Writer/director Jack McDermott info... more sought

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Rowan

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Aug 11, 2005, 11:09:30 PM8/11/05
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I have been researching an old Hollywood Hills estate and recently
confirmed that it was once owned by silent film writer/director John W.
"Jack" McDermott (1892-1946). I know he bought the property in 1937,
possibly after the Depression forced the previous owner into default.
In 1946, when Jack died at age 54, the property passed to E. J.
McDermott, who may have the younger brother, Edward. I am trying to
find some biographical info about him other than what shows up at IMDB.
Ultimately I would like to contact descendants if that should prove
possible...I don't know if Jack married and/or had children.

Can anyone provide or point me toward further infoprmation about this
gentleman? Googling him certainly turns up an intriguiung anecdote
(though I would like to verify it):

"Jack McDermott was a Hollywood film writer and director during
the 1920s and 1930s. McDermott is described as one the "biggest
jokester in Hollywood film history".
"One of McDermott's favorite gags was to take a guest for a ride in
his Model T Ford. He would drive recklessly through the mountains, and
when his passenger complained he would yank the steering wheel from its
column and throw it out the window -- the car was actually steered by
specially-installed foot controls.
"It is also said that the McDermott home was known for wild parties.
The house featured secret tunnels and sliding panels, and one very
special room where everything was upside down. Rugs and furniture were
fastened to the ceiling, and drapes, pictures, and even the chandelier
hung 'upwards'. McDermott deposited inebriated party-goers there and
would watch through peepholes as they came came to in the disorienting
chamber."

I might know where the scant remains of that house are, but I need to
know more about Mr. McDermott to be sure.

Thanks.

Rowan

Christopher Snowden

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Aug 12, 2005, 2:55:31 AM8/12/05
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Rowan wrote:
> I have been researching an old Hollywood Hills estate and recently
> confirmed that it was once owned by silent film writer/director John W.
> "Jack" McDermott (1892-1946). I know he bought the property in 1937,
> possibly after the Depression forced the previous owner into default.
> In 1946, when Jack died at age 54, the property passed to E. J.
> McDermott, who may have the younger brother, Edward. I am trying to
> find some biographical info about him other than what shows up at IMDB.
> Ultimately I would like to contact descendants if that should prove
> possible...I don't know if Jack married and/or had children.
>
> Can anyone provide or point me toward further infoprmation about this
> gentleman? Googling him certainly turns up an intriguiung anecdote
> (though I would like to verify it):
>
> "It is also said that the McDermott home was known for wild parties.
> The house featured secret tunnels and sliding panels, and one very
> special room where everything was upside down. Rugs and furniture were
> fastened to the ceiling, and drapes, pictures, and even the chandelier
> hung 'upwards'. McDermott deposited inebriated party-goers there and
> would watch through peepholes as they came came to in the disorienting
> chamber."
>
> I might know where the scant remains of that house are, but I need to
> know more about Mr. McDermott to be sure.


Here's a taste of "The Strangest House in Hollywood," from
PICTURE-PLAY (July 1927):


* * * * * * * * * * *


John McDermott calls it his "crazy house." A low, rambling
structure, strung out along the face of a cliff high above Cahuenga
Pass in Beverly Hills, it greets the eye as a thing part Egyptian, part
Turkish, part Navajo, and with such touches of modern architecture as
may be found anywhere "east of the water tower."

There are angles reminiscent of igloos constructed during the Eskimo
renaissance, and others suggesting medieval castles with moats and
drawbridges. There isn't another house like it in Hollywood, nor, in
fact, in the entire world.

It is made of studio props!

John McDermott is a scenario writer for Famous Players-Lasky-- just
a man trying to get along on a salary of something like two thousand
dollars a week. Three or four years ago he found himself in need of
physical training, but didn't want to waste his time and energy in a
gym.

So he decided to build a home with his own hands, the like of which
no one ever had seen. It would dazzle with originality, with plaster
gods, sliding panels, underground passageways, good books, and mystery.

