Last week, my research of Yamashiro’s revealed that the Four Hundred Club was the owner of the property in the late 1920s. What was the Four Hundred Club, and why did it come into being?
Los Angeles in the 1920s was like most major American cities: there was an elite part of society that held dinners, dances, balls, and other special social engagements that only the invited select participants could attend. These groups were considered high society, and mostly rich, white, and Christian people were allowed to join. It was a strange group. The “Blue Book” invited Mr. and Mrs. Rupert Hughes to join, but not Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
Motion picture actors had been frowned upon in Los Angeles from the beginning. There were apartments and boarding houses with signs out front stating “No actors.” Entertainers desired to be included in the elite, and to attend first rate balls and dances.
Actor/Director Frank Elliott decided to do something about it. Acting on the Los Angeles stage since 1913, English actor Elliott was the producing director for the Fine Arts Theatre as well as a supporting player in movies. If society wouldn’t accept actors, he would establish his own special club.
Along with Charles Chaplin, his brother Syd Chaplin, actor Norman Kerry, director Clarence Brown, actors Raymond Griffith and Ward Crane, executive Jack Warner, and a few others, Elliott founded the Sixty Club in late 1924, per the Jan. 25, 1925, Los Angeles Times. Only prominent members of the film industry would be invited to join. Monthly formal dinner dances costing $15 were held at the Biltmore Bowl, organized by the reception committee, which included Constance Talmadge, William “Buster” Collier Jr., Syd Chaplin, Raymond Griffith, Mae Murray, Lois Wilson, Leatrice Joy, and others, according to the March 13, 1925 Los Angeles Times. Members included Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Jesse Lasky, Harold Lloyd, the Talmadges, Charles Chaplin, Colleen Moore, the Warner Brothers, Sam Goldwyn, and Louis B. Mayer.
The paper also announced that they intended to buy land to build a clubhouse at Hollywood Boulevard and McCadden Place. in Hollywood. Instead, the club bought the former Bernheimer mansion as their clubhouse, for which they had great plans. Around the same time, Elliott, vice president and general manager of the group, with the help of writer Charles Furthman, established the Four Hundred Club. This organization was founded around the same principles, and incorporated the Sixty Club into its membership. Such people as Pola Negri, Dorothy Mackaill, Alla Nazimova, Elinor Glyn, Norma Shearer, and Mrs. Sam Warner hosted the grand opening of the mansion, attended by such people as BeBe Daniels, Colleen Moore, Buster Collier, Rudolph Valentino, and Roscoe Arbuckle.
As the Nov. 8, 1925, Los Angeles Times stated, “Not for nothing did the “400 Club open its doors at the self-same time that that painful incomplete Blue Book appeared. That was a profound and opportune gesture of deep significance – actually tantamount to five fingers spread perpendicularly from the end of a haughtily upturned nose.
And directed at the exclusive country clubs, too, which persist in barring motion-picture people.
‘The time had come,” remarked its founder Frank Elliott, “to provide the motion-picture industry with its own superior social background, to establish social leadership, to create a permanent central rendezvous for the best elements in motion-picture society.”
By 1926, however, political infighting arose. The Oct. 13, 1926, Daily Variety stated that the Sixty Club would be splitting up because of leadership struggles between Furthman and Elliott. Furthman stated that Irving Thalberg, B. P. Schulberg, Jesse Lasky, and Harry Rapf would be leading the new faction called the “Mayfair Club,” which would remain in residence at the Biltmore Hotel. It would be more exclusive, with a secret membership committee inviting only high-class members. Elliott announced that he owned the copyright on the “Four Hundred Club” name, and would hold his gatherings at the Ambassador Hotel’s Fiesta Room. The Four Hundred Club began a slow deterioration, which lead to the selling of what is now Yamashiro’s in the late 1920s.