La Belle Ville
In Bel Air, alluring dreams often become reality.
For many years, one devoted couple had greatly admired both Rodin sculptures and 18th-century Parisian mansions known as maisons particuliers. Over the years, they had become leading collectors of Rodin’s works, gathering more than 750 drawings, prints, and sculptures, both large and small. So, when they wanted a Los Angeles home, they purchased a property on coveted St. Cloud Road, constructed an 18th-century Parisian mansion, and displayed some of their favorite Rodin sculptures in the residence and on its grounds.
No Los Angeles address was home to more movie people than the 1930s Neo-Colonial home that was demolished just before this couple purchased the property. The parade of Hollywood owners started with famed director Frank Capra, then Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, followed by director Mervyn LeRoy, then the powerful and much-feared Louis B. Mayer, who was the head (some said, dictator) of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio, and finally comedian Jerry Lewis.
When the art-collecting couple who acquired this celebrated property decided that an 18th-century Paris mansion should be the inspiration for their home, they made an immediate choice: the Hôtel de Biron, now the Musée Rodin on the rue de Varennes, where famed sculptor Auguste Rodin lived in the early 20th century.
Upon its completion, the new 35,000-square-foot mansion was a much-admired addition to the Old Bel Air estate district. The architect had followed the owners’ instructions to the letter, and they had found the talented craftsmen and provided enough time and money to create a mansion that was not only large and impressive, but tasteful and refined at the same time. No wonder the estate was named “La Belle Vie.”