We know that “Chin Chin” played at the Walker Theatre in Winnipeg on January 19-24, but I still haven’t determined where the show was from the 25th to the 31st. That is a full week still unaccounted for. It is likely that during that week the show played somewhere in the North Dakota or northern Minnesota. In any event, the “Chin Chin” cast arrived in Minneapolis and opened on February 1st for a full week at the Metropolitan Opera House (aka Metropolitan Theatre).
The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune had a wonderful spread about the show in their “On Stage and Screen” section of the paper. There was a cute photo of the Quartet of Dancing Dolls from [the] “Chin Chin” Chorus as well as one of the better pre-show articles that I’ve seen. Donna was not part of this chorus but she is mentioned in the article.
CHARLES DILLINGHAM’S production of “Chin Chin,” a musical extravaganza of enduring popularity because of its delightful melodies, comes to the Metropolitan for the week, opening tonight. “Chin Chin” will be remembered as the last play in which the versatile Fred Stone and the late Dave Montgomery appeared as co-stars, a vehicle in which these comedians enjoyed a phenomenal success on Broadway and later on tour. In it they appeared together in Minneapolis for the last time in 1917.
Easily, the chief asset of “Chin Chin,” considered solely as a dramatic composition, is the excellent music which Ivan Caryell provided for the piece. There is practically no plot to the variegated performance, merely a string of incidents strung together on the thin thread of the idea of Aladdin and his wonderful, taken from old Arabian Nights tale. but the music is something to recall with genuine pleasure long after one has forgotten plot and principals. “Love Moon,” “Good-bye, Girls,” and “Ragtime Temple Bells” are airs which hold an irresistible appeal, which one hums over reminiscently, dances to and probably adds to his collection of favorite phonograph records to perpetuate. “Chin Chin” is blessed with perhaps the best music of any musical comedy which has appeared in many seasons.
Starting in a quaint Oriental toy bazaar, the action passes rapidly to a tea shop where a New Year’s celebration is in progress, on to a palace and winds up in a real circus. The pseudo-plot is built about the properties of a magical lamp which has the power to grant any wish of its possessor. A charming American girl and Aladdin, the young here, are in search of this lamp but encounter difficulties in the person of Abannbar, a wily Chinese villain who finally is ordered off the stage to permit the play to end happily.
Chin Hop Hi and Chin Hop Low, the slaves of the lamp, provide the chief fun of the piece. These will be played by Walter Wills and Roy Binder, two comedians who come well recommended for their drollery and clever dancing.
Other principals with this production are: Ethel Lawrence, Donna Montran,[i] Irene McKay, Carrie Dale, Nora Sieler, Neva Larry, Irene Burka, Victoria Burka, Louise Robinson, Starr Dunham, Joseph Robinson, English Orly, Richard Bosch, Edward Klement and George Phelps. There is also a large chorus of pretty girls.
Replete with the elaborate costuming and scenery that characterize a Dillingham production, “Chin Chin” opened a week’s engagement at the Metropolitan last night. It is the tuneful, rollicking, gloom-dispelling farce of other days when Fred Stone and the late Dave Montgomery utilized it as one of their most successful vehicles. Like many modern musical comedies, “Chin Chin” is unembarrassed by a plot, though this feature in no wise detracts from one’s enjoyment of the performance. It is merely a series of incidents strung together on the thread of the idea of Aladdin and his wonderful lame, the old Arabian Nights lame which as the magical property of granting, through it charming goddess and versatile slaves, the every wish of its possessor. Obviously, with a real villain included, and the magical lamp frequently changing hands, there are complications aplenty.
Walter Wills and Roy Binder are two ambitious, hard-working comedians who do not spare themselves in providing a wide variety of fun. They are clever dancers, sing together in an amusing manner, and Mr. Wills, especially, is a droll mimic of more than ordinary talents. While much of their comedy is patterned on that of Montgomery and Stone, they do not hesitate to introduce amusing innovations of their own conception, a fact which stamps their work with a certain individuality rather than as mere imitation of their predecessors in the roles. Mr. Wills’ facial contortions in singing and an adroitness in assuming ridiculous poses never fails to win appreciate applause. His eccentric dancing with Irene McKay is perhaps his best work.
