The true story of an American ‘Downton Abbey’? Well … yes!
The Heiress and Her Chateau: Carolands of California is a 98-year saga of a 98-room mansion, a three-dimensional window into life among America’s elite. Chateau Carolands was built by one of the richest women in the world to be her ultimate dream home, but nothing went as planned. Once the most fabulous house west of the Mississippi, now a foundation, the story of the rise and fall and rise of Chateau Carolands s is a dramatic tale of wealth and ruin, love and loss, art and architecture – with a murder, a porno film, and a couple of earthquakes along the way. It all ends happily, with a multi-million dollar restoration of the Chateau, more grand and glorious now than it ever had been. See how this unique historic architectural masterpiece has come to be preserved for decades to come.
A Luna Productions documentary
Producers/Directors: Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg
Cinematographer: Tim Metzger
Editor/Writer: Gary Weimberg
Original Music: Todd Boekelheide
Length: 56 minutes
Underwritten by: Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, Fiduciary Trust, Wells Fargo Bank. ISU Insurance Services.
The history of the Chateau is like a real-life fairy tale with a twist, with the chateau in the role of an enchanted magic mirror, so grand and expensive that it encourages a dangerous hubris in those who fall under its spell. The drama unfolds through generations of owners of Carolands as they fall into failure and near-ruin, starting with one of the richest women in the world, Harriett Pullman Carolan heiress to the Pullman Railway Car fortune, who first built the house in the 1910′s. Lucklily, there is a happy ending: the complete restoration of the Chateau by Ann and Charles Johnson that is an artistic triumph, and the film concludes with the transformation of the Chateau from private family home to charitable foundation, at long last able to be preserved into the future in all it’s grandeur and elegance. Along the way, the documentary provides an insider’s look at the struggles and desires of the ultra-rich in America, where even the Heiress’s nearly limitless money could not guarantee that her dream would come true, yet inspired others nearly a century later, to complete the fantasy and create the architectural triumph that is Chateau Carolands today.
World premiere television broadcast was Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 7 pm on KQED 9