Architecture in the movies, Part 5 – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House

Ennis House for sale by Christie's

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, has probably appeared in more Hollywood films than any other notable modern house and has also been heavily used for ad and fashion shoots, music videos and television. The house is currently for sale at US$15 million, hence these new photos by Tim Street-Porter for Christie’s Great Estates. The building is strange enough on its own – Mayan temple meets Arts & Crafts meets deco meets baronial – without the additional fact that it posed as Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner. Living in this house would be  – well, you’d be an actor in someone else’s movie. The exteriors of Wright’s houses are unarguably impressive, but the style of the interiors, which Wright designed and decorated himself, seem stylistically confused and – despite all the natural light – weirdly ornate and heavy. Unless one has been inside a house one isn’t really supposed to comment, and of course architectural photographs, no matter how good, never give a true impression of a place. But the historical styles and references of Wright’s interiors are plainly evident from photographs, and by any standards they’re a very odd mix. The Ennis House interior suggests the palatial, the hobbity, the occult and the medieval all at once; it’s a bizarre hybrid of Arts & Craft leaded glass, concrete tiles molded in a deliberately pre-columbian style (“textile blocks”), persian carpets, Alhambra-ish wrought iron chandeliers and chairs, and heavy furniture in both early Renaissance and English medieval styles. Personally I would have just limited myself to Mayan temple. I sympathize with Wright’s interest in craft, artisanal excellence, and the kind of painstaking hand-production that references the land and environment, but these virtues can belong to any number of aesthetic styles. Why this medley of styles in particular, why this Lord of the Rings grandeur  – in the middle of LA? It’s sort of a megalomaniac architectural fantasy and it’s no wonder so many Hollywood films have been shot at the house, particularly films on the noirish end of the moral continuum. Even Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been shot here, further belying Wright’s quasi-spiritual intentions for the house.  See below for a long but not exhaustive list of movies filmed in the house, compiled by a moderator on pushpullbar as part of an interesting thread on architecture in the movies. It’s a fairly sombre list.

Ennis House for sale by Christie's

Ennis House for sale by Christie's

Ennis House for sale by Christie's

Ennis House, Blade Runner, Deckard's Apartment

Ennis House, Blade Runner, Deckard's Apartment
Both photos above from Blade Runner, 1982, via loftlifemag.

Ennis House in the film Black Rain
Black Rain, 1989

Ennis House - Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon, 1991.

Ennis House - House on Haunted Hill, 1958
House on Haunted Hill, 1958.

Ennis House - Ricky Martin video
Ricky Martin 1998 video Vuelve, above. And oh dear.

More films shot in the house (additional photos to be added… please check back):

Female, aka The Violent Years (1956)
House on Haunted Hill (1958)
Terminal Man (1974)
Day of the Locust (1974)
Blade Runner (1982)
The Howling II . . . Your Sister is a Werewolf (1984)
The Annihilator (1986)
TimeStalker (1987)
Remo Williams (1987)
Karate Kid III (1989)
Black Rain (1989)
Twin Peaks (1989)
Calvin Klein’s Obsession, commercial by David Lynch (1990)
Predator 2 (1990)
Grand Canyon (1991)
An Inconvenient Woman (2 part TVM 1991)
The Rocketeer (1991)
Fallen Angels (1993)
Murder, Obliquely (1993)
The Glimmer Man (1996)
House of Frankenstein (1997)
Rush Hour (1998)
The Replacement Killers (1998)
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)

7 comments on "Architecture in the movies, Part 5 – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House"

  1. I didn’t realise that segments of Bladerunner were filmed here. I shall have to dig out my copy and take a closer look.

    I have always been puzzled by this building. The individual blocks are interesting and do have obvious reference points to Central America, but it all seems to be put together so sluggishly and with little or no finesse. It reminds me very much of a 1960s/1970s self-build using patio blocks. Is that perhaps being a little unkind to the memory of FLW? I do love your stained glass though Mr Wright!

  2. John, Actually, only a little bit of Blade Runner was filmed inside the house. The Mayan concrete blocks and other elements of the architecture were recreated in the movie studio as Deckard’s apartment, so it’s mostly a fake Ennis House.
    Eva, you’re right, I do see some similarity. Same temple/mausoleum/museum feel.

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