Donna Montran is a stately “Goddess of the Lamp” who has a pleasing voice, her singing of “Violet” being the best vocal offering of the performance.[ii] Starr Dunham is an acceptable “Aladdin” and the “Abanazar” of Joseph Robinson pictures a real villain. Joseph Boyle and Arch Bennett supply good comedy as “Frisco” and the horse in the circus scene.
Tom Brown’s saxophone sextile won a generous share of last night’s applause and proved one of the best hosts of the present presentation of “Chin Chin.”
This exact same article also appeared in the Daily People’s Press (Owatonna, MN) on February 8th. An accompanying photograph showed the “Girls in ‘Chin Chin.’” The photo and the article mention that the show begins next Monday evening, February 9th. Clearly, a mistaken article in the Press as “Chin Chin” was only scheduled be at the Metropolitan Theatre for the week. I haven’t determined where “Chin Chin” played from February 8th through February 11th, but it played at the Grand Theatre in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on February 12th.
The Metropolitan Theatre
Julius Cahn Theater Guide for 1913-1914 indicates the Metropolitan Theatre had a seating capacity of 1767 — 592 on the main floor, 675 in the balcony, and 500 in the Gallery. The stage opening was large, 40×30 feet.[iii]
History of the Metropolitan Opera House
The Opera House opened on March 24, 1894, as the New People’s Theater. It was located at 320 First Avenue South in Minneapolis. First Avenue is now named Marquette Avenue. In 1898, the theater was renamed the Metropolitan Opera House by new owner Jacob Litt. It operated as legitimate theater until the mid-1920s, when the theater turned to movies exclusively. In 1937, after only 43 years of operation, it was closed and demolished shortly afterward.
The former site of the Metropolitan Opera House is across Marquette Avenue from the Hennepin County Family Court building. The entire block was a large parking lot for many years. Today, the site is under construction and well on its way to being a new Opus Group 30-story multipurpose building, which will include luxury apartments, fine dining, and retail spaces. It is scheduled to open in August 2018 as 365 Nicollet Avenue. There is a fun-to-see time-lapse video of the building being built on the Opus Group website.[iv]
[i] [Emphasis is mine.] [ii] [Emphasis is mine.] [iii] The Julius Cahn Gus Hill Theatrical Guide 1913-1914 – Page 327 – Metropolitan Opera House. [iv] Internet: Opus Group – Work – Residential – 365 Nicollet Luxury Multifamily – Accessed 21 October 2017.
Saturday Night Genealogy Fun
By Don Taylor
In a recent “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun,” Randy Seaver suggested we look at our surname list. My Roberts-Brown tree has 6,084 individuals. I manage the tree using Family Tree Maker 2017. A Surname Report is available under person reports. Two clicks and the report is done is less than a second. The first click was to include all individuals in my file, not just the immediate family. The second click was to sort by surname count. It doesn’t provide a total of the number of unique surnames. But, again a couple clicks do it easily. A click on Share then select export to CSV. The system asks where you want the report, you save it, then the system asks if you would like to open the Exported Report. I did and my computer launched Microsoft Excel. Entries are every other line. The last surname on the list was line 2801. Subtract 3 for the three lines of header and divide 2798 by two and I learned I have 1,399 unique surnames in my tree.
I was surprised by the some of the results.
Raidt is the surname of my son’s maternal grandfather. I have done quite a bit of research on him, but I didn’t realize it was that extensive. For my Raidt research to be number 3 was quite a shock. I should, probably, break this research into a separate project.
