Touring Barbara Stanwyck's House
August 10, 2020
In early 2018, a post in a classic film Facebook group I’m part of announced that Barbara Stanwyck’s former home, Marwyck, would be open for tours right before TCMFF. I knew Stanwyck lived in the San Fernando Valley in the late 1930s thanks to Victoria Wilson’s A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940, but I had no idea her house still stood – or was a registered landmark! (It’s now called the Oakridge Estate, a moniker bestowed by its second occupant, Jack Oakie.) Apparently, tours are occasionally given there, and this was a special such occurrence timed around TCMFF so more fans could partake. As with anything to do with TCMFF, the tour sold out quickly, and it was so popular that an extra date was added.
Barbara Stanwyck and pup lounging by Marwyck's pool.
Recently, I wrote about Stanwyck’s intent for Marwyck (which she purchased with her friend and manager Zeppo Marx and his wife Marion) and her three years living in the ‘country’ for TCM’s Tumblr account. You can check that article out right here. While that post shares some background info on their horse breeding facility and the house itself – a 5-bedroom, 8-bathroom 6500 square foot home, no big deal! – here I’ll briefly share some of my insights and more of my photos from the tour.
Obviously not my photo! Stanwyck with a horse at Marwyck.
Oakridge is located in Northridge, a part of southern California that most people out of state probably know from the infamous 1994 earthquake that struck there. From my home in Los Angeles, the ride north took about 45 minutes. Surrounded by the normal hustle and bustle of modern-day LA, even in a more residential area, Stanwyck’s estate and grounds stood strong as a landmark from an era long gone. The stone façade made it a wee bit difficult to find the actual entrance, but once we did, we were ushered through the front door and to a room filled with panels and photos detailing the lives and careers of both Stanwyck and Oakie.
What I knew nothing about prior to setting foot in the house is that while Stanwyck had the home built in 1937, she only lived there for less than three years. Oakie and family moved in in 1940 and resided on the property for decades, until Oakie’s widow Victoria donated the estate to the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2000. Currently, the home and surrounding 9.5 acres are owned by the City of Los Angeles and operated as a Historic Cultural Monument. For more information on the estate, be sure to visit their website here.
A late 1930s view of Marwyck's pool and tennis court from the back of the house. This image is framed in one of the rooms at Oakridge that overlooks this area.
Though most of the house, including any remodeling and a great room downstairs with murals, belonged to Oakie and his wife, one of the lone Stanwyck holdovers was a marble bathtub. I was surprised to find most of the house completely empty; I thought it would be structured more like a museum with various period items, but I guess that would pose the question of curating a re-constructed historical look: Would they make it up like its original owner, or like its longtime owner? While the tour was enlightening and the historical panels illuminating, I do think the estate would benefit from some more physical decoration and curation, but what type is a hard question to answer – and one that would probably be debated. Regardless, it was awe-inspiring to set foot on the same floors and grounds the great Stanwyck herself roamed all those years ago. (And Oakie, too!)
So, without further ado, please enjoy some photos I took from the tour:
Obviously I had to pose in the front door like Stanwyck did.
Apparently the kitchen looked close to what it was like when Stanwyck lived there.
Stanwyck's marble bathtub.
It's so tiny!
I'm not sure what this room is but it reminds me of a big-top circus.
If I ever own a house, I'd like a dumbwaiter, please.
The photo on the windowsill is seemingly Stanwyck's bedroom, facing the same window as seen here.
From the Oakie's mural room.
Overlooking the backyard and pool.
View of the house from the backyard.