Few estates have housed as many Hollywood greats as Bella Vista, perched high atop Beverly Hills, CA. The men behind epic films such as “War and Peace,” “Moby Dick,” and “Top Gun” have called the estate home.
The storied residence is now on the market for $19.5 million—and ready for its next esteemed owner.
The property abounds with such intriguing features as an “opium den,” pub, former aviary, six kitchens, and quaint cottages, where stars such as Candice Bergen, Katharine Hepburn, and Marlon Brando have rested their heads.
We walked the grounds and found—nestled among the palms, redwoods, ferns, and bougainvillea—many original architectural features of this Spanish Revival–style residence.
Designed by architect John Byers in 1926, the home was originally purchased by legendary director King Vidor (of “War and Peace,” “The Fountainhead,” and “Duel in the Sun” fame). But he didn’t stay long.
Actor John Barrymore (Drew Barrymore‘s granddad), impressed by the home’s incomparable view of the canyons, city, and ocean beyond, bought it from Vidor in 1927—and commenced polishing the one-of-a-kind gem.
While Barrymore was starring in films such as “Grand Hotel,” “Twentieth Century,” and “Midnight,” he and his third wife, silent-film star Dolores Costello, added to the estate. The couple created an aviary with stained-glass windows, which housed about 500 birds.
The aviary has since been converted into a living room in the guest quarters.
The listing description includes an “opium den,” but no one really knows the original purpose of the tower room above the master bedroom, accessible by a discreet, ladder. It was likely designed to be a speak-easy, considering the house was built during Prohibition and other houses in the area featured rooms used for the secret sipping of clandestine cocktails. You be the judge.
Barrymore enjoyed the home’s elaborate pub, with a floor made of giant slices of redwood tree trunks. He also spent plenty of time in the cigar room, wine cellar, and den, where guests reported he kept such oddities as a dinosaur egg and a collection of shrunken heads.
The light-filled, circular living room with the hand-painted ceiling mural featuring his wife in a bucolic setting was said to be one of Barrymore’s favorite rooms in the house.
After filmmaker Tony Scott bought the house in 1992, he had the mural touched up with portraits of his family and the property’s flora. Scott directed “Top Gun,” “Days of Thunder,” and “True Romance,” among many other hit films.
The director added and updated two lavish guest apartments, which are attached to the house but have separate entrances.
The gorgeous pool with a waterfall as well as the swanky cabana and guesthouse were also updated.
After Scott’s death in 2012, his wife put the property (including six parcels of nearby land) on the market for $42.5 million.
“This house stands alone,” says Mills. “It has so much Hollywood history, yet when you’re strolling through the gardens, you’d think you were in a European countryside. There’s nothing else like it in the world.”
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