Home History Spotlights How The Pickfair Lodge Started Off With A Love Affair

How The Pickfair Lodge Started Off With A Love Affair

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Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford at Pickfair with their dogs.

Fairbanks was charmed by the lodge’s down-at-the-heels appearance and remoteness. Hi closest friend, Charlie Chaplin, viewed the site more critically:

“Douglas’s house had been a shooting lodge, a rather ugly two-story bungalow set on a hill in the center of what was then the scrubby, barren hills of Beverly. The alkali and the sagebrush gavve off an odorous, sour tang that made the throat dry and the nostrils smart. In those days Beverly Hills looked like an abandoned real estate development. Sidewalks ran along and disappeared into open fields and lampposts with white globes adorned empty streets. Most of the globes were missing. shot off by passing revelers from roadhouses. Douglas Fairbanks was the first film star to live in Beverly Hills, and he often invited me to stay the weekend with him. At night from my bedroom I would listen to the coyotes howling; packs of them invading the garbage cans. Their howls were eerie, like the pealing of litle bells…. On Sunday morning, Doug would organize a posse of cow ponies and we would get up in the dark and ride over the hills to meet the dawn. Doug would wax eloquent and I would joke about loss of sleep and argue that the only dawn worth seeing was with the opposite sex. Nevertheless, those early morning sorties were romantic. Douglas was the only man who could ever get me on a horse, in spite of my complaints.

Fairbanks bought the six-room hunting lodge (which had no running water or electricity) and its surrounding fourteen acres for $35,000 on April 22, 1919. It might have remained in its rustic state had he not fallen in love with the wildly popular actress Mary Pickford, whom he met a year after buying the property. There was a big problem with their romance, however. Both were already married, and any word of their love affair would create a scandal. Further, Pickford would not be able to remain a Catholic if she got a divorce. On top of that, their respective studios harbored a very real concern about the publicity such scandal might generate. Bad publicity in the past had ended film careers and ruined studios’ fortunes. Spin doctors were losing sleep imagining the paying public boycotting Fairbanks’s and Pickford’s films. Eventually love triumphed, ad Fairbanks took “America’s Sweetheart” as his bride. And the public didn’t care. No films were boycotted, and Fairbanks and Pickford were greeted by more than three hundred thousand fans in London and Paris on their honeymoon. Their expanded home became known as Pickfair, a combination of their names. Soon these two titans of Beverly Hills society were joined by other luminaries in the film community.”