‘Grand Hotel’ Author Vicki Baum Built In The Riviera

David Niven purchased the home and nicknamed it “The Pink House.”
Photo courtesy of Michael Oldham

By MICHAEL OLDHAM | Contributing Writer

Author Hedwig “Vicki” Baum was born in 1888 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. In 1933—some 45 years after her birth—a house she had built in Pacific Palisades was finished.

Prior to building her Amalfi Drive mansion, Baum had only been in the USA for a short time, having come here in 1932.

Also in 1932, Baum’s most-famous novel, “Grand Hotel,” published in 1929, was turned into a movie of the same name. This now-classic film, set in a Berlin hotel where “nothing ever happens,” starred Greta Garbo and John Barrymore. The story, set in a single day at the hotel, shows a lot of things happening.

The Riviera neighborhood residence of the wavy-blonde haired Baum stood high above busy Sunset Boulevard. The house offered Baum mountain and ocean views, as well as more than enough grounds for Baum to do plenty of gardening, an avid passion of hers.

Today, the house is listed as a half-acre estate.

And, today, the house carries a famous nickname, which was given to it a few years after Baum had sold it in 1942.

In 1946, the witty, debonair and European-born actor David Niven purchased the house. The star of the 1956 film “Around the World in Eighty Days” would call the house that Baum built “The Pink House.”

The home featured pale pink brick exterior. The nickname for the art-deco style house has stuck ever since.

But as Baum was putting window shadings up and planting lamps around her new Amalfi Drive home, she did not know that fame and fortune had peaked for her. Baum would never again achieve the success she had experienced with “Grand Hotel” and its hugely successful box office hit film.

Perhaps it was best for Baum, since the author noted in “Grand Hotel” that, “Fame always brings loneliness. Success is as ice cold and lonely as the North Pole.”

And, even if she had known her professional career had peaked, she was not one to dwell on it or ask for sympathy from others. Baum has been quoted as referring to pity being “the deadliest feeling that can be offered to a woman.”

Vicki Baum
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Besides, by the time Baum, who would turn 45 years old in January 1933, pulled up to her Amalfi Drive house to live in it, she had to be thankful for what she had accomplished. Just a decade prior, Baum admitted, “The biggest part of my time was spent on the hunt for food.”

Before she had moved in, Baum had experienced many ups and downs in her life.

As a young lady, Baum had a short-lived marriage to Max Prels, an Austrian journalist. In her late 20s, she married for a second time to conductor Richard Lert. They would have two sons, Wolfgang and Peter, and stay married for the remainder of Baum’s life.

Baum was multitalented. Before moving to the Palisades, she’d been a harpist, won a prize as a boxer and wrote best-selling books. But her many working gigs in life would be what Baum would declare was needed if one wished to write successfully.

For a quote attributed to Baum stated, “A writer should always have some profession which brings him into close contact with the realities of life.”

The home was located on Amalfi Drive.
Photo courtesy of Michael Oldham

In 1938, five years after moving on to Amalfi Drive, Baum became an American citizen and would busy herself producing a novel every two or three years.

In 1993, Whoopi Goldberg, the co-host of television’s “The View,” purchased Baum’s former home. In early 2018, the entertainer sold it.

When Goldberg sold “The Pink House,” Daily Mail reported the house retains many of its original features, dating back to Baum’s ownership. These features include “marble checkerboard floors in the entryway, pink weeping brick exterior walls and crown moldings.”

Goldberg sold the 7,000-plus-square-foot, six-bedroom, six-and-a-half house for close to $9 million.

Baum passed away from leukemia in Hollywood on August 29, 1960.

Michael Oldham, the author of “The Valentino Formula,” can be reached at hollywoodlandings@sbcglobal.net.