Doris Day in her 1966 Malibu kitchen

Yesterday Palm Springs Stephan answered a question on his post about vintage Palm Springs homes by detailing how the Hollywood elite built – and lived there – pretty modestly all things considered. So I remembered this photo that I had of Doris Day in her 1966 I-XL kitchen. And, even though it’s an ad, for some reason I really believe it’s hers. How can you not believe Doris Day? Isn’t it sweet? Here are Palm Springs Stephan’s comments, edited:

All of the houses pictured …were built specifically as second homes, which suggests an income level of at least “upper middle class.” Many of the houses along Monterey Road and throughout that neighborhood were built specifically for the Hollywood elite. Very nearly every house in the area was once owned by a “star.” There is even a neighborhood known officially as “Movie Colony,” though it dates to the 1930s and 1940s. Back in the old studio-system days when actors were under long-term contracts with individual studios, they were often contractually forbidden to travel more than 100 miles from Hollywood without explicit studio permission. Palm Springs is exactly 99 miles from Hollywood. Thus Palm Springs became a very fashionable destination to which actors could “escape in secret,” without informing their studio bosses. …

As for the quality of the materials used …even in the poshest of the 1950s-era houses, one still often finds the same Columbia metal kitchen cabinets and American Standard bath fixtures that are found in 1950s-era “middle-” and “lower-class” housing. In fact, when taking one of the local tours of movie-star homes, one is struck by how very modest some of them are. No surrounding walls, no gated drives, all close to the street, all single-story, often just 2 bedrooms, no outbuildings … just very average looking modest houses. I have the impression that the Hollywood types saved the glitz and glamour for their Beverly Hills residences and came to Palm Springs when they wanted to once again be “average Joes” for a few days or weeks.

This is very interesting indeed. Maybe through the 60s, at least, movie stars didn’t live every single moment in the limelight with all the trappings of “their brand” to worry about. Yes, they had their big Hollywood estates. But back then, weren’t most stars farm boys and farm girls by birth? Maybe they felt uncomfortable, fundamentally, rattling around in those big houses. Who wouldn’t?

P.S. I hope I haven’t posted this photo before. I thought I had – I have a vague recollection of Doris Day singin’ about some stagecoach in a YouTube video. But, I couldn’t find it via Search. At 542 posts, I am now seriously forgetting some of the things I’ve written about.

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Comments

  1. says

    If I can add just one more bit of Hollywood history…. Prior to the end of the studio system, most “publicity” surrounding actors was managed (if not outright controlled) by the studio itself. Even “candid” photos were usually staged by the studio’s staff of publicists and photographed by either official studio photographers or photographers with connections to the studio. This was before the days of paprazzi, the Internet, and TMZ. It was therefore much, much easier for “stars” to exit the limelight for a while, especially in places like Palm Springs, which was actually very remote in the 1950s. So you are correct, Pam, it WAS easier, in the 1950s at least, for stars to set aside “their brand” and live simply and in private when they wanted to do so.

  2. Lawrence Bill says

    Stephan,

    This is very interesting. Yet surely “stars” of that period must also have had privacy issues. Do you think the emphasis on privacy inherent in modern architecture strongly influenced their decision to choose such housing?

    I’m also curious how many of these Palm Springs gems were designed by architects. Here in Lawrence, as in many other middle class communities, most people who wanted a modern sensibility after the war couldn’t afford architects. So they did the next best thing by modifying model plans in Better Homes and Gardens and the like. Is Palm Springs an exception?

  3. says

    Two very challenging questions!

    Yes, stars of the period did indeed have “privacy issues.” All of the homosexual stars were keen to conceal their sexuality, of course. Liberace is a prime example of that, and he did own a house here in PS, as did several other non-hetero stars (Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and the list goes on). Others had privacy issues for other reasons, whether it was adulterous affairs (Spencer and Hepburn) or simply a character trait (Howard Hughes). But my overall impression is that “stars” chose PS primarily because it was within the contractually prescribed travel distance limit, warm and dry in winter (winter is the wet season in Malibu and along the Pacific Coast, where stars go now to escape the summer heat of LA) and because it was really very remote in the era before interstate highways and suburban sprawl. Prior to the building of Interstate 10 through the San Gorgonio Pass in 1964, PS was accessible only by a two-lane blacktop highway out of San Bernadino, almost 60 miles away, or by a train that called at an isolated station 6-7 miles north of Palm Springs (that station, now owned by Amtrak, still sits out in the middle of wide open desert with no other buildings within a couple of miles, other than a truck stop). Venturing out to PS in the 1950s would be comparable to taking a trip to some isolated Caribbean island today.

    And when the stars and other wealthy people first started coming to PS, there was very little “here” here. The permanent population numbered fewer than 5000 at the outset of WWII, and less than twice that by 1950. Palm Springs boasted only a few thousand houses at the end of WWII, many of those having been built during the war when our airport was a military airfield and General Patton had a desert tank warfare training facility nearby. That wartime housing was best described as “spartan” and “utilitarian.” So the stars and wealthy newcomers were in “terra nova,” essentially. Therefore I do not believe their choice of architectural style was heavily influenced by a desire for privacy. That had already been achieved by the remoteness of the location and the relative lack of other residents.

