Friday, 14 September 2012


Dorothy Lamour & Rita Hayworth at the Brown Derby in 1944

After a long day of shooting during Hollywood's golden age, the most popular venue to unwind was the Brown Derby, a relaxed restaurant on Wiltshire Boulevard shaped like a man's hat. Here names like Fred Astaire, Mae West, Hedy Lamarr, Constance Bennett, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Ronald Colman rubbed shoulders while downing dishes like roasted stuffed turkey with giblet gravy or an old-fashioned pot roast (Betty Grable's favourite dish). Clark Gable proposed to Carole Lombard here. Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper flashed each other evil glares from neighbouring tables. The walls were covered with amusing caricatures of the stars. In the 1940s when silent screen star Mae Murray found her caricature had been moved from a prominent place near the door to a shadowy alcove off the kitchen, she flew into a rage until it was moved back.
The Brown Derby spawned many Hollywood legends and here are a selection of images of the stars at play here during the restaurant's heyday.

The interior of the Brown Derby - with the famous caricatures of the stars along the walls 

Susan Hayward, Joy Hodges, Rita Hayworth & Robert Stack, 1939 - all so young!

Jean Harlow at the Derby, 1934. When she died in 1937, her caricature hung next to that of fiance
William Powell until he married Diana Lewis in the 1940s

David O'Selznick dining with Myrna Loy, 1946

Carole Lombard & Clark Gable

Charlie Chaplin & Paulette Goddard

Fay Wray & Dolores Del Rio

Gilbert Roland, Constance Bennett & Fredric March

Buddy Rogers & Mary Pickford

Joan Crawford, Clark Gable & Louella Parsons

Errol Flynn with friend Buddy Ernst

Marlene Dietrich & then-lover Erich Maria Remarque

Mayo Methot & Humphrey Bogart - the press labeled them the "Battling Bogarts" due to their frequent
booze-soaked brawls. Bogart nicknamed her "Sluggy"

Robert Taylor, Irene Hervey, Carole Lombard & Cesar Romero

DP x


  1. Just to clarify -- there were several Brown Derby restaurants during its heyday. The first was the hat-shaped one on Wilshire Boulevard, which no doubt some stars patronized (it was across from the Ambassador Hotel and the famed Cocoanut Grove). But the one best-known from a classic Hollywood perspective was the restaurant on North Vine (no outlandish building shape). It was here that Gable proposed to Lombard. It was this Derby where Constance Bennett's character played a waitress in "What Price Hollywood?" And it was this Derby where Lucille Ball's character tracked down William Holden in "I Love Lucy."

    Don't worry -- you're not the first to make this mistake.

  2. Actually, I think it's the Wilshire Brown Derby where Constance Bennett worked in What Price Hollywood. Haven't watched the film in a few years but pretty sure it was the Wilshire Derby.

  3. The interior shot of the Brown Derby is from the Beverly Hills Derby location on Wilshire.

    1. Oh, and there were 2 of them on Wilshire -- the Beverly Hills one and the one that first was located near Hollywood on Wilshire and later moved to the 2nd location across from the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire. The Derby that had the most Hollywood people in it was the Vine Street location - it had a more Spanish looking interior then the one shown in the photo.


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