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Where William Randolph Hearst Stashed His Mistress

Such a dramatic house may not be the most inconspicuous hiding spot for your mistress—but then again William Randolph Hearst was not a subtle man.

6697 Whitley Terrace, with Robert Vignola at left

In 1923, the media tycoon built this Mediterranean villa on Whitley Terrace to stash actress Marion Davies, who he allowed to live here with her favorite director, Robert G. Vignola.

The trio had collaborated several times on films for Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Productions, including Enchantment (1921), Beauty’s Worth (1922), and When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922), at the time the most expensive picture ever made at $1.8 million.

Although married, Hearst was wildly jealous of Davies entertaining other men when he was away—and that’s where Vignola came in.

As he was uninterested in women, he wasn’t a threat and could be trusted to keep an eye on the blonde bombshell for his boss.

Twice a week, Hearst stopped by to visit Davies and watch personal performances she put on for him in the downstairs theater. Within a few years, however, the affair became public and the two took their activities to a 100-room Santa Monica beach house, yet the actress couldn’t stay away from the Whitley Heights stage.

According to artist Charles Bragg, who lived here in the 1990s, the ghost of Davies frequently returned to perform for a rapt audience of two … his dogs.

As for Vignola, once the home was his own, he transformed the downstairs space into a playroom, where he threw legendary parties.

Some nights, the 50-foot-long space was packed with gaming tables, which could easily be stored away in custom compartments on the occasion of dancing. For those soirees, on the semi-circular dias Davies once graced, a string quartet played the Italian’s favorite Hawaiian music for his famous friends.

Vignola’s guestbook—“the pride and joy of his life,” reported Screenland magazine—was filled with felicitations from Hollywood elite: actresses Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and Billie Dove, boxer Jack Dempsey, and circus proprietor John Ringling.


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