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The Brown Derby Restaurants

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Original Brown Derby

The original Brown Derby restaurant opened in 1926 by Herbert Somborn (a former husband of actress, Gloria Swanson). The building, located at 3427 Wilshire Blvd., was in the shape of a derby hat.  The fod was good and it was received very well by the residents of Los Angeles.   It served a few simple dishes meticulously prepared from the finest ingredients. The service was swift and flawless. The restaurant stayed open 24 hours a day, which was unusual in Los Angeles and it was a huge success. In the beginning, most of the Derby’s customers were men – actors, writers, artist, etc. It was a clubroom for the old Hollywood circle headed by Wilson Mizner, writer Gene Fowler, and the Barrymore brothers, John and Lionel. Other patrons included C.B. DeMille. Will Rogers, Mary Pickford, Mae Murray, and John Gilbert. In 1937, the building was relocated to 3377 Wilshire Blvd., across from the Ambassador Hotel.

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Hollywood Brown Derby

With the success of the Brown Derby Restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. Herbert Somborn decided to open another restaurant in Hollywood. The building selected was a spanish mission style structure located at 1628 N. Vine Street, in the heart of Hollywood. Shortly after the restaurant opened, on Valentines Day, 1929, Herbert Somborn passed away.  His protégé, Robert (Bob) Cobb acquired the restaurant chain. Due to its proximity to the motion picture studios and radio stations, the Hollywood Brown Derby became an immediate success.  Not only was it popular during the lunch time but it was packed most of the dinner time.  Celebrities such as Clark Gable (who supposedly proposed to Carol Lombard), Randolph Scott, Ronald Reagan, Cesar Romero, and Betty Grable were regular patron of the Hollywood Brown Derby. It was here that Robert Cobb created the famous “Cobb Salad.” Also, it was here that Cobb installed telephone as some of the tables so his patrons could stay in touch with the studios or offices.

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Beverly Hills Brown Derby

 The third Brown Derby was built in 1931 at 9537 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.  It closely resembled the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant in that it had the same type of booths and there were hundreds of caricatures, of celebrities on the walls. It was closed in the 1980 and was demolished in 1983. 

 

 

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Los Feliz Brown Derby

Ten years after the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant open its doors, Robert Cobb decided to open a restaurant in the Los Feliz area of Hollywood. Film mogal, Cecil B. DeMille,a part owner of the Wilshire Blvd. restaurant, bought a building at 4500 Los Feliz Blvd. , a former chicken restaurant named Willard's, and converted it into a Brown Derby in 1940. It uniquely combined a formal restaurant with a dramatic domed ceiling with a more casual drive-in outside.  In 1960 the restaurant was purchased by Michael St.Angel and renamed it Michaels.

Visit hollywoodphotographs.com to see the best Brown Derby photos.

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