, Willy Wyler, Alexander Korda, and Merle Oberon. The director would remain in his Bel Air residence until his death in 1947 at the age of 55.
Sited at the end of a long driveway and thus invisible from the road, the 9,292-square-foot house is a blend of Mediterranean and Monterey Colonial styles. The home’s whitewashed-brick facade and turned-spindle entryway set a tone of rustic informality, an effect reinforced by features such as wood-beamed ceilings, Saltillo tile floors, painted-tile accents, stone fireplaces, wrought-iron chandeliers, and cozy nooks with built-in bookshelves.
Along with five bedrooms and eight bathrooms, there’s an updated kitchen emblazoned with blue and white tiles, a formal dining room, an expansive balcony, a “cantina” with built-in bar, and multiple covered loggias, while the verdant grounds contain a swimming pool, vegetable garden, and separate casita.