Born Kathleen Morrison in Port Huron, Michigan on 19 August 1899, American film actress Colleen Moore, a huge star in her days, became one of the most fashionable and highly-paid stars of the silent film era. However, she also successfully made the transition into the talkie era of sound films, before retiring from screen acting.
Unfortunately, approximately half of her films are now considered lost, which includes Flaming Youth (1923), considered perhaps her most celebrated film, with only one reel surviving.
Colleen Moore was immensely fascinated by dolls and dollhouses since her childhood and even owned several elaborate dollhouses. Her parents built her first dollhouse out of cigar boxes when she was only two. Even later in life, while on vacation with her parents in Hawaii in 1928, she was inspired by her father to pursue her passion for miniatures and dollhouses by creating the largest doll house of her dreams, containing an expansive collection of miniature furniture.
Built at a cost of $470,000, between 1928 and 1935, with the help of over 700 artists and craftsmen, Colleen Moore’s Doll House, which later became famous as Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle and housed in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, was her eighth dollhouse.
To create the fairy castle of her dream, she engaged Horace Jackson, an architect, who worked as the set designer for First National Studios, as the chief engineer and superintendent of the project and also hired art director and interior designer Harold Grieve. Horace Jackson designed the floor plan and layout of the castle with the aim of avoiding all basic sense of reality and in concurrence to everybody’s conception of an enchanted castle, while Grieve designed and created the interiors for Moore's fantasy castle.
Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the nine feet long, nine feet wide and seven feet high at the tallest tower, is virtually a museum in the Museum of Science and Industry, displayed behind glass, with carefully controlled light, temperature and humidity in its environment to ensure its proper preservation.
The nine-square-feet castle, designed to be taken apart, was made of 200 interlocking parts and weighing roughly one ton, although made of light aluminium.
The interiors of the Fairy Castle are carefully created with minute details to make it an ideal place for its inhabitants, created in our imaginary world. From the floor-to-ceiling stained glass to the flickering of the tiniest lights, the castle reflects a magnificent display of artistry and craftsmanship. The rooms in the castle, made of wood, cast in aluminium, polished by a reputed jeweller, were assembled according to the instructions of Horace Jackson, the designer of the project. Each room is a miniature treasure trove, containing numerous items that include from inch-square books signed by the world's greatest authors to statues nearly two thousand years old. Every room looks as if someone had just left it, although the residents of the magical castle are never seen.
In 1935,The Garden City Publishing Company described Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle as the most exquisite toy in the world. With the tour of her enchanted castle, to raise funds for children's charities, Colleen Moore raised $650,000 between 1935 and 1939, in exchange of giving a chance to the visitors, for a brief glimpse of a fantastic world of imagination and make-believe, unblemished by a troubled country dealing with the Great Depression.