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Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story

Streamd now or tune in Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Paul Revere Williams (center) consults with Edgar J. Johnson, Norman O. Houst...

Credit: Courtesy of PBS SoCal

Above: Paul Revere Williams (center) consults with Edgar J. Johnson, Norman O. Houston and George A. Beavers, Jr.

Nicknamed "Architect to the Stars," African American architect Paul R. Williams had a life story that could have been dreamed up by a Hollywood screenwriter. From the early 1920s until his retirement 50 years later, Williams was one of the most successful architects in the country.

His list of residential clients included Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, William Holden, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. And his name is associated with architectural icons like the Beverly Hills Hotel, the original MCA Headquarters Building and LAX Airport.

Paul R. Williams - Architect to the Stars

The unique style of a Paul R. Williams home soon earned him the nickname “architect to the stars.” Among his clientele are such Hollywood greats as Lucille Ball, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. See Frank Sinatra walk through his Paul Williams-designed home. Aired: 02/06/20

But at the height of his career Paul Williams wasn't always welcome in the restaurants and hotels he designed or the neighborhoods where he built homes, because of his race.

“Hollywood's Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story” will explain how he used talent, determination and even charm to defy the odds and create a body of work that can be found from coast to coast.

Hollywood's Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story (Full Film)

Nicknamed “Architect to the Stars,” African American architect Paul R. Williams was one of the most successful architects of his time. But at the height of his career he wasn’t always welcome in the buildings he designed because of his race. Hollywood’s Architect will tell the story of how he used talent, determination and even charm to defy the odds and create a celebrated body of work. Aired: 02/06/20

The film is narrated by Tony and Emmy® award-winning actor Courtney B. Vance. Interviewees include grandchildren of Paul R. Williams Karen Hudson and Paul Hudson, family friend Quincy Jones as well as Paul R. Williams homeowners Robert Iger, Pauletta Washington, Steve Tisch and more.

Paul R. Williams Blazes a Trail for Black Architects

When he expressed a desire to pursue architecture, Paul R. Williams encountered the “blank wall of discouragement.” Despite the lack of support, he achieved his dream of becoming an architect by exploring all the avenues he could. Dr. Wesley Henderson, architectural historian; Karen Hudson and Paul Hudson, Williams’ grandchildren, explain the keen strength and prowess of Paul R. Williams. Aired: 02/06/20

Notable interviews from the architectural world include Smithsonian Institution’s Dr. Lonnie Bunch, LA Conservancy’s Linda Dishman, the City of Los Angeles’s Chief Design Officer Christopher Hawthorne and architectural historian Dr. Wesley Henderson.

The World of Luxury Building in Early L.A.

One of Paul R. Williams’ first big breaks was the development of a new suburb by former Senator Frank Flint called Flintridge. This led to another high profile project for horsebreeder Jack P. Atkin. The home would be used in many movies and shows including “Topper” with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett and “The Bells of St. Mary's.” It was a luxurious home built during the time of Depression. Aired: 02/06/20

Photo credit: Courtesy of HomeAdvisor

Known as the “architect to the stars,” Los Angeles-born Paul R. Williams is a Southern California legend who designed over 2,000 homes in his more than 50-year career. To celebrate Williams’ prolific career, HomeAdvisor illustrated 43 of his most notable California homes and mapped his homes across California, so architecture buffs can plan a road trip to see them in person:

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© 2019 PBS SoCal and RKR Media, LLC. Produced / Directed by Royal Kennedy Rodgers and Kathy McCampbell Vance.

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