A team of Oyster reporters spent weeks exploring 59 top hotels in and around Los Angeles, including Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Santa Monica. We slept in the beds, lounged by the pools, ate in the restaurants, and even sampled the nightlife, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Here are the hotels with the most storied Hollywood histories. For a look at what hotels attract A-listers today, check out our list of celebrity hot spots.
Perched on a hill overlooking Sunset Boulevard, the Chateau has been a bastion of Old Hollywood since it opened in 1929. Greta Garbo once lived at the hotel, F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack here, Led Zeppelin rode motorcycles through the lobby, and John Belushi overdosed in a bungalow. With faded oriental rugs, deep velvet couches, beveled mirrors, and brass candelabras, the atmosphere is decadent, yet discreet. As Harry Cohn, founder of Columbia Pictures, famously told film legends William Holden and Glenn Ford, "If you're going to get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont."
The "pink palace," as this impeccably restored 1912 hotel is known, is as old as Beverly Hills itself. Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Liz Taylor were guests. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the rest of the Rat Pack caroused at its Polo Lounge, still a celebrity haunt. The hotel made its movie debut in 1957's Designing Woman starring Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall. Marilyn Monroe lived in bungalow 20 from 1958 to 1960 while filming Lets Make Love. The hotel became a music icon too when its silhouette stood in as the "Hotel California" on the cover of the Eagles' 1976 album.
For an idea of which stars have been to this L.A. landmark, browse the Hollywood Walk of Fame right outside the door. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks were among the founders. Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo attended the 1927 opening. Shirley Temple took her first tap lesson on the lobby stairway. Marilyn Monroe posed for her first ad on the diving board (long gone, though the pool remains). And the first Academy Awards were given out in the Blossom Room. To top it off, the ghost of Monroe is said to have appeared in a mirror that once hung in her poolside suite (the suite can be rented, but the mirror is no longer displayed).
When the Biltmore opened, in 1923, it was the largest hotel west of Chicago. It quickly became a Southern California institution, hosting eight Academy Awards ceremonies in the '30s and '40s. The Oscars moved, and so did the rest of the downtown action, but the Biltmore remained an icon. In 1969, it was designated a Historic Cultural Landmark by the city, and numerous movies and TV shows have filmed on the premises (including Wedding Crashers, Spider-Man, Oceans Eleven, Mad Men, 24, and The West Wing.)
Built in 1955 by Conrad Hilton himself and owned by TV host Merv Griffin from 1987 to 2003, the Beverly Hilton is a Hollywood icon. MGM movie star Esther Williams presided over the opening of the hotel's pool (the largest heated pool in Beverly Hills). Stars and U.S. presidents have been frequent guests (the black-and-white photos that line the hallways chronicle that history). And the Hilton is the site of nearly 175 red carpet events a year -- including the Golden Globes, which it has hosted since 1961. Fresh off a 2006 renovation, the hotel's midcentury design and decor looks like new.
Once known as "Riot Hyatt," the Andaz boasts a notorious rock and roll history. Its balconies (now gone) were particularly infamous: In 1975 Robert Plant allegedly yelled "I am a golden god!" from his, while both Keith Moon and Keith Richards tossed televisions off of theirs. Jim Morrison was reportedly evicted for hanging from his window.
This Art Deco boutique opened in 1933 just as Prohibition was ending and quickly became a popular coastal hideaway for Hollywood elite and mobsters alike. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard came here to escape gossip. Fatty Arbuckle, the silent film comedian who was tried (and acquitted) for murder, spent summers here. And mobsters Bugsy Siegal and Al Capone frequented the basement speakeasy, which still has the original 1930s booths and dark wood paneling. The underground restaurant, however, is currently only open for private parties. The hotel hopes to reopen it as a lounge.
This Art Deco Sunset Strip landmark has been a celebrity hot spot since the Hollywood golden age. Famous director and womanizer Howard Hughes put his girlfriends up in suites, and John Wayne once lived in the penthouse (and was rumored to have kept a cow on the balcony for fresh milk). The Tower became a star of the silver screen itself when it appeared in the 1944 film noir Murder, My Sweet. Since the 1929 building is landmarked, the exterior still looks like it did decades ago, and interior has been restored to its former Art Deco splendor.
Thanks to its secluded bungalows and head-high hedges that shield it from the street, Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar has long been a coastal retreat for Los Angeles' entertainment-industry heavyweights. Over the past century, the Miramar has hosted stars from Greta Garbo and Clark Gable to Humphrey Bogart and Doris Day. More recently, it has served as a location for TV shows like Numb3rs and Project Runway.
This intimate 43-room hotel is the former Beverly Hills home of silent film legend Lillian Gish. But don't expect to see memorabilia from her 75-year film career. Reworked as a French-meets-Mandarin boutique, Maison 140 is a little like a 1920s Parisian inn mated with a lush Shanghai opium den.