No Beverly Hills property ever had two more disparate owners — or two more different mansions within a short period of time — than this Hillcrest Road estate just north of Sunset Boulevard.
In February 1923, actor Hobart Bosworth purchased the four-acre property on virtually empty Hillcrest Road. Today, Bosworth is forgotten by all but the staunchest silent-film buffs. During the 1920s and 1930s, however, his name commanded great respect; he was often called the “Dean of Hollywood.”
Born August 11, 1867, in Marietta, Ohio, Hobart Van Zandt Bosworth – known as “Boz” to friends, ran away from home at the age of eleven, and at the age of eighteen, he felt the lure of the stage - eventually performing in New York, primarily, as a Shakespearean actor. He was a handsome man, standing six feet two inches, with blue eyes and flowing blond hair. He had “a magnificent baritone voice,” said his second wife, Cecile. “The women would throw violets to him.”
After contracting tuberculosis, Bosworth moved to the dry climate of Arizona to try and recover. At the age of forty-two, sick, his voice nearly gone, and broke, he reluctantly agreed to star in one of the first films ever made in California. The Power of the Sultan, a ten-minute one-reeler by the Selig Polyscope Company, shot in the drying yard of the Soo Ling Chinese Laundry in downtown Los Angeles at 8th and Olive Streets. The scenery was hung on clotheslines, and the reluctant movie star was paid $125 for two days of work. Boz quickly threw himself into the fledgling film industry, not only acting in but also writing and directing more than five hundred short and feature-length movies.
In 1919, Bosworth divorced his first wife, Adele Farrington, following the birth of their son, George. He then married Cecile Kibre, a woman twenty years his junior who quickly became known as “Mrs. B.” In 1926, three years after buying the Hillcrest Road property, the Bosworth’s completed their new Beverly Hills Estate, and what an estate it was.
The white Spanish hacienda-style mansion, designed by the firm of Bennett and Haskell under Mrs. B’s supervision, had a forty-five-foot-long living room with tall, heavily beamed ceilings and stuccoed walls, a twenty-five-foot-long master bedroom, and extensive servants’ quarters. The estate also had an art studio, gardens, a tree-filled forest, and stables.
Because the Bosworth estate was located just north of Sunset Boulevard, Boz often rode his white Arabian, Cameo along the bridle path down the middle of the roadway. “Bareheaded, his own locks as white as Cameo’s coat. the veteran actor was an erect distinguished figure in the saddle,” said the Los Angeles Times. When Boz worked at MGM, he would ride Cameo to and from the studio every day. While these horseback rides on the then-empty streets between Beverly Hills and Culver City were certainly enjoyable, they also attracted press attention for the wily Bosworth.
Eventually, the “big house in Beverly Hills was too much responsibility,” said Mrs. B. years later. The family was also tired of the lack of privacy from all the tour buses and rubber-necking film fans – and Boz just wanted a simpler lifestyle. Her husband, said Mrs. B, was “a quiet, dignified person” who disliked pretentiousness and flash, “like Cadillacs.”