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Farralone—also known as the Fox Estate—was the setting for an episode of Mad Men.
A few Los Angeles homes have more film and TV credits than the average Screen Actors Guild member. Sought out by directors and production designers, these buildings bring a dramatic element to the screen, evoking a specific emotion or a character’s personality type, or simply providing a pitch-perfect setting for the action.
One such abode, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, makes an indelible impact in Blade Runner, with its patterned concrete blocks serving as an ominous backdrop to Harrison Ford’s world-weary detective. On the lighter side, The Dude’s modest Venice bungalow in the Coen Brothers’ cult fave The Big Lebowski backs Jeff Bridges’ brilliant performance—so much so that the house has become a must-see for touring film fans.
When these celebrity properties go on the market, that famed connection plays an all-important role. In Chatsworth, Farralone—also known as the Fox Estate—is a visually arresting spot with decades of on-camera credits, including the Emmy-winning “The Jet Set” episode of Mad Men. Recently listed for sale at $12 million, the price reflects its dual nature as both a remarkably cool living space and a production-friendly location atop a private knoll.
Commissioned by The Chase Manhattan Bank heiress Dora Hutchinson in 1949 (when the surrounding area was dotted with ranches, not suburban sprawl), Farralone’s glass-walled, open-plan, midcentury design is by William Pereira, formerly of the Pereira & Luckman firm. The architect, whose later work includes LACMA and San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid, was—not so surprisingly—a film production designer and art director before he became an architect.
“Despite the large rooms, the house is very livable,” says current owner Jim Fox, who favors the formal living room paneled in flaxen-toned hardwood with zebra-cork floors. Most rooms open up via steel-framed glass doors and windows; the broad sweep of glass—a typical Midcentury Modern detail—is grander here because of the house’s 16-foot ceiling heights.
“Done in the best modern style and not closed in, the camera cannot help but make [the rooms] look good,” says midcentury architectural expert and author Steven Price of the house’s modernist aesthetic. Pools are also a big deal: the Farralone’s sits beside an etched white trellis. A second pool and adjacent guesthouse have big-screen significance, too. The estate was leased to Frank Sinatra for a decade; he maintained it as a party pad, and frequent houseguest Marilyn Monroe liked to stay in the cozy, 1,000-square-foot hideaway. Rumors still swirl that her infamous tryst with John F. Kennedy occurred there.
Among the estate’s major credits are recent episodes of Showtime’s Californication; the upcoming Savages, directed by Oliver Stone; dozens of TV spots; Usher’s “Burn” music video; plus Dreamgirls, Swordfish, and other films.
Architect John Lautner’s singular homes also get a lot of screen time. The Sheats-Goldstein Residence plays a key part in The Big Lebowski; Lethal Weapon 2 famously imploded his Garcia (Rainbow) House; and the 1949-built, glass, concrete, and redwood Schaffer Residence glowed in director, writer, and fashion designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man. “Some say the Schaffer Residence was the star of the film,” says real estate agent Crosby Doe of Crosby Doe Associates, who has the $1.495 million listing. While the house’s star turn increases attention to the property, Doe believes “the appeal is the architecture itself.”
However, a memorable movie appearance can result in celebrity—even for a house. The Dude’s apartment, part of a bungalow court located on a quiet side street near Abbot Kinney, attracts film fans—mostly men—on a weekly basis, says realtor Winston Cenac of Venice’s Bulldog Realtors. He represents the six-unit complex, including bungalow 606B, where the fictional Dude resided. Not only do tourists stop and snap pictures, two years ago The Dude Convention (a gathering of fans dressed like… who else?) hosted a photo session at the property. It is now for sale for $1.799 â€¨million—The Dude imper-s-on-ators and residuals not included.