Donna Montran – Moss’s Broadway Theater, July-August 1920

Donna in New York City at Moss’s Broadway Theater, July 25 through August 29th, 1920

Donna finished her cross-country tour with “Chin Chin” in May of 1920. In early July, the New York Clipper reported that Donna had been engaged for a part in a Louise Huff – Albert Capellani picture.[i] It doesn’t appear that the film was ever made. That year, Louise Huff starred in What Women Want (1920) and The Dangerous Paradise (1920). Albert Capellani produced two films, “The Fortune Teller” (which he also directed) and “In Walked Mary” in 1920. It doesn’t appear that either film involved both of them. Also, I can find no other evidence that Donna was involved with any of the four movies involving those two that year.

It does appear that during the summer she and her husband at that time, Tom Rooney, put together a show that dovetailed with the movie, “Up in Mary’s Attic.” In the early 1920s, it was common for a vaudeville show to accompany a silent film to round out an evening’s entertainment and Donna’s “California Bathing Girls: A Beach Promonade”was such a show.

It was easily the longest running show Donna ever had at one theater — from July 24th until August 29th.

The July 17th, 1920, “Wid’s Daily” (page 2) reported:

Garsson Film at B’way
Bathing girls from “Up in Mary’s Attic” will appear in person at the premier showing of the picture at the Broadway Theater commencing Sunday, July 24th.
The length of the showing has not been decided upon.

The following week (July 25th), The Sun and New York Herald, on page 4, that:

MANY NOVELTIES OFFERED IN MOTION PICTURE THEATRES
“… There will be girls a-plenty at Moss’s Broadway, when the theatre will present “The California Bathing Girls” on both screen and state. In the film the girls will be seen in a Fine Art production, offered by Murray Garson, called “Up in Mary’s Attic.” With Miss Eva Novak. It is a five part farce comedy. The orchestra will play under Enrico Leide.”[ii]

Finally, on the 27th, after opening we see a couple paragraphs about the show. It was a show that, “by no stretch of the imagination could it be conceived that the crowd piled into the Broadway to see the girls in mere black and white in the picture.”[iii]

On August 1st, the “Wid’s Daily” aka “Film Daily” mentions that, “Up in Mary’s Attic” was turning ‘em away at the Broadway theater where it is running along with a bathing girl revue. The latter is doing the pulling however….”[iv]


The August 11th issue of the New York Clipper reported, under “NEW ACTS AND REAPPEARANCES”,[v]

CALIFORNIA BATHING GIRLS
New York Clipper – Aug 11 1920

TheatreBroadway.
StyleRevue.
TimerTwenty minutes.
SettingSpecial.

With a lot of shapely girls in one-piece bathing suits and featuring Donna Montran, this new revue, produced by Tom Rooney and Earl Lindsay, with the assistance of Harry Walker, succeeds in packing them in at the Broadway.

Prominently featured is a scene showing changes in bathing costumes which have occurred from 1860 up to the present day and Walker certainly knew how to pick the girls for the present day costumes, – for the figures displayed are worthy of Max Sennet’s selection.

The revue consisted chiefly of poses and songs, with a few dances for good measure. An Oriental dance was the recipient of applause and the costumes and lighting effects added to the’ attractiveness of the production, in which the girls are above the average.

The music, by Charles George, was tuneful, and the song “India, My Own,” with words and music written by Donna Montran, was sung by the author with good effect. Miss Montran is pretty, possessed of a fine figure and has a smile and personality that count.
 

Others in the cast were Adrian Wally, Lola St. Clair, Marie Thompson, Alice Eldridge, Bobby Tremaine, Helen Travis, Dorothy Smith and Alie Dean.

H. W. M.

On the 26th of August there was an ad for Kassel Studios “Artistic Paintings of Film Stars and Features” in Wid’s Daily that indicated there were seven paintings at the Broadway Theatre of “California Bathing Girls.” This tantalizing ad suggests there may be paintings of the California Bathing Girls. If they still exist, it could be an amazing find.

Broadway Theatre

1445 Broadway New York, NY
(SW corner of Broadway and 41st St.)
Seating: 1680 (744 main floor, 448 balcony, 488 gallery)[vi]
Plus standing room for 500 more.[vii]

Moss’s Broadway Theater – 1918
Photo Courtesy: dallasmovietheaters
CC BY 3.0 via Cinema Treasures

In 1888, James Bailey (of “Barnum and Bailey” fame) rebuilt the Metropolitan Concert Hall as the Broadway Theatre. The theater opened on March 3, 1888. The theater was acquired by B.S. Moss in 1908. It showed films and vaudeville until it was demolished in 1929.[viii]

The theater was elegantly decorated, with a large proscenium arch, six sets of boxes and twin balconies. It featured such touches as antique copper chandeliers, gilded plasterwork around the proscenium, the box and balcony fronts and murals on the ceiling and balcony walls.[ix]

In the late 1920’s, competition from newer and larger movie houses nearby spelled the end for the B.S. Moss Broadway Theatre. It was closed January 2, 1929 and was demolished later that year.[x]

[Note: Do Not confuse the B.S. Moss Broadway Theater at 41st with the Broadway Theater at 53rd. The latter was originally named the Colony Theatre, but was renamed in 1930 the Broadway Theatre.]

The site of the B.S. Moss Broadway Theater is now occupied by the 33-story Bricken-Textile Building, which was built in 1929.[xi]

Further Research

Search for posters of the California Bathing Girls by Kassel Studios.

Endnotes

[i] New York Clipper, 7 July, 1920, page 17 via Old Fulton NY Post Cards, www.fultonhistory.com.
[ii] The Sun and New York Herald, 25 JULY 1920, Page 4.
[iii] The Sun and New York Herald, 27 July 1920, Page 9. “Bathing Girls At Broadway”
[iv] Wid’s Daily, 1 August, 1920, page 13, “Good Chance to Put This Over With a Bathing Girl Revue.” (aka Film Daily, Volume 11314, Page 261).
[v] New York Clipper, 11 Aug 1920, Page 21. Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections, http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/cgi-bin/illinois?a=d&d=NYC19200811.2.203
[vi] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914.
[vii] Internet: Wikipedia – Article: Broadway Theatre (41st Street) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Theatre_(41st_Street)
[viii] Internet: Internet Broadway Database – Broadway Theatre. http://www.ibdb.com/Venue/View/1078#
[ix] Internet: Cinema Treasures, B.S. Moss Broadway Theatre. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/4426
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Internet: Wikipedia – Article: Broadway Theatre (41st Street) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Theatre_(41st_Street)

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One Response to Donna Montran – Moss’s Broadway Theater, July-August 1920

  1. Pingback: Was Donna at the Henderson Theater? | Don Taylor Genealogy

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