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Mooramong – Private Hollywood

Running time: 63 minutes

When Claire Adams, Hollywood star of the silent screen, married Victorian farmer, Donald (Scobie) Mackinnon in 1937 they made headlines in Australia and abroad. They set up their home at a property called Mooramong at Skipton near Ballarat and they transformed it from a staid country homestead into an opulent Hollywood oasis.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance with a courtship of just three weeks in London before they married. Claire Adams would see Hollywood no more. They honeymooned for a year through Europe, the US and UK before returning to country Victoria.

The media of the day documented the couple’s incredible lifestyle at the western district property. Press pictures captured their social events and many famous visitors… it was a private Hollywood in the bush!

Between 1919 and 1927 Claire Adams appeared in 46 silent movies including five Zane Grey westerns with renowned actors such as Lon Chaney, Milton Sills and Wallace Beery. Her best-known film is MGM’s top grossing film of 1925, The Big Parade.

But while Claire is preserved on Hollywood celluloid, their lifestyle and love affair have also been captured on film that never made it to the big screen. Claire spent decades filming life at Mooramong on a small 16mm film camera. After Claire’s death, only snippets of these films had been transferred to tape and viewed. There remained more than 150 unopened film cans, waiting to tell the whole story of their life together… until now.

With a backdrop of famous local and international visitors, glitzy soirées and the unrelenting life on the land, and while World War II raged in Europe, Scobie and Claire fought bushfires and drought. From early days the Mackinnons were recognised for their generosity and fundraising efforts for the needy. Claire was desperate to fit in with the Western District squattocracy. Some loved her while others judged her harshly.

The Mackinnons died in the 1970s… their ashes are buried together at Mooramong, beside their famous swimming pool and in view of the main house.

The Mackinnons had no children and bequeathed Mooramong to the National Trust on the understanding that it continue as a working property.

Their remaining combined wealth was enshrined in the Scobie and Claire Mackinnon Trust with an initial amount of $1.5 million. In 2008 that Trust had a corpus of $13 million that continues to be a significant philanthropic funding body for a vast array of charitable causes. Just like Hollywood, their legacy offers an eerie sense of immortality.

The 63 minute documentary is narrated by acclaimed actress Rachel Ward and was funded by a generous donation from the Claire and Scobie Mackinnon Trust to the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).



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