Even more shocking was the Krafve surname. Hildur Krafve was my step-grandmother and is the grandmother of two of my siblings. I didn’t think I researched that family much and was surprised that I have done so much research on that line. I have followed that family name through six generations. With all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, there were many names. That it rated high makes sense, but I was still surprised.
I was also surprised by Wolcott. My 5th great-grandmother was Mary Wolcott Parsons. I have tentatively followed her ancestry back seven more generations to my earliest known ancestor, back in the 1500s. But still, I had no idea that I had that many known Wolcotts.
Before I knew who my biological father was, I did a lot of research on the Roberts surname. I was looking for and following potential connections based upon Y-DNA results and other people’s trees. Most of these Roberts entries are not related to me in any meaningful way. That I have over 200 individuals with the Roberts surname didn’t surprise me.
My number one surname was Mannin and that my number 10 surname was Manning didn’t surprise me much. Mary Elizabeth Manning was my great-grandmother and I have done a lot of research in her ancestry. Her husband was Arthur Durrwood Brown. Seeing Brown, and the related surnames if Bryant and Warner, wasn’t much of a surprise either.
Sadly, my number 9 surname, “Unknown,” highlights mistakes in my tree. For a while I used “unknown” when I didn’t know an ancestor’s surname. For married women, whose maiden name don’t know, I’ve begun using their husband’s surname in brackets instead of “LNU” or “unknown.” That gives me a better idea of where they fit in the tree without needing to see all the other details of the individual. That I have 75 individuals for whom I’ve entered their surname as “unknown” suggests that I need to so some cleanup. Certainly, “unknown” could be the appropriate entry on occasion, but rarely is it the best entry. As an example, “Ann Laurie Unknown” doesn’t tell me as much as “Ann Laurie [Fannin].” As long as I remain consistent, I think I’m okay using bracketed names in an unconventional manner.
I enjoy Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night suggestions. They make you think about your family tree in different ways. In this case, looking at the surnames in this exercise reminded me that I need to be consistent in how I handle unknown surnames.
For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at several photos from the Donna Darling Collection. First, Image 0174 is a photo of Donna Darlings Bathing Beauties in a “Beach Promenade.” In most of the advertisement billings, this show was called, “The California Bathing Beauties. The show probably began in July 1920 at Moss’ Broadway at 41st and appears to have played in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Coney Island, Baltimore, Albany, Alexandria (IN), Wilkes-Barre, Reading, New Haven (CT), and Bridgeport (CT).
I have not learned who the other five women are in the photograph, but it is clearly Donna in the top back.
Next, I looked at the Donna Darling Collection Item 194 – a set of seven photographs.
Two of the photos are of Donna holding Russell – one as a baby and one as a toddler with both Donna and Russell in swimming suits. Next are two photos of Russell. In one he is sitting in a walker of some sorts and the other he is standing behind a life ring aboard the SS Virginia out of New York. In 1930 Donna, Sammy, and Russell went to Panama for work. Russell would have been about three, which looks right for this photo. A Wikipedia article[i] indicates that the SS Virginia was built in 1928, was part of the American Line whose route was New York to Havana, to the Panama Canal, then on to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Next is a photo of Sammy Clark Amsterdam standing alongside a car. I don’t know cars well enough to identify what it is. [If anyone that can identify it I’d love to hear from you. – Please, use the comment form below.] The license plate indicates it was in Michigan in 1927.
The final photo is something of a mystery. This is clearly Donna holding a baby, but the baby doesn’t appear to be Russell. I believe the baby is Sylvia and I believe the man is Harvey Knight, Donna’s stepfather. If so, this would be from 1932. [Photo below.]
December (XX) 1924 – The Bathing Beauty Review featuring Donna Darling and Murry Earle played at the Al Ringling Theatre in Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Randy Seaver in his blog, Genea-Musings suggested that we look at where our ancestors were 100 years ago. I thought I’d take a stab at it more from a location perspective. In October 1917, my ancestors were in Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota. Just “I” and “M” states. My paternal side are the “I” states; the Roberts were in Illinois and the Scotts were in Indiana. My maternal side are the “M” states; the Browns were in Minnesota and the Montrans (Barbers) were in Michigan, except for my grandmother, Madonna (Donna) who lived in Massachusetts for a short time.
