A Brief Visit to Casa Mintz

Charles Mintz home

I’ve taken you to Charles Mintz’s first Hollywood studio at 1154 N. Western Ave. We’ve gone inside his second one at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. And I still need to recap my visit to 861 Seward, which is where Columbia moved operations after they took control from Mintz.

But for now, let’s take a detour from these studio trips to consider 717 N. Linden Dr. in Beverly Hills, the Spanish-style home where Charles Mintz lived with his family at the time of his death in 1939. There it is at the top of this post, in a photo I recently took while admiring it from the sidewalk and hoping there was nobody inside, peering out the window and wondering why I was casing the joint.

Mintz was not always a cartoon tycoon, of course. The son of a York, Pennsylvania grocer, he was born in 1887 and dropped out of high school but eventually graduated from Brooklyn Law School. By 1915, he was living in New York with his mother and siblings. According to one obituary, that was also the year he went to work for Warner Bros. as a booker. That’s where he met Margaret Winkler, who–in what sounds like a fairly meteoric rise–went from being Harry Warner’s personal secretary to running her own cartoon distribution company. Mintz married Winkler in 1923 and soon took charge of the business. You may have heard of the tiff he had with one of its clients, Walt Disney.

Eventually, Mintz concluded that his Krazy Kat Studio would be better off in Hollywood—presumbly a well-informed decision given his experience working with Disney and then producing Oswald cartoons there himself. (One article about the move referenced the superior recording facilities there.) He sent his staff off to the coast by train in February 1930—but stayed in New York himself.

The fact that Mintz ran a studio across the country, with his brother-in-law George Winkler managing operations in L.A., may say something about his level of involvement in its productions. Columbia’s business operations were headquartered in New York, so he had a legitimate reason to remain in the east. But really, if you had the opportunity to be a Hollywood movie mogul, would you turn it down forever?

When Mintz and family went westward, they lived at first in Beverly Hills at 611 N. Linden, a three-bedroom Spanish-style home built in 1926. In July 1930, it was on the market (“A BUY”) for $28,000, or $420,000 in 2018 dollars. (Which is not to say you could buy it for that price: Zillow estimates its current value at $6.3 million.) But perhaps the Mintzes rented, since a year later the Los Angeles Times real-estate section offered it for $350 a month, the equivalent of $5,600 today.

By 1936, according to the Movieland Directory, Mintz’s voter registration showed him living at 717 N. Linden, the home I photographed. According to LA Times classifieds, it had gone on the market in May 1935—a “real buy” for $26,500. In the depths of the depression, it was a buyer’s market: By August, the house remained unsold and the asking price was down to $22,000 (“1/2 original cost”), or about $400,000 in 2018 dollars. After September, the ads disappear, conceivably because Mintz had bought it.

I hope it’s not gauche to wonder about this: How rich was Charles Mintz, as the producer of moderately popular animated cartoons? In 1933, he had sold half of his studio to Columbia, which would scoop up the rest in 1937; what that meant for his own finances, I can’t say. As far as I know, Columbia owned Scrappy and reaped the rewards from character merchandise, not Mintz.

In any event, 717 N. Linden sounds like a prosperous person’s home: Built in 1924, it had five bedrooms, four baths, chauffeur’s quarters, and a three-car garage. It still looks pretty lavish today, and Zillow estimates its current worth at $9.8 million. Not that it’s on the market—though a rental down the block can be yours for just $24,500 a month.

(Side note: Someone, probably not me, should map out where all the Hollywood animation producers of the 1930s lived. For the record, Leon Schlesinger and his wife Bernice were over on Benedict Canyon, a little over a mile from the Mintzes.)

My knowledge of Beverly Hills real estate history is too skimpy to assess how prestigious the Mintzes’ neighborhood was when they lived there, but a fair number of notables have inhabited the vicinity. Actress Bessie Love, an Academy Award nominee for Broadway Melody, moved into 611 N. Linden with her husband William Hawks after the Mintz family moved out. The acting couple Lilyan Tashman and Edmund Lowe lived across the street at 718 N. Linden, in an apparent marriage of convenience; their home was known as “Lilowe” and they were said to hold extravagant orgies there. (It’s tempting to envision Charles Mintz either being appalled or invited, although Tashman died in 1934, before the Mintzes arrived on the block.) Later, Wimbledon champion Fred Perry lived at 718 N. Linden, possibly after Charles’s death.

Producer Sol Siegel was a neighbor. Aldous Huxley, Jeanette MacDonald, and Dorothy Parker also lived nearby at some point in the 1930s or 1940s. Eventually, writers Nora and Delia Ephron grew up on what had once been the Mintzes’ block. (Bizarrely, two minutes after I typed that sentence, I heard Nora’s upbringing there referenced on The Bold Type, a TV show my wife was watching in the same room.) And it’s probably just as well that Charles Mintz was no longer with us when Bugsy Siegel was murdered in 1947 at 810 N. Linden, home of his girlfriend Virginia Hill.

Within months of Charles’s passing, his home was back on the market, at an “attrac. price.” I hope that it wasn’t financial strain that prompted Margaret Winkler Mintz and the two Mintz children to decamp to a place a few miles away on S. Bedford. It was smaller, but sounds nice, judging from the old classifieds (“finest 2 sty. corner ever built”).

The current residents of 717 N. Linden have lived there since 1996–and boy, it would be neat if they know they lived in the House That Scrappy Built, Or At Least Bought.

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