As your eyes scan over the glistening crystal chandeliers, colourful hand painted frescos and lashings of ornate gilding, you are not hard pressed to picture the scene full of Hollywood greats.
This is where Clark Gable and Bette Davis graciously accepted the much coveted golden Oscar figurines. Indeed if legend is to believed, it was at a luncheon banquet held in the Millennium Biltmore’s Crystal Ballroom in May 1927 that MGM art director Cedric Gibbons sketched the original design for the Oscar statue on one of their linen napkins. It was only a natural progression it seems for the Millennium Biltmore to be the home of a total of 8 Oscar’s ceremonies between 1932 and 1942, and of course the location for this week’s fashion story, in which we pay homage to this weekend’s awards proceedings. Without doubt these polished marble floors, winding ruby red staircases and towering ceilings were designed with scampering starlets and swirling chiffon gowns in mind.
Set in the heart of downtown LA, the Millennium Biltmore has been intertwined in Hollywood’s heritage from its original opening in 1923, when it was hailed as the ‘Host of the Coast’. From Hollywood’s founding years all the way through to modern day, the Millennium Biltmore’s iconic grandeur can be recognised in a gargantuan number of blockbuster movies, well-loved TV series and music videos. The Ghostbusters gang saved the world in the lobby, Don Draper has prowled the Galleria, Ed Sheeran did his best Strictly impression in the Ballroom for his ‘Thinking Out Loud’ video. It goes without saying the Biltmore’s bright lights have not dimmed in anyway as it fast approaches its 100 year anniversary, indeed it’s never far from the heart of the action. Such a treasure it is, the hotel itself was designated a Historic Cultural Landmark by the City of Los Angeles in 1969, deservedly joining the embodiments of tinsel town, the Hollywood sign and The Walk of Fame. The chance to be able to stay in such a quintessential part of classic Hollywood is enough to make this starry eyed fan girl giggle with glee (which now you come to mention it has also been filmed here, but then what hasn’t!).
I could have easily spent countless afternoons revelling in the hotel’s history (be sure to examine the vintage photographs on display and see how many icons you can recognise) and the intricacies of its elaborate décor but when it comes to retiring to ones boudoir, it goes without saying the recently finished renovation of the 683 guest rooms is a welcome clemency. The modern rooms are a contrast to the grandiose of the communal areas, the inviting neutral palettes of warm greys have a modern elegance, whilst being respectful to compliment the renaissance finishes. And of course all the mod cons a contemporary starlet-in-waiting like myself could possibly need. Each room features a still from a movie or TV show filmed on the premises, heaven forbid you forget its onscreen pedigree, a great personal touch and adds to bragging rights. The renovations have been confined to the rooms, mindfully leaving the original indoor pool untouched, you will recognise it from that pool scene with Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Philippe in cult classic Cruel Intentions, well worth a visit (and Instagram post).
A personal recommendation would be to pay a visit to Gallery bar for a truly legendary martini, in your ball gown if at all possible (always a fashionista with a flair for the dramatic at heart!). Or a traditional afternoon tea in the not so traditional but equally striking Rendezvous Court on the weekend. Reminiscent of a Moorish cathedral with its carved stone walls and vaulted ceiling, complete with exotic greenery it is a wonder in its own right. It’s worth noting that if the staff can accommodate Hollywood’s biggest stars (and of course egos) on set, your every want and desire are effortlessly met by the attentive team.
Given all the Millennium Biltmore has to offer it’s easy to forget you are in the heart of the bustling downtown Los Angeles. The hotel overlooks Pershing Square, whose modernist fountain and industrialist bell tower swiftly bring you back to present day, is the setting for many outdoor concerts during the summer and ice rinks over the festive period. A mere 15 minutes to Hollywood and 20 minutes to Universal Studios, it offers a fantastic base to explore everything modern day LA has to offer before retiring to its golden age within the sumptuous walls of the Millennium Biltmore. If only those walls could talk, the stories they would have to tell…
Deluxe Rooms start from around £158 per night, based on two people sharing and including breakfast in Smeraldi’s. For more details, visit millenniumhotels.com.
Review by Lucy Coghlan