“Chin Chin” – Colonial Theatre – Pittsfield, MA – 15 May 1920.

Donna Montran and “Chin Chin” play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA, on 15 May 1920.

Vaudeville
Chin Chin
Donna Montran

“Chin Chin” played at the Bennington, Vermont, Opera House on May 13th and the Empire Theater in North Adams on the 14th. Then the show moved the 20 miles south to play at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA on Saturday, the 15th.

Advertising for the show began on the 8th of May with an ad showing “Chin Chin” would be coming for “One Night Only” on May 15th. On the 10th, a quick little note said, “’Chin Chin’ at Colonial – Manager Raymond has booked Charles Dillingham’s ‘Chin Chin,’ with Walter Wills and Ray Binder for the Colonial Saturday night.”

The Berkshire Eagle reported Monday, after the show:

The Berkshire Eagle – May 17, 1920

“Chin Chin” with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles played to a good-sized audience at the Colonial theatre Saturday evening. It was the second one night stand in two days despite this that there was a large attendance. Like other Dillingham shows it was a wonderful production.

The play is a modern version of the famous old Arabian Nights tale of “Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp.” Messrs. Wills and Binder become a couple of Chinamen who have more or less adventures in the pursuit of the lamp which brought its possessor all kinds of happiness. The musical numbers were very sweet and catchy.

Among the many features in this gigantic show are the Teddy Bear dance, Tom Brown’s Saxophone band, a real circus tent with an honest-to-goodness big white circus horse circling around the ring, while Mlle. Falloffski performs the most daring and screamingly funny bareback stunts. Tom Brown’s band was one of the big hits of the evening.

Theater

Colonial Theatre, Pittsfield, MA – (Photo courtesy of Granola via Cinema Treasures)

The Colonial Theatre was built in 1903 but burned in 1912. It underwent extensive renovation and reopened with state-of-the-art theatrical technology, in 1912.

The 1921 Julius Cahn-Gus Hill Theatrical Guide and Moving Picture Directory indicated that the Pittsfield Colonial Theatre was operated by the Goldstein Bros. Amusement Co. and managed by L. H. Raymond. The theater played legitimate theater, stock, and picture attractions.[i] It had a seating capacity of 487 on the main floor, 309 in the balcony, 350 in the gallery, and 72 in the Box seats for a total capacity of 1218.

Specifications for the Colonial Theatre

Proscenium opening: 32 ft
Front to back wall: 45 ft
Between side walls: 58 ft
Apron 5 ft
Between fly girders: 46 ft
To rigging loft: 64 ft
Between fly galleries: 40 ft
The theatre had 8 Dressing rooms

Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/masstravel/ (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Photo courtesy: Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

The theatre operated until 1934 when it closed due to the Depression. It reopened in 1937 as a movie theater with occasional community performances. It closed in 1952 and became a paint and art supply business. In 1998, the theatre was designated a National Historic Treasure. In 2001, the Colonial Theatre Association began a restoration of the building. In 2006, the theatre reopened to the public with its vaulted gilded enterence, elaborately decorated boxes and balcony, and exquisite ornamental detail.[ii]

Today

The Colonial Theatre of Pittsfield, MA, is a beautifully renovated facility.

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Endnotes

[i] (1921). The Julius Cahn-Gus Hill theatrical guide and moving picture directory. New York, N.Y.: Julius Cahn-Gus Hill via Hathi Trust – https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924063709764&view=1up&seq=7 – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[ii] Internet: Berkshire Theatre Group website, “History of the Colonial Theatre” https://www.berkshiretheatregroup.org/berkshire-theatre-group/history-of-the-colonial-theatre/ – Accessed 21 July 2020.

Donna Darling Collection – Part 66

Rivoli Theatre – Portland, Oregon

Treasure Chest Thursday
By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at two clippings from the Donna Darling Collection that relate to the Rivoli Theatre in Portland, Oregon.

From previous research, thanks to Genealogy Bank, I had learned that The Donna Darling Review with Sammy Clark played at the Rivoli Theatre in Portland from November 6th through the 8th. The Playbill is always great to see.

Next was a clipping “Donna Darling Revue Crest of Rivoli Bill,” which appears to be an advertising article. It reads, in part:

“Sammy Clark, the “anesthetic dancer,” with the Donna Darling Revue, is the brightest spot on the Rivoli bill this week. Sammy is one of those untamed spirits who dance for the pure joy of expression. His costume, a cloud of pink unmentionables, is peculiarly fit for his wild spirit.

“Donna Darling herself is a pretty miss with a nice voice for ballads. The rest of the company consists of an excellent pair of dancers and a whistling comedian. It is a clever act, and well staged.”

Conclusion

November 6-8, 1926 – The Donna Darling Revue with Sammy Clark played at the Rivoli Theatre in Portland, Oregon.

UPDATE – “Chin-Chin” – Regina Theatre – Regina, SK – January 15-17, 1920

Donna Montran
Chin-Chin
Vaudeville

Subsequent to my original look at Donna and the Chin Chin cast playing at the Regina Theater, in Regina, SK, Canada, (See original post.) I found a great new article about that show which included a mention of Donna. The review provides one of the best descriptions of the show I’ve seen.

