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The Players Club

The Players Club

When Preston Sturgis wasn't writing and directing some of the wittiest movies ever to emanate from Hollywood, he could usually be found inside the Players Club, both his personal playroom and his Achilles' heel for 13 years.

Sturgis, who like to work and eat late, wanted to go to a place that was open whenever he or his friends were hungry. In 1938, while under contract to Paramount, he bankrolled Snyders, a short-lived restaurant run by Ted Snyder, a music publisher who had taught Sturgis to write lyrics when he was just getting started in New York.

When Snyder’s failed to catch on, Sturgis closed it down and  tried to sell off the kitchen supplies and equipment he now owned. Unable to recoup his losses by more than a few cents on the dollar, he decided to open a restaurant himself.

Sturgis didn't think small. To house the players, name for the new York theatrical club, he found a two-story house on the Sunset strip. If nothing else it was well situated, across from the shuttle Marmont hotel and the Spanish courtyard apartment complex known as the Garden of Allah. Many illustrious East  coast writers hibernated at the hotel during their trips to Hollywood.

Surges promptly set about transforming the structure into a trilevel entertainment complex with a restaurant on each floor. Through is various  costly facelifts, the players club eventually grew to include a barbershop in a  dinner theater where Sturges could stage theatrical productions.

Being there was better than a Fred Astaire movie. After the play ended the room, with the push of a button was magically transformed; the floor level to become a supper club with an orchestra on a revolving stage.

Opened in 1940, the players club was extremely popular part, and continued to be throughout the war years. Regulars included Sturges's cronies in the movie business and the biggest stars in the era such as Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Barbara Stanwyck, Rudy Valley, Joel McRae as well as fellow director William  Wyler, who was a good friend, and novelist and screenwriter William Faulkner. Sturgis himself held court there nightly. Inside the dimly lit rooms, he held cast parties for his movies and courted the women in his life, including his acting discovery, Francis Ramadan, who he cast in one of his movies.

It was there that Sturgis also met his fourth wife, Ann Margaret Nagle. She lived right up the hell. On her way home one night, she notice that the restaurant's electric sign was dangerously emitting sparks and went to warn the owner of the problem. The following year, she married him on the playroom stage.

Howard Hughes frequently dined at the players, sometimes alone, sometimes with the starlet, and sometimes the Sturgis. During their many dinners, they came up with the idea for California pictures Corporation, which turned out to be a disastrous collaboration.

The Players Club photo

At his peak, Sturgis was one of the highest-paid men in America, but he had no feel for business. As zany and impractical as any of his heroes, he always insisted on treating his pals and continually dreamed of new inventions for his restaurant such as tables that swivel out for easy access to the. His plans for a helicopter pad in the parking lot so poorly birds could deliver fresh fish fell through only when neighbors protested.

Sturges had good food and he hired several  French chefs to cook sophisticated bear such as hot cheese appetizers turkey croquettes with supreme sauce. The menu also featured an array of mixed cocktails with amusing names, although Sturgis himself drank bourbon and old fashion’s. One of the players bartenders, Dominic Maggie, went to open Dominic's on Beverly Boulevard, which became another entertainment industry hangout. The players, a bottomless pit for Sturgis's earnings, continually recorded losses. Is creditors put it up for sale in 1953. The location at 8225 Sunset Boulevard later house other Hollywood gathering places including the Friars club, Imperial Gardens and Roxbury.

The hollywoodphotographs.com website has a few, rare photos of the players club on Sunset Boulevard.

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