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Only known photograph of the Garden of Alla under construction, c. 1926
Only known photograph of the Garden of Alla under construction, c 1926 (Female figure at center is likely Jean Adams)

Jean Adams Takes over

With Charles out of the picture, in May 1924 Nazimova hired a business manager. Jean Adams came with the recommendation of a friend, and it seemed to be a good decision at first. Jean became a warm and sympathetic friend. And she produced results. She made deals for product endorsements. Nazimova posed for magazine ads for Lux Toilet Soap and Lucky Strike cigarettes, among others.

There was a hopeful sign late in 1924 when the producer-director Edwin Carewe signed Alla to a short-term contract. At $25,000 per picture, the salary was considerably less than the $65,000 per film she’d made at Metro – but it was thousands more than she was making from vaudeville.

Nazimova in publicity shot for 'Madonna of the Streets," 1924
Nazimova in publicity shot for ‘Madonna of the Streets,” 1924
Alla played the leads in three films: “Madonna of the Streets,” based on the book, The Ragged Messenger, by W.B. Maxwell, in which she played a young gold digger who marries a minister who inherits a fortune; “Redeeming Sin,” a pot boiler in which she played Joan, an apache dancer who falls in love with a wealthy sculptor whose carving a bejeweled Madonna for a church; and “My Son,” playing opposite Hollywood royalty, Jack Pickford, the brother of Mary Pickford, as well as Constance Bennett, a star on the rise.

With “My Son,” the second act in Alla’s career – her post-Broadway forary into film – came to an end. She’d return to Broadway for a third act, and back to Hollywood after 15 years for a fourth act. Bu shhe would never again play a lead on film.

Jean Adams leased Hayvenhurst twice that year, first to Alla’s friend, Joe Schenck, then the president of United Artists, and in June, to British actress Beatrice Lillie. She was appearing in her first American film, “Exit Smiling.”

Later that month Jean offered Nazimova a business proposal. Her idea was to convert Hayvenhurst into a hotel. She proposed signing a 99-year lease on the property with Alla. In exchange, Jean would guarantee an annual payment of $14,500 plus 50 percent of the hotel’s profits. The conversion would cost $1.5 million (about $20 million today).

Her plan was to reconfigure the house into a residential hotel. The main building would be reconfigured to house the hotel lobby, check-in desk, bar, kitchen and dining room, with guest suites upstairs. She would also construct 25 bungalows around the pool. Alla’s new house at 1438 Havenhurst, built just one year earlier, would have to come down.

It was the only offer Alla had received, so she accepted it. But, over-tired from work and stress, she fell ill. In fact, she was still debilitated on August 1, 1926,when the wrecking crews arrived.

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