The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

 

Donna Montran

Vaudeville
By Don Taylor

The first newspaper clipping in the collection is one that screams in big print, “DONNA MONTRAN.”

Newspaper ad promoting Donna Montran

Scanned image from the Donna Darling Collection. Originally: From August 20, 1920, edition of “Variety,” New York City, page 40 (back cover) via the Donna Darling Collection.

It then speaks of her as “BROADWAY’S NEWEST FIND – Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.” The advertising also acknowledges her vocal instructor, Louis Howard Croxson, and her dancing master Alexis Kosloff.  The clipping also shows that she is playing at B. S. Moss’ Broadway Theatre.  Knowing that made it easier to find the paper and issue that the item ran in. (Emphasis mine.)

The clipping is a paid advertisement she took out promoting herself. I was able to find it in “Variety” newspaper, dated August 20, 1920, it was a half-page ad on the back cover of the trade newspaper. The ad also includes a collection of quotes about Donna that we will see many more times.

The Quotes:

VARIETY, July 30

“Donna Montran ha an undeniable million dollar smile, oodles of personality and an elastic voice that hits the high registers smoothly and effectively—wood make ideal $4 musical comedy stuff.”

Abel

“MORNING TELEGRAPH”

“Donna Montran is here. Take leading part well in beach promenade.”

“EVE. WORLD”

“Donna Montran was the bathing girl prima donna and had as pleasing a voice as any girl should need.”

“N. Y. CLIPPER”

“The music 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.”

“EVE. MAIL” (July 26)

“There is the pretty, dainty Donna Montran, whose swimming hasn’t destroyed her voice.”

“EVE. SUN”

“Donna Montran. A blo/??
young lady who contributes /??
explanatory singing, manage /???
part well and exhibited some /????
pretty costumes.”[i]

The People

Thomas Rooney

Donna married Thomas Rooney on November 24, 1915, in Waltham, MA. So, it is clear that she and Tom were together for quite a few years. I am a little surprised that the very independent Donna would go for the phrase, “Under Personal Direction of Tom Rooney.”  (I definitely need to do more research about him.)

Lewis Howard Croxson

Louis Howard Croxson was a vocal teacher who had a studio in the Metropolitan Opera House building. Apparently, he was well known in New York stage circles. Among those he had instructed were Miss Tossa Kosta of “The Chocolate Soldier,” Miss Dorothy South of the “Wild Cat,” Miss Patricia Ryan, Carl Hayden, the Australian concert singer, Misses Irene Castle, Josie Colline and Bertha Shalek, his sister in law.[ii]  Through this ad we learn he also instructed vaudeville star, Donna Montran.[iii]

Alexis Kosloff

Photo of Alexis Kosloff 1917.

Alexis Kosloff c. 1917

Alexis Kosloff taught Russian Ballot and was very well known in New York. He danced in the imperial Russian Ballet before coming to America and was a writer, choreographer, and dance instructor. His book, Russian ballet technique, as taught by Alexis Kosloff: Method of practising foundation steps, potpourri of exercises, suite of dances, with descriptions and music, is a classic. He taught Donna how to dance. No wonder reviews of her shows often praised her dance ability. She was trained by the best and she gave him credit in this advertisement.

Conclusion

Clearly, it was important for Donna to promote herself. During a time when women were typically demure, she stood up and promoted herself. Showing herself as being personally managed by Tom Rooney, taught voice by Louis Howard Croxson, and taught Dance by Alexis Kosloff was her way of saying she was the “real deal.” Advertising in “Variety” was a way to gain prestige exposure with theater agents and others who could book her act.


Follow-up / Future Research

Thomas Valentine Rooney, Donna’s 2nd husband.

Endnotes & Sources

[i] The Donna Montran Collection news-clipping is torn and the last words on each line of this quote are missing.  Unfortunately, the Archives.Org image of that paper also is cut off on the right causing the words on the right to be missing.
[ii] The New York herald. (New York, N.Y.), 14 Dec. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045774/1921-12-14/ed-1/seq-11/>
[iii] Variety (New York, N. Y.), 20 Aug. 1920, Page 40 (Back page), Internet Archive: <https://archive.org/details/variety59-1920-08>
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2 Responses to The Donna Darling Collection – Part 2

  1. Melody Pettus says:

    This journey has been absolutely fascinating to follow. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  2. Charles Engvall says:

    May have met your mother Slvia at the nursing home in Buffalo Mn. Wife’s father is there. Quite a feisty and entertaining lady.

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