He had seen motion-picture sets of exquisite design, used an hour or
two, then discarded when the picture was finished. He had seen these
artistic creations lie for weeks and months disintegrating in the sun
and rain, when, if they had been salvaged, they would have lasted for
years. This gave him the idea for his hillside home, and he began
collecting.

The walls of John McDermott's house were made from composition board
discarded from sets at the Universal studio.

The girders were salvaged from the enormous palace built for THE
THIEF OF BAGDAD.

Some of the roofing came from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

The tip of the smallest tower was cut from the broken propeller of
an airplane wrecked during the making of Buster Keaton's THE NAVIGATOR.

The tombstones built into the wall had been made for THE HUNCHBACK
OF NOTRE DAME.

Some grinning skulls of cement were found on the old Metro lot when
that historic spot was abandoned.

A huge, slant-eyed goddess, modeled in plaster, was salvaged from a
set of Nazimova's SALOME.

A table McDermott placed in his living room had originally been
built for ROBIN HOOD.

The great oaken door was taken from Norma Talmadge's THE SONG OF
LOVE.

A wooden pulley above a well-- in the living room of the house--
came from Mary Pickford's TESS OF THE STORM COUNTRY. A fence was
plucked from the scraps of Rudolph Valentino's THE EAGLE. And three
small cannons on the parapet had originally been made for THE SEA HAWK.


* * * * * * * * * * *


The article, which goes on from there, includes interesting photos
of the interior and exterior of the house. It was definitely a
weird-looking place, but fabulous, with minarets and cannons on the
roof!

rowan

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Aug 12, 2005, 2:22:07 PM8/12/05
to
Christopher:

What a quick and exciting answer. Thank you for the article.

I can't tell if the property I'm researching goes with this "crazy"
house, since the article is from 1927 and the deed I have is from 1937.
It's still possible, but I'll have to dig a little more. Maybe the old
movie sets in the "crazy" house finally fell apart and he needed a
sturdier place by 1937!

I have photos from the "1937 deed property" taken around an intact pool
and the ruins of an old stone cabin -- all from the 1950s. I've attached
a photo from the 50s that shows the trademark of the pool, a giant
spider mural. (Water cascaded down the face, from a pipe that can still
be found at the peak.) Could it be scenery from an old movie? (You can
barely see it but there's also a very detailed wasp in the web, at 1
o'clock.) I know there were many "spider"-themed titles in the teens and
'20s. The spider was probably installed in the late 20's. I've also
attached a picture of what the place looks like today.

I'm already looking for a copy of the Picture-Play at ebay... if you
have a copy and can scan-n-post pics it'd help me know f it's the same
house... I'll find a copy sooner or leter, though.

I have found some info at AFI that isn't on IMDB, but any more info or
leads on how to research this increasingly interesting character, please
let me know.

The land passed into the hands of an E.J. McDermott in 1947, who may
have been 1920s film editor Edward MacDermott. It was also (all
tentative right now) tied later to longtime prop man Karl/Carl Brainard
and WWII hero/movie technical advisor Peter Ortiz.

My search just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Rowan

"Christopher Snowden" <unk...@yahoo.com> wrote in
news:1123829731....@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com:

> Here's a taste of "The Strangest House in Hollywood," from
> PICTURE-PLAY (July 1927):
>

> John McDermott calls it his "crazy house." A low, rambling
> structure, strung out along the face of a cliff high above Cahuenga
> Pass in Beverly Hills, it greets the eye as a thing part Egyptian,
> part Turkish, part Navajo, and with such touches of modern
> architecture as may be found anywhere "east of the water tower."

<snip>
Christopher:

What a quick and exciting answer. Thank you for the article.

I can't tell if the property I'm researching goes with this "crazy"
house, since the article is from 1927 and the deed I have is from 1937.
It's still possible, but I'll have to dig a little more. Maybe the old
movie sets in the "crazy" house finally fell apart and he needed a
sturdier place by 1937!

