I’m still looking to find more about Donna’s time in the Spring of 1924. I know she was in Bridgeport, CT in early February but have nothing on her whereabouts until she appears in Billings, Montana, at the Babcock Theater on May 17th and 18th. There is a lot of time and there are many places between the two shows. More to research.
I know very little (yet) about Donna’s “Novel Song and Dance Romance.” We do know that the Babcock Theater advertised it as a headline act within its vaudeville offering for the day Featuring “Donna Darling” in their “Five Big Acts” for the day. [i]
The Billings Gazette of May 18th shows a photo of “Donna and the Boys” on Page 16. [ii]
Unfortunately, all the copies I could find of the paper, both Newspapers.Com and Newspaper Archive.Com, have really poor quality images of the paper. If anyone has access to the original papers and would do a photo image of the paper I’d really love it. In the meantime, I’ll put trying to find a copy of it on my “want to do list.”
I also know on June 2nd she is in Oakland, California. Although it is only two weeks later, I doubt she went that distance without a few shows along the way. So much more to research.
In 1896, A. L. Babcock opened the Billings Opera House. Mr. Babcock operated that theater until September 22, 1906 when the building burned. Mr. Babcock built a new theater, the Babcock, a few blocks away and opened it just over a year later, on December 23, 1907.[iii]
At the time it was built, at the time was considered the largest theater between Minneapolis and Seattle.
The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide, 1922 Supplement, reports that the Babcock Theatre seated 1200 people and the stage was 36×32 feet.
On February 21, 1935, the Babcock Theatre was rented out for a prize fight. It was a real “smoker.” The fire chief ask there be no smoking in the theatre, however, the patrons didn’t listen and a fire broke out under the boxing ring. The theatre entrance lobby and 13 rows of seating under the balcony were all that survived. The roof collapsed during the night, the proscenium
arch failed, the stage was ruined and the amazing pipe organ demolished. The owner at the time considered rebuilding as entirely apartments or hotel, but decided to rebuild as a theatre. Within six months it was rebuilt. The reopening was a huge affair with the street being closed to handle the crowds, bands playing, and telegrams from Hollywood celebrities including Katherine Hepburn, W.C. Fields, Mae West, and Bette Davis [iv].
Today, after extensive renovations from 2008 through 2012, it houses 14 apartment units, retail shopping, and again operates a theatre for live performances.[v] The next live show scheduled at the Babcock is D. L. Hughley[vi], stand-up comedian, the original host of “Comic View”, and the eponymous character of The Hughleys.
Ninety years after Donna Darling and Company performed, comedy is still alive at the Babcock.
Find a better quality image of The Billings
Gazette, 18 May 1924, Page 16.
Note: This post was reformatted on 27 April 2018.
[i] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 17 May 1924, Sat • Page 3 – Advertisement: Babcock Theatre – “Donna Darling and Company “ Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[ii] The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) 18 May 1924, Sun • Page 16 – Feature Vaudeville_Act. Source: Newspapers.Com, et al.
[iii] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 13: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[iv] United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form – Babcock Theatre Building – Page 22: http://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/13000153.pdf
[v] Wikipedia: Billings, Montana; the historic Babcock Theater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billings,_Montana
[vi] Babcock Theater website – http://www.babcocktheater.com/