My paternal grandfather, Bert Allen Roberts, was 14 years old. His father had died in 1908 and he was living with his mother, step-father, brother and two sisters. It isn’t clear if they were living in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana (1910) or in Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois (1920), but I think they were still in Indiana.
Bert’s 71-year-old grandmother, Patience Ann (Marshall) (Dean) Roberts was living in Sesser, Barren Township, Franklin County, Illinois.
Bert’s 34-year-old mother, Clora Dell (Scott) (Roberts) Adams was married to Hosea Adams. It is unclear if they were still in Turman, Sullivan, Indiana, or if they had relocated to Hutsonville, Crawford County, Illinois in 1917.
Clora’s father, Samuel Vaden Scott, had remarried Lavina Allmend after the death of Amanda Jane Haley. The 57-year old was living in Goode Township, Franklin County, Illinois.
My paternal grandmother, Essie Pansy Barnes, was 14 years old. She was living on the farm near Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.
Essie’s father, Joel Clinton Barnes, was 60 years old and living on a farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.
Essie’s mother, Marada A. (Lister) Barnes, was 50 years old and living with Joen on the farm near Graysville, Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.
My maternal grandfather, Clifford D Brown, later known as Richard Earl Durand and even later as Richard Earl Brown, (Grandpa Dick) was also 14 years-old. He lived with his family in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.
Clifford/Richard’s father, Arthur Durwood Brown, was 48-years-old and living in Backus, Cass County, Minnesota.
Clifford/Richard’s mother, Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown, was 39-years-old and living with her husband, Arthur, in Backus.
My maternal grandmother, Madonna Mae Montran, (later known as Donna) was married to Thomas Valentine Rooney (her second marriage). (It does not appear that she ever took his surname.) They were probably living in Wrentham, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, although they may have located to New York City about that time. Madonna’s father died before 1900 and I have been unsuccessful in determining his parents.
Madonna’s (Donna’s) mother, Ida Mae (Barber) (Montran) (Fisher) (Holdsworth) Knight was living with her 4th husband, Harvey Knight in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.
Ida’s mother, Sarah H (Blackhurst) Barber was also living in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. Her husband, Frank Barber, died earlier in 1917.
Thirteen of my direct ancestors were alive in September 1917. That is all four of my grandparents, six of my great-grandparents, and three of my 14 known great-great-grandparents.
Based upon their locations in 1917, I can say my father’s line came from Illinois and Indiana and my mother’s line came from Michigan and Minnesota. I have abirthplace chart that shows where my ancestors were born that tells a somewhat different story. Grandpa Dick was born in North Dakota but was in Minnesota in 1917. Similarly, my great-grandmother, Mary (Manning) Brown, was born in Kentucky but was in Minnesota in 1917.
My life locations provide some of greatest location distances of anyone I know. I was born in Portland, Oregon; I hail from Minnesota, having lived there during most of my youth and over 35 years total. Over the years, I have lived in Oregon, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, California, Virginia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Georgia, and Maine. Now, I live about 3,200 miles away from my birth location of Portland, Oregon, in Portland, Maine.
Handy Genealogy Handbooks – “All You Need to Find Genealogy Resources FAST!”
Police Join in a Search, But Press Agent Yarn Theory Advanced
Although a number of stories including a press agent version were afloat concerning a reported kidnapng Sunday night of Helen Dawn, 16-year-old prize beauty of the “Bathing Beauties,” now playing at a Peoria theater, (see ads) police were trying to locate the girl and arrest her alleged kidnapers Monday.
