Colleen Moore's Doll House

The Colleen Moore Doll House 3d Dimension Magic Theatre

By Tom Martin

Although Waldsmith's book lists the "Colleen Moore Doll House" film as a Tru-Vue commercial film, when I picked up my first copy of the film it just did not seem like a Tru-Vue product to me. There was no title frame at the beginning, the image captions were hand written (and only on the right view), there is no production date at the end, and the Tru-Vue name is no where on the film. There is a company name on the information frame a the end of the film (Diamond Dee Studios, Bedford Bldg., Chicago) which I felt must be the true creator of the film.

Well, I finally got the proof that I needed when a Colleen Moore collector put a Colleen Moore Doll House 3d Dimension Magic Theatre viewer and film up for sale on eBay. I purchased the set and have put images of the viewer and film here, so that collectors can see what the Magic Theatre really is.

The viewer (called the "Magic Theatre") is a small cardboard box that fits inside a cardboard sleeve. The sleeve has graphics on all four sides advertising the doll house and the Diamond D Studio (on the viewer the company is called Diamond D, not Diamond Dee as it is on the film). There are no instructions on the box or sleeve on how to use the viewer.

Although my sample is missing it lenses, you can see the marks on the inside of the box where they were attached. The large holes above the lenses do not seem to have any real purpose, so I am guessing that they were put there to aid in assembling the viewer.

Since there are no instructions on the exterior of the box and sleeve, I am guessing that the film and an instruction sheet were originally stored inside of the box. The interior packing materials would most likely be thrown away after just a few uses.

When I received the viewer, the box was in the sleeve so that when fully closed the lens and diffuser openings were not aligned. Turning the box over would correct this, but then why were they shifted to the right in the first place? My guess is that since there is no film advance (you advance the film by pulling it through the viewer) that having the two parts offset covers the end of the film and only allows the film to be pulled from left to right. When you reach the end frame, you slide the sleeve back over the box exposing the end of the film, so that you can pull it back and rewind the film.

Seeing how thin the cardboard is, it is no surprise that it is much easier to find the film today than the cardboard viewer. The film (which has a copyright date of 1937) is 16 frames long, including the information view.One nice touch is that there is a 3D image of Colleen right before the information view at the end of the film.

The doll house, which had been a life long passion for Colleen, was enormous and cost nearly $500,000 to build. Each of the rooms were modular, and fit into drawers of a specially designed shipping crate. When the doll house was finished in 1935, it was sent to major cities throughout the US and put on display as a fund raiser for children's charities. When the tour ended in 1939, the doll house had raised over $650,000 for these charities. In 1949 the doll house was moved to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, renamed the "Fairy Castle", and put on permanent display.

If you have any additional information on the viewer or film, or notice any major omissions in this article, please let me know.

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This page last updated 29 June, 2010
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