Famed Director Lived Final Days in Decrepit Mansion
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Rouben Mamoulian, director of ″Oklahoma 3/8″ on Broadway and the movie ″Silk Stockings,″ lived his final days in a decrepit mansion soiled by as many as 30 cats.
The living conditions of Mamoulian and his 71-year-old wife, Azadia, were revealed Wednesday when reporters were summoned to the mansion by a family friend seeking control of the late director’s estimated $3.5 million estate.
Eidell Heidt of New York accused the Los Angeles County Public Guardian’s office of withholding living expenses from Mamoulian, who died Friday at age 90. She demanded the office relinquish its legal guardianship over Mrs. Mamoulian, whom she described as ailing but alert.
″Regardless of what happens, I’m going to take Azadia to live with me,″ Mrs. Heidt said, promising to defy a legally valid decision by the Public Guardian’s staff to move the widow to a care home and sell the once-opulent mansion to cover the cost.
Deputy County Attorney Greg McCarthy, speaking for the guardian’s office, denied any wrongdoing and suggested Mrs. Heidt and five of Mrs. Mamoulian’s nephews had self-interest in making allegations. Mamoulian did not leave a will.
″I think Mrs. Heidt is interested in administering this estate,″ added McCarthy’s supervisor, Wilcox Stoddard.
The Russian-born Mamoulian, who directed such musical classics ″Porgy and Bess,″ ″Carousel,″ and ″Oklahoma 3/8″ on Broadway, died of natural causes, a spokeswoman at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital said.
His 30-year film career included directing ″Love Me Tonight,″ with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald, ″Blood and Sand″ and ″Mark of Zorro″ with Tyrone Power. His last film, ″Silk Stockings,″ starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, appeared in 1957.
In recent years, the Mamoulians lived in a Beverly Hills mansion filled with show business memorabilia and, by Mrs. Heidt’s estimate, as many as 30 cats.
Reporters who visited the home Wednesday found the odor of cat excrement permeating one high-ceilinged living room, where paint hung in flakes. Chairs, settees and every visible inch of the wall-to-wall carpet were shredded.
The stove was broken and the kitchen fire-damaged. Most of the cats have been sent to the pound, but the remaining three wandered in and out, occasionally jumping on Mrs. Heidt’s lap.
Mrs. Mamoulian was in a bedroom, in the company of a nephew, according to Mrs. Heidt. But neither she nor attorney Ada Sands, who said she represented the nephew in a challenge of the guardianship, would allow reporters to speak to the pair.
A guardian, called a conservator in California, has complete control of financial and personal affairs of an elderly or infirm person found by a court to be unable to make decisions. A yearlong, national study by The Associated Press published this fall found numerous instances of neglect by guardians, and a general lack of oversight of the process by the courts that appoint them.
In Mamoulian’s case, a probate judge first appointed the Public Guardian’s office conservator June 2.
Mrs. Heidt and Ms. Sands accused the office of seizing the couple’s checkbooks and refusing to pay for food, Mamoulian’s 24-hour nursing care and repairs to the house and furnace.
″They should be ashamed of what they did,″ Mrs. Heidt said.
McCarthy said the guardian’s office gave Mrs. Heidt $1,000 on Nov. 25 to meet Mamoulian’s household expenses, only to have her return for more money five days later. He said the estate has only $6,700 in cash, but the guardian’s office has received offers of $3.5 million for the house.
He said the office plans to sell the house and use the money to give Mrs. Mamoulian ″the best care available.″