According to reports made police Miss Dawn with Betty Bryant and Donna Darling, companions in the same troupe, came out of the rear of the theater shortly after 10 o’clock, Miss Dawn and Miss Bryant in the lead. As they turned the alley at Jefferson avenue a short stocky built man leaped from the side of a closed Oakland or Hudson car and seized Miss Dawn by the arm. Despite her screams he dragged her to the side of the car and another man inside helped him get the girl into the car. The man who grabbed her leaped into the car and the driver seated alone in the front seat drove away going out Jefferson avenue.
The screams of the girl attracted a large crowd, some of whom picked up several articles and some money which Miss Dawn dropped when she was seized by the man.
“Oh, they got the one with all the diamonds,” one of Miss Dawn’s companions is reported to have said during the “kidnaping,” according to an interested spectator. All press agents refuse to be interviewed about the incident.
Fitz Hugh, 224 North Jefferson avenue, who with a companion, was in a car nearby, started in pursuit of the “kidnaper’s” car but lost sight of it on Jefferson avenue. Police were scattered in riot cars in all directions and Detectives Boyser and Welty were dispatched out the Galena road in search of the girl.
According to Miss Byrant [sic] and Miss Darling, who were eye witnesses Miss Dawn had no time to struggle with her assailant.
“The man grabbed her and had her inside the car so quickly that neither of us could interfere,” Miss Bryant said. Both girls gave the same account of the “kidnaping” to police who quizzed them Monday.
The girls said the car in which Miss Dawn was taken away in was an Oakland or a Hudson car. They said Miss Dawn had joined the troupe at Los Angeles and that at none of the cities they had visited did Miss Dawn make any acquaintances who might injure her.
Annoyed at Decatur.
“The only place where anything happened was at Decatur, Ill., where Miss Dawn was persistently followed by some man who wanted to marry her,” Miss Darling. said. “This man followed her wherever she went and annoyed her frequently. I did not recognize him as the man responsible for the trouble which we met with in this city.”
Miss Dawn carried valuable jewelry and a quantity of costly diamonds on her person. She had these when seized on the street Sunday night. She was attired in a brown fur coat, black satin turbin [sic] hat, black dress and wore white cuffs.
She is especially attractive (and that’s not from the press agent either) and is a decided brunette. She is 16 years old, five feet three inches in height, and weighs 130 pounds.
What happened to Helen? Was Donna part of a publicity stunt? Another article clipping explains what happened.
‘Kidnaping’ Proves Just a Marriage
The life of a bathing beauty is not all water and swimming suits. For Helen Dawn, erstwhile member of a bathing girl troupe playing a local theater life today is made up of orange blossoms and bridal, traveling suits.
Helen, it now develops, after theatrical authorities have carried out a quiet search and investigation on their own part, was kidnaped by her lover, known only as ”Harry,” last Sunday night, just, as she with other girls was leaving the theater. A publicity stunt was suspected at first, but the continued absence of the girl brought home the serious aspect of the event.
Last, night a telegram from Helen Dawn, from Chicago, explained that she had gone to Chicago, to marry “Harry,’ that she was happy, and that impetuous “Harry” had adopted the “kidnaping” stunt as a means of breaking her contract.
They were going east for their honeymoon, the telegram stated.
Donna’s week in Peoria was exciting. Great fun selling tickets for the Legion and an apparent kidnaping right in front of her. (Although, it is possible that she was in on the marriage.)
The Apollo opened in 1914 could seat over 800 in its auditorium, The theater closed in 1958. In 1988 the Apollo was purchased and lovingly restored to its original appearance. Since 2001, it has housed the Apollo International Film Group, which screens foreign, classic and independent movies in an early 20th century setting. Today it is known as the Apollo Fine Arts and Entertainment Center.
I learned that Donna played at the Apollo in Peoria, IL the week 1 February 1925, which is a new venue for Donna. I also learned the cast names for her Bathing Beauties Revue.
I’d like to learn more about the careers of the other cast members. What was Christie Comedies. Did any of the cast become big names in show business? The people for me to research include: