Greed, Graft & Greystone

Have you ever wanted to go inside one of the Vegas casino-sized mansions that are sprinkled around Beverly Hills?

There is one mansion that us commoners can explore called Greystone which the city of Beverly Hills has maintained as a park for the past 40 years. The massive 55,000 square foot behemoth sits on sixteen acres of prime real estate north of Sunset Boulevard.

While the mansion is often used as a setting for films, photo shoots, videos, and television shows, it could star in its own Hollywood blockbuster, based on the dark history of scandal, suicide, and murder which took place within its walls.

Greystone was originally the home of Ned Doheny, the only son of the massively wealthy L.A. oilman Edward L. Doheny. If you want to imagine the character of the senior Mr. Doheny, think of Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in There Will Be Blood, which was loosely based on him (the bowling alley scene at the film’s conclusion was actually shot at Greystone).

Doheny got rich by drilling wells in what is now downtown Los Angeles. He also had huge leases in Mexico that were protected by his own personal army of 6000 men. Between the years of 1910 – 1925 he earned an average of $10 million per year and used three-million of those dollars to build Greystone, which he gave to his son Ned as a wedding present in September, 1928.

In the 1920s, greed got the better of Doheny, as he was implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal, which soured the public on the administration of President Warren G. Harding.

In case you don’t remember the specifics from your high school U.S. History classes, the scandal went down like this: the Navy had oil leases in an area of Wyoming called Teapot Dome, as well as in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall, a close friend of Doheny, talked the Navy into transferring the leases to his department, which he then turned over to Doheny and another oil man for kickbacks totaling over $400,000. Doheny had his son Ned and Ned’s secretary Hugh Plunkett deliver the bribe to Secretary Fall.

When the scandal eventually broke, it was rumored that the Dohenys tried to get Plunkett, who was said to be displaying signs of mental illness, to agree to be institutionalized in a sanitarium to be kept free from testifying.

On this date in 1929, only six months after Ned Doheny and his family had moved into Greystone, Plunkett appeared at the mansion with a gun and shot the 36-year-old Doheny to death before turning the gun on himself.

At least that’s the official story. After the murder-suicide, the papers hinted at other scenarios, including the possibility that Plunkett was in fact Doheny’s lover, and that Ned’s wife had shot them both. Another rumor suggested that the murder-suicide was carried out by Doheny. This story was given credence when the two men were buried within a few feet from each other at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, and not in the consecrated ground of the Catholic cemetery where Doheny’s parents were eventually interred, as this cemetery would have been off-limits to someone who had committed suicide.

Doheny’s widow continued living in the mansion until 1955, when she sold it to the owner of the Empire State Building. It eventually became a city park in 1971.

Some of the movies filmed at Greystone include The Social Network, Spiderman, The Prestige, Ghostbusters, All Of Me, The Big Lebowski, X-Men, Batman and Robin, The Loved One, as well as the aforementioned There Will Be Blood.

Greystone today.


About deadwrite

Freelance writer, film historian, taphophile View all posts by deadwrite

One response to “Greed, Graft & Greystone

  • Kim Stephens

    Wow! There certainly WAS blood! Unbelievable story, once I started reading I couldn’t stop! I love the way you teach these little-known facts through your articles. Wish my high school history teacher had told a story as well as you do!

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