I have photos from the "1937 deed property" taken around an intact pool
and the ruins of an old stone cabin -- all from the 1950s. I've attached
a photo from the 50s that shows the trademark of the pool, a giant
spider mural. (Water cascaded down the face, from a pipe that can still
be found at the peak.) Could it be scenery from an old movie? (You can
barely see it but there's also a very detailed wasp in the web, at 1
o'clock.) I know there were many "spider"-themed titles in the teens and
'20s. The spider was probably installed in the late 20's. I've also
attached a picture of what the place looks like today.

I'm already looking for a copy of the Picture-Play at ebay... if you
have a copy and can scan-n-post pics it'd help me know f it's the same
house... I'll find a copy sooner or leter, though.

I have found some info at AFI that isn't on IMDB, but any more info or
leads on how to research this increasingly interesting character, please
let me know.

The land passed into the hands of an E.J. McDermott in 1947, who may
have been 1920s film editor Edward MacDermott. It was also (all
tentative right now) tied later to longtime prop man Karl/Carl Brainard
and WWII hero/movie technical advisor Peter Ortiz.

My search just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Rowan

"Christopher Snowden" <unk...@yahoo.com> wrote in
news:1123829731....@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com:

> Here's a taste of "The Strangest House in Hollywood," from
> PICTURE-PLAY (July 1927):
>

> John McDermott calls it his "crazy house." A low, rambling
> structure, strung out along the face of a cliff high above Cahuenga
> Pass in Beverly Hills, it greets the eye as a thing part Egyptian,
> part Turkish, part Navajo, and with such touches of modern
> architecture as may be found anywhere "east of the water tower."

<snip>

Richard Lanham

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Aug 13, 2005, 8:54:29 AM8/13/05
to
In article <1123816170.5...@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,
Rowan <rowa...@cox.net> wrote:

> In 1946, when Jack died at age 54, the property passed to E. J.
> McDermott, who may have the younger brother, Edward.

I've just looked for these McDermotts in census records. Some of these
words were hard to read, so don't hold me to every date, etc.

In the 1900 census the family was still in Wyoming:

Laramie, Albany county, Wyoming

McDermott
John, born SEP 1859 in Ireland. He is a hotel keeper
Emma, born SEP 1872 in Canada
John, born SEP 1892 in Wyoming, son
Edward, born JAN 1986 in Wyoming, son
Anna, born MAR 1900 in Wyoming, daughter


I can't seem to find John W./Jack in Los Angeles, but his brother
Edward does so up:

1920 Census, Los Angeles, CA

McDermott
Edward M. age 24, b. Wyoming. He is a film editor
Constance L., age 23, b. OH. Wife (an online source says her maiden
name is Loeser)
Edward J. age is hard to read, it is something and 7 months. He was
born in California. An online source says he was born in October 1917.

So, the important thing is that Edward J. McDermott was a nephew of
John W./Jack. Edward J. could still be alive.


In 1930, Edward M. seems to be divorced, living alone at 1833 1/2
Argyle St. Someone put online that he died 19 OCT 1931. He was still
listed as a film editor in the 1930 census.

Hope this helps, John W./Jack doesn't seem to show up much.

Rick

rowan

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Aug 13, 2005, 12:24:41 PM8/13/05
to
Yes, this does help. Edward being listed as a film editor in 1920, born
in Wyoming, with a birth year that matches Jack's brother as seen in
1900 is good to know. Edward being listed as Edward M. is also helpful.

Maybe the E.J. who received the property in 1947 was Edward M.'s son
Edward J., but Jack could also have had a son with those initials.
Edward was certainly a family name - the 1900 census says the
grandfather was Edward. But I have turned up no evidence of John/Jack
having children.

Can I ask which service you used? I have used Ancestry.com and found
some of this info but not all.

Rowan

Richard Lanham <lanhamf...@cox.net> wrote in
news:130820050854297062%lanhamf...@cox.net:

Richard Lanham

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Aug 13, 2005, 12:56:24 PM8/13/05
to
In article <Xns96B17EC8B...@68.1.17.6>, rowan
<rowa...@cox.net> wrote:

> Can I ask which service you used? I have used Ancestry.com and found
> some of this info but not all.