    Rather, I think they bought Mid-Century Modern housing because that was the overwhelming cultural trend. The mid and late 1950s were all about innovation and progress and the future. Stars and the wealthy no doubt wanted to bolster their image by being associated with that forward-looking trend, if they were not already themselves active proponents of it. And the local architects who were designing the new post-war housing, together with the builders who were building them, were simultaneously proponents and creators of the new aesthetic. And remember, because PS was so remote, home buyers did not exactly have a smorgasbord of styles to choose from anyway. It was either buy what the few local developers were already building or incur huge expense to custom design and build (most of the homes pictured in the main post were built “on spec,” not custom built). That said, Spanish hacienda style architecture did offer a competitive alternative to MCM, but it has not received the resurgence of attention recently that MCM has and is a bit less common in PS itself (it is seen more in commercial architecture, not residential).

    Architectural design that facilitated increased personal privacy did emerge in the PS area until the mid to late 1960s. By then PS was becoming a more popular general tourist destination, and many of the established Hollywood elite and wealthy began selling their existing properties in favor of custom built ones in more remote locations away from the center of PS. Bob Hope sold his house in PS, for example, and built a Space Odyssey-esque mushroom shaped monstrosity halfway up one of the surrounding mountains. Frank Sinatra sold his small place in PS and built a large walled estate in what is now Rancho Mirage. Many others followed him. Indeed, RM is where one goes to find the very private and large walled and gated estates, not PS.

    I do believe that PS was an exception in that a majority of the MCM homes do seem to have been individually or collectively “designed” by independent and creative architects, rather than “planned” by an employee of the developer who was incidentally trained in architecture. Even in those instances where entire developments were built on spec and simultaneously, independent architects who later became famous were involved in designing every house. There IS a certain “cookie-cutter” sensibility in developments like El Rancho Vista, but each of the houses there were apparently based on a series of several prototype designs by Donald Wexler. The list of architects active in PS in the 1950s and early 1960s is lengthy and includes Wexler, William Cody, Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, Dan Palmer and William Krisel, Stewart Williams, and many others. This is definitely NOT a community of houses built with modified “store bought, mail order” plans!

  4. SandiJohnson says

    Funny! We have these cabinets in our kitchen, and a lot we did not use. From the Illinois State Fair display in 1965, my dad purchased it. Complete with the Doris Day pamphlet. How neat to see it somewhere else!

  5. Nicole says

    I am trying to find out what the name is for some of the houses (sets) in the 1950/1960s movies. I am guessing Hollywood designed the sets after what was typical in the suburban CA neighborhoods of that time. They look like modern, traditional two-story family homes on the outside (sometimes the bottom story will have stone or red brick) and on the inside they have white painted ceiling beams – sort of like a take off on a ranch house but almost more Cape Cod like. The chunky stair railing is always painted white with white beadboard siding. The flooring is wide slat and there are lots of cute levels. It is reminescent of a Connecticut Farmhouse but it is supposed to obviously be in California. One movie that features this syle stars Doris Day -Send Me No Flowers. (Funny movie too!) She steps down into the kitchen from the entry way stairs. Such a cute set! So many old movies feature these homes, I can tell they are a take-off on real homes in California 1950/60s. Do you know the name of these homes and what areas in CA they were most prevalent? Appreciate any info. (and I think your website is adorable!)

  6. pam kueber says

    Wow, Mike, good catch. I had to stare for a while to spot it even with you telling me where to look. Hmmm. I wonder. I have heard that tilers have a superstition that the job cannot be perfect – that one tile must be visibly off. In line with: “The only ones perfect are the gods; if you demonstrate perfection, they will strike you down.” BTW I tell myself that when something goes wrong. It makes me feel better. One does not want to incur the gods’ wrath. Anyway. The more I look at it, the more I love this kitchen. Incredible dishwasher! And I just noticed the recessed appliance center – in the wall, under Doris’ right arm reaching up to the wall cabinet. (Note: these photos enlarge a lot when you click on them a couple of times.)

  7. judy h. says

    I can just picture Doris working away making something wonderful in this great picture. She’s always been one of my favorites.

  8. Chris says

    I think this is a cool kitchen. It is a French Provincial style. I have a 1969 Sears catalog that had kitchen cabinets similar to these that you could purchase and the Kenmore ripoff of the range that looks to be Tappan made in the ad.

    My parents own a late 1960’s ranch house and it being here in the south east has a more traditional design. It has dark chocloate brown brick and cream colored eaves and trim. They bough it in 1982. The kitchen had a style of cabinets in it referred to as Provincial in a Sears brochure. They were pecan laminate with the scalloped trim across the window at the sink and white flecked laminate countertops. It had brown Modern Made brand brown appliances and brown and almond two tone asbestos tile. The rest of the house has hardwood.

    The kitchen cabinets were cheap to begin with and started to collapse and the appliances had electrical issues. My mom got traditional styed white cabinets with the arch that looks similar to the cabinets in the Doris Day movie Send Me No Flowers (1964). Some have glass to view her vintage dishes. She kept the french provincial style idea. She even has a black and white toile border that reminds you of the tile pattern in this ad.

    Mom likes traditional furniture more than modern and furnished the house in vintage 1960’s cherry french provincial furniture. Her bedroom is the gold and white provincial bedroom suite that you see in another post on thise site. She has 1960’s Lennox china in her hutch and lots of vintage casseroles etc……

    She has a vintage Mt. Vernon Nutone doorbell that had never been taken out of the box and put it up. Her bathroom has retro Swan shower doors. They recently replaced the drafty aluminum windows with dimaond grid windows that you use to see in ranch homes back in the day.

    Just because you own a ranch house doesn’t mean you have to do mod style decor only. You can use 1950’s and 60’s provincial, colonial etc……to decorate. Mix it up a bit.

  9. Marilyn says

    I absolutely love this…most of the stars homes were modest by today’s standards. Look at the bungalow Marilyn Monroe lived in during this same time frame. If you can find any more of these Stars in the Kitchen I would love to see them.

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