by lyle e
Many a star or celebrity has, or does live in
Valley Center. A
fact that is not well known.
Herein, a look at the stars, past and present:
Few actors are
more identified with western movies than Randolph Scott. He made 102 motion pictures - most of them
westerns and was a leading man in almost every one.
Center ranch sprawled
across several hundred acres overlooking
Valley where he raised
cattle. Unlike many actors who lived
here, Scott was active in the town's community life - even when he was involved
in motion picture production.
unable to serve, he provided Marines at Camp
Pendleton with pork and
beef from his ranch. He died in 1967 at
Entertainer Fred Astaire came to Valley Center about 1933 to visit and hunt
with his friend
Colonel M. James at James' historic 120-acre ranch, featuring an
adobe home built in 1879. Astaire later purchased the property, raised two racing
horses, and spent considerable time here when he retired from show business in
1946. He returned to film-making in 1948
and sold the ranch on Valley Center Road.
Since about 1950, it has been known as Valley Stream Ranch (see below).
Fred Astaire’s House in Valley Center
Benji Lived Here
The shaggy haired
canine hero of eight "Benji" movies lived
in Valley Center with his family which included Joe Camp, the writer and
producer of the "Benji" series. Benji made his
screen debut in 1974.
Hacienda of June
stars June Allyson and Dick Powell commissioned famed architect Clifford May to
design their Valley Center hacienda in 1945.
The home is one of two in Valley Center designed by May, creator of the
California Spanish-style ranch house.
Allyson and Powell
appeared in dozens of popular movies in the 1940s and 1950s including
"Reformer and the Redhead" (MGM).
Portions of that film were said to have been filmed at the Valley Center
estate, but were not included in the final film.
The historic home
has been owned since 1999 by Glen W. Bell, Jr., founder of Taco Bell, who also
established Bell Gardens Farm in Valley
A dramatic 70-foot
long living room with cathedral beam ceilings is the focal point of this house,
built about 1940, and frequently referred to as Gary Cooper's "party
house." The western actor's
initials once appeared on the massive fireplace, and western memoriabilita graced the room. A screened verandah surrounds the home whose
other rooms are quite modest.
The property, long
known as "Rock Hill Ranch," sits amidst a 250-acre avocado grove.
in Valley Center
The legendary folk
hero of the old west, Wyatt Earp, photographed about
1926, when he was a regular visitor to the Valley Center home of his niece,
Peggy McNally. She was said to be as
colorful a character as was her uncle.
In 1920, she built
a large adobe house on a 310-acre site.
The home still stands on McNally Road, part of the Stehly
Ranch. McNally once was a popular route
of the Butterfield Stage Line.
Earp died in 1929;
McNally died in 1968.
Wyatt Earp during a visit
to Valley Center
local rancher and
international film star
From 1957 until
his death in 2000, Steve Reeves lived and raised horses in Valley Center. He was pleased that citizens showed an
interest in his career, but never intruded on his privacy. During 1959-61, he was the Number 1 box
office star in America, ahead of Doris Day and John Wayne.
Wayne's Favorite Riding Trail
An old stagecoach
route through Valley Center - McNally Road, between Cole Grade and Lilac Road -
was said to be the favorite riding trail of John Wayne. A newspaper item for the 1930s noted: "John Wayne and Loretta Young went
riding Sunday last on McNally."
rode the trails
of Valley Center
Actor Ramon Novarro, the original "Ben-Her," was a major MGM
From 1916 to 1960,
he appeared in dozens of movies, two of which were filmed in Valley Center at
the 15-acre adobe Mission-style estate he built on Lilac Road in 1945.
The house remained
unoccupied for more than three decades following his death, but was sold and
restored in 2003.
Comes to Valley Center
A number of
motion pictures and television shows have a Valley Center connection. Here are a few examples . . .
World" is set in Valley Center and was filmed on location at several
"Quo Vadis" was produced by legendary MGM mogul Sam Zimbalist while he lived on "Fruitvale Road.” "King Solomon's Mines" is another
of his films. "Invisible Man"
was filmed at a 300-acre lot on Lake Wohlford Road.
Glory" takes place in France in 1944, but was filmed at the Melrose Ranch
on Guejito Road, currently owned by Arie de Jong.
from Mars" was filmed at a number of local sites.
at the Valley Center Museum was inspired by the wildfires of 2003 that engulfed
many homes in Valley Center, including that of a cowboy and motion picture
actor whoseclosest lifelong friend was the cowboy
humorist, Will Rogers.
Williams, Jr., was his real name, but Rogers dubbed him "Big Boy" in
1919 on the set of their first silent film together. Until the deadly fires of 2003, the presence
of Big Boy inValley Center was not commonly known.
He was one
Williams was on the rodeo circuit and a Hollywood stuntman before making his
movie debut in 1919. Over the next 40
years, he starred in 208 films, most of them low-budget westerns. When TV arrived, he appeared in "Gunsmoke" and"Wagon
Train." Critics called him a fine
actor, but in an era that produced many cowboy stars, Big Boy never became
successful financially. While at the
height of his movie career, Big Boy moved to Valley Center, built a home, and
acquired an impressive ranch where he raised Polo ponies.
He died in
1962 after appearing in "The Alamo" with John Wayne. His Valley Center home was lost in the
wildfires of 2003.
lived nearby on Pauma Valley Road in a rambling adobe
house. When not making a film, it was
his primary residence. In 1962, the home
was converted to the clubhouse of a new country club. Four years later, it was demolished.
“Big Boy” Williams
Visit Valley Center
two Governors of California have visited Valley Center. The first was Pio Pico who attended a local rodeo in 1845 as Governor of
the Mexican state of Alta California. He
was the last Mexican Governor before the American takeover of 1846. In 1971, Governor Ronald Reagan and wife
Nancy celebrated his 60th birthday at a party at the 28 acre estate home of
their friends, Robert and Elizabeth Helms Adams at 32430 Cole Grade Road. Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Adams had been college
roommates, and Mr. Adams was a member of the Governor's "Kitchen
A note from
Bob Lerner, Historian with the Valley
As best as I can determine, none of the
celebrities moved here because some other movie star was already here. Each appears to have been an independent
move. And, only John Wayne and Randolph
Scott appear to have socialized.
A couple of other tidbits ... actress Myrna Loy spent her honeymoon at the
Salomon home on Lilac Road (she and Ambassador Irving Salomon were both active
in the UN) ... and actor Jack Haley, the tin man in "The Wizard of
Oz," was often thought to be a resident of VC (he was in town so often
during the 1940s and 50s), but he actually was just a very frequent house guest
of the Salomons, AND he owned a cattle ranch in
nearby San Pasqual.
Actor George Segal owns several hundreds acres along Cole Grade Road and
is said by the caretakers to be a frequent visitor with his family -- picking
Cooper outside his Valley Center Ranch.
Scott tending his Herefords on his Valley Center Ranch