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Your Mama Hears: John Barrymore’s Bella Vista Whisper Listed at $25 Million

SELLER: Donna Scott
LOCATION: Beverly Hills, Calif.
PRICE: (said to be around) $25 million

YOUR MAMA’S NOTES: Buckle your real estate safety belts, children, because Your Mama hears from an in-the-know source we’ll call Yvonne A. Snitch that Bella Vista, one of Tinseltown’s most storied estates, is being shopped on the down low by several of the Platinum Triangle’s most prominent real estate agents with an asking price in the vicinity of $25 million.

Originally built for celebrated Golden Age filmmaker King Vidor on a hilltop high above Beverly Hills, the multiwinged Spanish-Mediterranean villa was acquired in 1927 by silver screen icon John Barrymore — he would be Drew Barrymore’s grandpappy — who quickly added several adjacent acres. The quirky, village-like compound eventually encompassed more than seven acres and 16 structures that included an aviary where Barrymore and third wife, silent film star Dolores Costello, once housed 500 or so birds. The aviary was converted sometime in the early 1930s to a residence and later rented by a number of showbiz luminaries including Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando and Candice Bergen, whose father, comedian and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, once owned a very nearby estate currently owned, per property records, by Oscar-nominated film director Adrian Lyne (“Fatal Attraction,” “9½ Weeks,” “Flashdance”).

At its grandest, Bella Vista comprised a total of 55 rooms that included a rathskeller — a sort of Old Timey basement tavern — and a trophy room where Mister Barrymore kept some of his vast and eclectic collection of whoozigoozits and whatnots that included a pair of Ecuadorian shrunken heads and a dinosaur egg. The property had half-a-dozen swimming pools, a skeet-shooting range, a bowling green and extensive gardens where, amongst the flora, fauna and fountains that were maintained by a full-time Japanese gardener, Barrymore installed a 30-foot-tall totem pole he’s widely believed to have insensitively pilfered from an abandoned Tlingit village in Alaska. (As was recounted in a recent article in the New Yorker, the towering totem was acquired by Vincent Price — also a rapacious collector of odd objects and museum quality artifacts — who had its installed in the garden of his Benedict Canyon home; it is now on its way back to Alaska, where it will be returned to and repatriated by the Tlinglit, but we digress…)

Barrymore presided over Bella Vista until his death in 1942, and eventually, the multiparcel estate was divided and sold off. Bella Vista’s main residence and several of its out buildings, which now stand on just under an acre and include the aviary-turned-guesthouse, were acquired in the early 1990s for somewhere around $6 million by British-born producer-director Tony Scott — Ridley’s younger brother — and his former Miss North Carolina wife, Donna Scott. Mister Scott, whose credits include “The Hunger,” “Top Gun,” and “Days of Thunder,” took his own life in August 2012, and Bella Vista is still owned by Miz Scott.

Published reports from the time of the Scotts’ purchase reveal the estate then had a rambling main house that measured in at nearly 7,000 square feet plus two guesthouses, a swimming pool and a stone cabana. We can’t say if any of it remains, but at the time of the Scotts’ purchase, Bella Vista reportedly still included  several features from Barrymore’s time, including a Bavarian porcelain chandelier and a linen closet — formerly a telephone room — with doodlings and private phone numbers of Hollywood stars written on the walls. A second and much smaller adjacent parcel, originally part of Barrymore’s compound and with a 2,124-square-foot residence, per property records, was acquired by Mister and Missus Scott in early 2002 for $1.2 million.

That Miz Scott might like to get rid of Bella Vista isn’t such a surprise to property watchers in Los Angeles who may recall that about two years ago, just months after her husband leaped to his death off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, she paid $5.55 million for a 12,000-square-foot mansion in Encino purchased from film and television star Kevin James. Our research also reveals Miz Scott also owns side-by-side homes on the shore of North Carolina’s Lake Norman as well as a beachfront residence — and the private tennis court across the lane — in the guard-gated Malibu Colony that was purchased in early 2002 and, as it turns out, is available to rent from mid-June through mid-August at a rate of $200,000.

A couple of the other high-profile peeps in the ‘hood include Lisa Kudrow — creator, writer, producer and star of both “Web Therapy” and “The Comeback” — and Oscar-nominated actor, writer, producer and director Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy,” “American Dad,” and “Ted”), who recently gave his house a total overhaul and massive expansion that reportedly included the installation of a million-dollar Imax theater.

Aerial photo: Bing

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