Yes, I'm using Ancestry. Some of the other info is on Rootsweb, in
their WorldConnect project. http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com


/////
There is a message here about the Edward M. McDermott family. The
researcher was looking for more info in 1998. If their email address is
still good, they might know more (click on their name to get the email
addr.)

http://boards.ancestry.com/mbexec/message/an/localities.northam.usa.stat
es.california.counties.losangeles/812


Rick

Richard Lanham

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Aug 13, 2005, 9:22:38 PM8/13/05
to

This page mentions a John "Mac" McDermott who had some horses and
cattle near Newhall/Santa Clarita.

Search the page for each mention of "McDermott".

http://www.scvleon.com/newhall/rundberg.htm

He seems to die about the same time as John William McD. ?

Rick

rowan

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Aug 14, 2005, 1:44:26 PM8/14/05
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More good info. Thanks.

I tried posting these earlier and they never showed up on my server. One
from 1950s, two from 2004. Here goes again.

The swimming pool with its wacky walls, wishing well, telescope,
columns, and colorful mish-mash of tiles is all I have photos of. I
would love to tie it to that house described in the 1927 article.

Rowan

Richard Lanham <lanhamf...@cox.net> wrote in

news:130820052122383662%lanhamf...@cox.net:

Richard Lanham

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Aug 14, 2005, 1:58:42 PM8/14/05
to

More info on Edward M. McDermott, film editor:

WWI Draft Card information, June 5, 1917

Edward Michael McDermott, age 21
1235 Elmoline (?hard to read) St., Los Angeles, CA
born January 16, 1896
Natural Born
Born in Green River, Wyoming, U.S.A.
He is a "Philm" Editor for the William Fox Corp., Los Angeles
He has a wife and child.
He signed his name: Edw. M. McDermott

He is of "medium" height and slender. Eyes are light blue and hair is
"light." Not bald.

/////
That's all, I'll look some more for his brother John.

Rick

Richard Lanham

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Aug 14, 2005, 2:21:33 PM8/14/05
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In article <Xns96B28C4E8...@68.1.17.6>, rowan
<rowa...@cox.net> wrote:

> I tried posting these earlier and they never showed up on my server. One
> from 1950s, two from 2004. Here goes again.
>
> The swimming pool with its wacky walls, wishing well, telescope,
> columns, and colorful mish-mash of tiles is all I have photos of. I
> would love to tie it to that house described in the 1927 article.

They didn't show up here either. That is because this is not a
"binaries" newsgroup. So all photos/programs/sound files, etc. are
filtered out.

You will need to either post them to a binaries group and tell us about
it in a text-only message; or post them on a web site, etc.

Rick

Frederica

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Aug 17, 2005, 2:23:19 PM8/17/05
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The L.A. Times reported on 2/1/1947:

"The palatial, minaret-studded home of the late Jack McDermott, film writer,
at 3041 Vale Vista Trail, last night was swept by a fire of undetermined
origin.

The blaze was discovered late yesterday by Jacques Jaccard, veteran film
director and friend of McDermott who had lived in the structure since the
writer's death last July.

The residence, located in the hills off Mulholland Nighway, was particularly
noticeable because of the many golden-tipped minarets which surrounded the
golden mosque-like dome of the house itself."

From the 9/7/1949 LA Times, a report of the divorce action of actress Joyce
Brainard, 21, against her husband Carl Brainard.

"On his 25th birthday he came into quite a bit of money," she testified,
questioned by her attorney, Robert S. Butts. "We wer expecting a baby and
living in a garage--but he squandered all the moey on special-built cars and
cameras and things."

When they moved from the garage, it was to a "half-burned castle in a
deserted spot," she said. The castle, built by the late Jack McDermott,
film writer, from studio lot props, was habitable only in one section after
the fire, she related."

So looks like the house is long gone.

Frederica


rowan

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Aug 17, 2005, 5:07:46 PM8/17/05
to
Well isn't this an interesting couple of discoveries. We thought the house
was gone by 1948 and "someone" told us they had "heard a rumor",
"somewhere", that it had burned down "about that time". All of that, of
course meant nothing without this corroboration.

May I ask about the nature of your LA Times archives access? Is there some
way to access the system that I have overlooked? These articles are exactly
what I would have hoped the LA Times research team might find when I
finally got around to contacting them. Since recently pegging McDermott to
the site I have been trying to figure out exactly what questions wer worth
paying the Times' archivists to reseearch. I don't mind at all being beaten
to the punch!

Some of the details don't easily fit into the chronology I have been
developing, but that's the fun of it: every answer leads to two new
questions. For example the Vale Vista address does not match the 1940 phone
book address on Goodview, but McD owned lots from Goodview at the top of
the hill to Vale Vista at the bottom. I guess the address could go either
way. Also there is much confusion about Carl vs. Karl Brainard, so this
divorce notice is more grist for the mill.

And of course Jaques Jaccard now looms into view as a "person of interest".
Now you see why this project intrigues me, all the interesting twist,
turns, and personalities that are involved. And I haven't even figure out
how Harold Lloyd got involved, but he very surely was by 1950 or '51. Did
he know the McDermott Hollywood clan? Brainard? Or just the friend of a
friend?

Rowan

""Frederica" <missme...@RATSPAMMERSyahoo.com> wrote in
news:ddvv8i$6ue$1...@sm-news1.rand.org:

> The L.A. Times reported on 2/1/1947:
>

<snip>

Frederica

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Aug 17, 2005, 5:18:29 PM8/17/05
to

"rowan" <rowa...@cox.net> wrote in message
news:Xns96B5AEC5D...@68.1.17.6...

> May I ask about the nature of your LA Times archives access? Is there some
> way to access the system that I have overlooked? These articles are
exactly
> what I would have hoped the LA Times research team might find when I
> finally got around to contacting them. Since recently pegging McDermott to
> the site I have been trying to figure out exactly what questions wer worth
> paying the Times' archivists to reseearch. I don't mind at all being
beaten
> to the punch!

You can get full access to the digitized L.A. Times and several other
papers...although NOT the Chicago Tribune, so annoying...if you become a
member of the Godfrey Memorial Library at http://www.godfrey.org/. The fee
is nominal for the year; far cheaper than airfare! Be warned, the indexing
on the the LA Times is not all it should be. You have to be creative about
searching.

I found no obit for McDermott, and I was creative with my searching. There
might be an obit in Variety.

Frederica


rowan

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Aug 17, 2005, 6:09:46 PM8/17/05
to
"Frederica" <missme...@RATSPAMMERSyahoo.com> wrote in news:de09h0$8ff$1
@sm-news1.rand.org:

> http://www.godfrey.org/.

Well, I'll be. What a phenomenal resource. This group is making me feel
like an amateur. Keep it up.

If you'll excuse me I'm off to join the Godfrey Library, which is indeed
cheaper than airfare and looks to be much better endowed than the one down
the street from me. (oops, they close at 4... I have to wait till
tomorrow.) I have so many Spiderpool-related keywords saved up to throw at
the LA Times site that it might very well explain any sluggishness you
experience with your internet connections over the next few days.

Many thanks, again.

Rowan

billyw...@hotmail.com

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Feb 11, 2014, 11:11:33 PM2/11/14
to
Did you ever track down photos of the house and / or any additional information

artgoi...@yahoo.com

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Oct 10, 2015, 3:19:54 AM10/10/15
to
My mother lived in the house with her parents With McDermitt. She is 90+ years old and talks about all the experiences she had there.

blackc...@gmail.com

unread,
Jul 23, 2018, 1:17:57 AM7/23/18
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I can't believe no one has asked you to please share your mothers tales of the McDermott house! There is so little information available about this legendary place that her recollections would be precious to the strangely assorted group of people who are fascinated by the man and his amazing home.
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