Saturday 20 October 2018

This hilltop mansion above the sea was home to one of Ireland's best-known Hollywood stars

This €2.65m castellated hilltop mansion will allow its buyer to escape the jungle

Saintbury House
Saintbury House
Another reception room
The main drawing room
The view over Killiney
The kitchen
The hallway
The rear of the property
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

Every 1970s Irish childhood had a place for the 1930s Tarzan movies, played endlessly each Saturday morning on terrestrial television.

These starred the pneumatic Olympic gold medallist swimmer-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller as the vine swinger in chief. His romantic lead Jane was played by Killiney girl Maureen O'Sullivan, who is still best remembered today for the 12-movie jungle franchise.

Born in Boyle in 1911, her father, British army major Charles O'Sullivan later moved the family to the upmarket Saintbury House at Saintbury Avenue in Killiney.

In her teens she was noticed by a Hollywood film director at a dinner-dance who asked the waiter to give her a note: "If you are interested in being in a film, come to my office tomorrow at 11am." He cast her in Song O' My Heart (1930), partly filmed in Ireland before completion in Hollywood where she ended up, aged just 18.

Another reception room
Another reception room

Always independently minded, O'Sullivan fell out with Hollywood executives for playing her off against other leading ladies.

Her roles got smaller until she landed the hugely popular Tarzan franchise and she married John Farrow, the director of her last Tarzan. O'Sullivan had by then starred in Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, and David Copperfield and in more recent years as her daughter Mia Farrow's screen mother in Hannah and Her Sisters.

But some co-stars it seemed were not complimentary. In the 2009 Man Booker nominated biography Me Cheeta, (aided by James Lever) her Tarzan co-star Cheeta the chimp (then aged 79), wrote: "She couldn't even act affection for animals; although, to be wholly honest and give the harmless old trout her due, it was probably just me she disliked." The chimp who was trained to operate an overhead fan in Tarzan's treehouse just to keep the actress cool, also admitted attempts to "subtly deconstruct" O'Sullivan on set by "imitating her actions".

The antagonism was apparently mutual. O'Sullivan's actress daughter Mia Farrow said her mother described Cheeta as "that b***ard," adding that he kept biting her on the set. The actress remarried in 1983 and died in Arizona in 1998 at the age of 87.

But back to Saintbury House, an unusual castellated period home on a raised site and perfect for a Hollywood princess-to-be.

Constructed in the 1830s before the railway arrived, it is among the oldest in the enclave and noted for its extraordinary lawn terrace views of the sea. It was placed on the market in 2016 and withdrawn since.

The main drawing room
The main drawing room

Now it has returned for sale with an asking price of €2.65m through Sherry FitzGerald. Saintbury comes with statement entrance hall and an ornate hand-carved period staircase. The drawing room is double aspect with a period marble fireplace and huge bay windows overlooking the sea. Off this is the study with its varnished pine floor, and a loft storage area. Three of the bedrooms are on this floor, the main with a walk-in dressing room and an ensuite bathroom. The music room, where Count John McCormack often played and sang, still holds a piano downstairs. There's a family room with a designer wood burner and three more bedrooms. A permission has just lapsed for an extension. Renewed, it takes this house up from 4,413 sq ft to 7,780 sq ft.

Saintbury House

Saintbury Avenue Killiney, Co Dublin

Asking price: €2.65m

Agent: Sherry FitzGerald (01) 2751000

The view over Killiney
The view over Killiney

Indo Property

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