Richard Neutra’s Unforgettable Home for a Forgotten Ukrainian Actress!
In the early days of Hollywood, movie-producer Samuel Goldwyn saw promise in Ukrainian film-actress Anna Sten, the daughter of a Cossack-actor father and a Swedish-ballerina mother. After seeing Anna perform in German and Ukrainian films and her head-turning beauty, Goldwyn saw Anna as a Russian Greta Garbo and encouraged Anna and her husband to relocate to Hollywood.Must SeeTop 10 Florida Condos For Sale
When Anna and her movie-producer-husband, Eugene Frenke, arrived in California to begin her movie career, they wanted a home that would impress their future Hollywood celebrity guests. They engaged Austrian-born, mid-century-architect Richard Neutra to design their home in Santa Monica. Neutra had worked a bit with Frank Lloyd Wright and was gaining notoriety as one of Southern California’s best young architects. The Sten-Frenke House was one of Neutra’s first major commissions before he went on to create many of California’s most famous homes including the Kaufmann Desert House in Palm Springs, the Sidney Kahn House in San Francisco, and the Stuart Bailey House in Pacific Palisades. Now updated and restored to Neutra’s original plans, the Sten-Frenke House has just hit the market priced at $15 million.
Anna’s career did not go as planned. She peeked in 1934 as the subject line in Cole Porter’s hit-song Anything Goes ("When Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction / Instruct Anna Sten in diction / Then Anna shows / Anything goes"). Even with the small fortune he invested in her speech and acting lessons, Goldwyn wasn’t successful in his attempt at turning Anna into a superstar. Though Anna was recognized for her film work in a few movies, the public didn’t take to her and she was eventually referred to as “Goldwyn’s Folly.” Goldwyn unhappily ended her contract after two years, perhaps a victim of the transition between silent films and the new talkies. Eugene fared better in Hollywood than Anna. He twice collaborated with director John Huston on the films Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and The Barbarian and the Geisha and went on to work with B-grade films, many of which starred his wife. Anna continued to act in small parts in movies and television until 1964 and died in 1993 at the age of 84 in New York City. Her husband preceded her in death in 1984.
Now listed as a Los Angeles cultural landmark, the Sten-Frenke House features timeless California glass-walled architecture and clean geometric lines and angles and in 1934, was the first modern home to ever win the top prize in the House Beautiful magazine competition. Privately surrounded by cultivated jungle but still open to a view of the ocean with surf breaking on the beach, the 4,000-square-foot house has five bedrooms and seven baths divided between the main house and the guest house. Lush plantings give privacy to walls of glass that allow sunlight to filter through, making patterns on the white interior. In addition to three bedrooms, there is a large living room with fireplace and wrap-around windows, an oval-shaped dining room also with wrap-around windows that jut out into the garden, and an Old Hollywood-style pool that Neutra primarily designed for Ms. Sten to entertain and be photographed. The master suite has an upstairs terrace with ocean views and an office.
Still connected to the film industry, the home’s current owner is director/writer/producer Marc Forster, who directed Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner, World War Z and Christopher Robin, and engaged designer Mark Haddawy to study Neutra’s original plans in order to restore the main house to the original plans. Forster also hired LA architects Johnston Marklee to design a combined work-studio and two-bedroom guest house that would compliment the style of the existing house. The house is located only a short stroll to the beach, restaurants and shops.
One of Richard Neutra’s timeless architectural designs, the Sten-Frenke House, has just come on the market. Priced at $15 million, it is listed by Billy Rose of The Agency, Beverly Hills.
Photo credit: Marc Angeles