Donna Darling Collection – Part 37

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

Fay’s Theater – Providence, Rhode Island

For this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’m looking at a set of clippings from the Donna Darling Collection. First, we see she received top billing of “Great Acts of Vaudeville.” Her show, “Dona [sic] Montran and her Bathing Beauties” included “Eight beautiful California girls from the Golden Gate displaying the coming summer fashions at the beaches; a carload of scenery and a satchel full of costumes. 


My immediate questions were where and when. This was the first large ad I’ve seen for a theatre where Donna played that didn’t provide the name of the theater. The when was pretty easy. The bill includes the 1920 silent short, “Wedding Blues,” which IMDB indicates was released on November 28, 1920. Also, Donna began her “California Bathing Girls” show in July 1920 and it ran until May or June of 1921.


A second ad provides information about where. The ad says Donna Montran is coming Monday 8.  It isn’t clear what the 8 means, but, if it means date, then it fits that it would mean Monday,  November 8th. I’ve seen cases before where IMDB is wrong about the release date, so I’m not too concerned about the inconsistency.

Another clipping on the same page provides a bit more insight. It reads, in part, “The act held the stage at the Broadway Theatre, New York for ten consecutive weeks coming direct to Newport from Fay’s in Providence where it established a new record for attendance.

Key features:

  • The date is possibly 8 November, but more likely December 1920 or January 1921.
  • The venue is the Fay’s Theatre, Providence, RI
  • The show is the “Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties. “
  • Also, on bill
    • “Wedding Blues” with the Christie Follies Girls

Analysis

I have searched all of the on-line newspaper sources I could to determine an exact date for her playing in either Providence or Newport – Ancestry.com, Chronicling America (using Elephind), Genealogy Bank, Google News Archive, Newspaper Archives, Newspapers.com, etc.  Search as I may, I was unsuccessful in finding an on-line source for newspapers from that time. The closest I found was the Google News Archive and it has a gap in coverage from Oct 8 thru Nov 15, 1920.

Conclusion

Nov 8-10 (Possibly later) – Fay’s Theatre, Providence, RI – Donna Montran and Her Bathing Beauties. 

Actions

According to the Library of Congress, “US Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present” the following Libraries hold the Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.) 1920 issues, typically in microfilm form.

  • Boston Pub Libr, Boston, MA
  • Brown Univ, Providence, RI
  • Library of Congress, Washington, DC
  • Rhode Island Hist Soc Libr, Providence, RI
  • Univ of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI
  • Wisconsin Hist Soc, Newsp Proj, Madison, WI

I will try to visit the Boston Public Library the next time I am in Boston and see if I can find newspaper article or advertising that proves the dates she played at Fay’s Theater in Providence. Alternately, I’ll add this article to my (lengthly) list of tasks when I can visit Washington DC.

Sources

Donna Darling Collection – Scan0071.

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