Monday, April 15, 2013
In Swinging Acapulco, the Star was Merle Oberon
I'm a little confused about today's post. Last week, I featured a photo of Merle Oberon, which had been taken by Slim Aarons in 1966. In Aaron's book, A Wonderful Time, the photographer wrote that Oberon's Acapulco house, La Consentida, was considered to be the most beautiful vacation home in the world. And yet, when I did some sleuthing around the internet, it seems that around this same time, Oberon and her Italian industrialist husband, Bruno Pagliai, also resided in an Acapulco estate called El Ghalal. So, what's the deal?
According to a January 27, 1967 Life magazine article titled "In a Swinging Resort the Star is Merle Oberon" (a title which I borrowed for this blog post), Oberon and her husband built a real showplace of a home in Acapulco called El Ghalal, which is a Mexican-Indian phrase meaning "to love". The article also mentioned that Oberon, a real social butterfly, liked to end her evenings at a disco called Tequila á Go-Go. I think that is beyond fabulous, but it's also a story for another day. The Life article makes no mention of a home called La Consentida.
Fast forward to the 1977 book, Architectural Digest Celebrity Homes, which devotes a chapter to Oberon and Pagliai's home, this time referred to simply as Ghalál. The book refers to the home mostly in the past tense, noting that Oberon once shared the home with her former husband. So, I am assuming that when AD first ran photos of the home, the Oberon-Pagliai marriage was intact, but by the time the compilation book was published, the marriage was no more.
Perhaps La Consentida was the home in which the two lived before building El Ghalal. I can't be sure, but what I do know is that the photos featured here do in fact show El Ghalal. And if some of you are wondering why we should care about a home of an old film star, you just might be interested to know that Merle Oberon and her early life, whose details are murky at best, were the inspiration for Michael Korda's book Queenie, which in turn inspired the mini-series of the same name. (A mini-series, I might add, that is actually pretty good. And Korda, just in case you don't know, is Oberon's nephew.)
According to the AD book, Juan Sordo Madaleno, the home's architect, considered this project to be "the most beautiful house of my career." What was unique about this house was that it was situated so that it received the heat of the afternoon sun, something usually avoided by most when building a home in Acapulco. Oberon wanted the house to have a view of the beautiful Acapulco sunsets, which meant a western-facing direction. The home's outdoor gallery, which ran the length of the house, was designed to be deep so that part of it was always in the shade.
The home was decorated in a British Colonial style, at least according to Ms. Oberon. The actress was a collector of porcelains, some of which can be seen here.
Mr. Pagliai's bedroom, which featured a red lacquered k'ang sofa beneath an Ethiopian painting, looks a little spare.
Ms. Oberon's bedroom, on the other hand, was far more decorated, which was fitting for a movie star. Ms. Oberon's Chinese teak opium bed had a removable center section which allowed for the low table to be used within the bed during the day, while at night, the bed was made up for sleeping. The actress, by the way, designed the rug.
It looks like there was plenty of space for entertaining and sunset viewing.
All photos from Architectural Digest Celebrity Homes, Max Eckert photographer.