That House From Hail Caesar!

This past weekend I saw the new Coen Brothers film, HAIL CAESAR! starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and a host of other well known names - including Ralph FiennesScarlett JohanssonTilda SwintonFrances McDormandChanning TatumJonah Hill, and Alden Ehrenreich (to name a few). The film is a comedy set in 1950s Hollywood and follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, a fixer for Capital Pictures, who cleans up and solves various problems for the studio. One of the problems he has to contend with on the day in question is the abduction of A-list star, Baird Whitlock (Clooney).

In the movie, Whitlock is taken to a house in Malibu and held for ransom. Watching the film, I was struck by the fact that the house was clearly based on the Clinton Della Walker Residence by Frank Lloyd Wright. That house was begun in 1948 and completed in 1951 on a prominent oceanside lot in Carmel-by-the-Sea. The house in HAIL CAESAR! was clearly not the same house and more likely a set built on a Warner Brothers soundstage. While the materials of the home and the design of the windows set strongly recall the Walker house, the room sizes, fireplace, and overall layout are noticeably different. For example, it's doubtful that Wright would have the main entry open directly into the living room as it does in the film.

Here is what long-time Wright associate Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer wrote about the Walker house in his book Frank Lloyd Wright Complete Works, Vol. 3: 1943-1959:

The elongated plan for the Clinton Walker House terminates at the end facing the sea in a hexagonal living room and in a carport at the opposite end. The plan is drawn on a unit system of equilateral parallelograms. The carport is connected to the entry at the living room by means of an outdoor loggia. Behind the living room fireplace is the workspace and a small triangular area for utilities. Two guest rooms, a bathroom, and the master bedroom complete the elongated portion of the plan. The gallery that runs alongside these rooms also opens onto the outdoor loggia. The most striking feature of the house is the fenestration in the living room and bedrooms. Based on the solution Wright created for the Stuart Haldorn House [ED - aka "The Wave", 1945, originally sited in Carmel, but unbuilt] the window bands project out from each other in three stages from the walls to the soffit, with the panes of glass swinging down from the underside of the projections. Situated as the house is on a rocky site at the edge of the ocean, this design is used to protect the interiors from the ocean spray while still allowing for ventilation. A stone terrace extends out from the living room towards the ocean, with access from the loggia. Steps on the outer side of this terrace lead down the hill slope to the shore. The majority of the walls are stone masonry, which anchors the house to its rocky site. Interior partitions for bedrooms and bathroom are board and batten construction. The hip roof is copper.

The Walker Residence also apparently was also featured in the 1959 movie, A SUMMER PLACE, starring Richard EganDorothy McGuire, and Sandra Dee. I haven't personally seen this film and the house doesn't appear in the trailer as far as I can tell. However, a screen capture on this page (third image down) shows an interior that looks similar to the Walker Residence. This too, appears to be a stage set constructed with the real house in mind.

The Clinton Della Walker Residence is located at 26336 Scenic Road, Carmel-By-The-Sea, California and though Mrs. Walker has since passed, the house still remains in her family and is maintained as a private residence. As such, it is not available for tours with the exception that it occasionally features on the annual Carmel Heritage Society Home And Garden Tour. In fact, it is mentioned (with several images) on their blog from the 2015 Tour.

For more information, check out the books below or this short biography about Walker and the house. I have also created a Pinterest board that compiles some of the available online imagery of this distinctive home.

And if you like a good movie, check out HAIL CAESAR! I enjoyed it quite a bit!