‘CHIN-CHIN’ HAS COMEDY TO BURN AT THE REGINA

Extravaganza of Nonsense, Specialties and Wardrobe
in New York Fantasy Show

Newspaper Clipping - Chin Chin Has Comedy to Burn at the Regina.
The [Regina] Leader Post, January 16, 1920 – Page 16, Column 2 (Via Newspapers.Com)
Have no fear of anything highbrow occurring in “Chin Chin.” It doesn’t. “Chin Chin” is full of burlesquerie, grotesquerie and diablerie. A suggestion of the childhood classic, “Aladdin’s Lamp,” reappearing through all the scenes provides the skeleton for an extravagance of nonsense, specialties and wardrobe. The magic lamp provides the element of plausibility for all the absurdities that happen.

Uproarious Fun

Walter Wills and Roy Binder are the comedians who provide all the uproarious scenes in their manifold characters as Chin Hop Li, Chin Hop Low, Padereweski, Mlle. Falloffski, the ventriloquist, a pair of gendarmes, a duplicate Widow Twanky, a pair of coolies, and a circus ring-master, falling of into the character of a pair of impertinent poll-parrots at any part in the proceedings, giving no notice of motion whatever.

The two hard-working fun-makers have a dozen principals and two dozen chorus-girls to help them keep the audience entertained. This is not counting the trick horse for the circus scene, nor the four animated teddy bears, nor the wonderfully clever saxophone clown sextet.

Astonishing Dance

Walter Mills and Miss Irene Mackay have an astonishingly twinkling and acrobatic dance which quite takes the breath from the audience, though the dancers bob up serenely after madly romping through their business. As a final encore the man comes on with a dummy figure which the house mistakes for the little lady Fan Tay and after a brief breathless dance tosses the supposed human figure over an eight-foot wall into the wings.

Another big scene put on by Wills is his glorified Paderewski. There aren’t any attitudes he fails to strike while playing nor any musical paganisms he doesn’t commit on his little old piano. His mimicry there was rivalled by Binder’s impersonation of the very personable Widow Twanky. Dummies happen where they were not watch for, and then in the ventriloquist act what one thought was a very badly-jointed dummy turns out to be a human. “What’s the use?” was one’s conclusion after trying for a couple of hours to guess what was happening either then or next.

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Starr Dunham is a real story-book sort of Aladdin, pleasing as a picture in his fairy-tale toggery, modest of miem, well equipped as dancer and singer. Miss Ethel Lawrence as Violet, daughter of the United Son of Affluence, has a wealth of charm as to person and costume; and Donna Montram[sic], the goddess of the lamp, delighted with her solos, “Violet” and  “Grey Dove;” while Carrie Dale played the winsome Widow Twankey to queen’s taste. “Good-bye, Girls, I’m Through,” “Chinese Honeymoon,” “Chipper China Chaps,” “Love Moon,” “Bally Mooney,” and the clown’s band’s music will all be remembered with no falling of the spirit.

The settings are all quite lavish, but the red-gold and orange-brown tea-shop for the New Year’s celebration, with the chorus in harmonizing tones, was charming in the extreme.—I. M.

Donna in the News – 21 June 1923

Donna Darling & Her Boys at the Globe Theatre, Kansas City, MO on June 21, 1924.

I recently discovered articles that ran in the Kansas City Times from June 16th through June 21st.  Donna “topped” the program at the Globe theater in Kansas City

The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Missouri, June 21, 1923 – Page 5 – Via newspapers.Com.

On stage with Donna and Her Boys (Murray Earle & Tod Watson)  were:

  • Keith and Parker
  • Mons Herbert
  • Robb and Whitman in “Sweethearts,”
  • Great Abdiz

Plus the Jane Novak,  photoplay “The Snowshoe Trail”

Donna Darling Collection – Part 65

Treasure Chest Thursday
Vaudeville

By Don Taylor

For this week’s Treasure Chest Tuesday, I’m looking at five clippings from three pages of the Donna Darling Collection that all relate to Donna’s playing at the Pantheon Theatre in Vincennes, Indiana.

Luckily, one of the clippings has a newspaper title and date with it. With that information, I was able to find the exact newspaper online at the Knox County Public Library’s Advantage Preservation site.

The article was clipped from the Vincennes, (Ind.) Morning Commercial dated April 28, 1925.

BATHING GIRLS MAKE BIG SHOW

“Just hang your clothes upon a limb, but don’t go near the water.” This winding-up or finish of a poem perhaps fitted through the minds of more than one person who witnessed Donna Darling and her Bathing Girl Revue at the Pantheon theatre last night. The bathing beach scenes were excellent—all except the bathing beach.

From the Donna Darling Collection

There were girls, with their latest creation of bathing suits gorgeous, but conspicuous in their scantiness. There were lifeguards—two of them—but the beauty of the bathing girls, it must be confessed, distracted from the attention given the guards.

The show opened with a display of bathing suits of the days of 1860, in the days when modesty was more prevalent than in 1925. Then came the bathing girls of 1890, a little more daring in the style of their bathing suits; the girls of 1900, still more daring and finally, a modern girl, strutting proudly in the latest fashion creation in bathing suits.

In lieu of water in which to swim the girls displayed some rare talent at dancing. The Honolulu bathing girl, with her abbreviated suit consisting principally of seaweeds, and her exceptional ability at dancing, drew hearty applause. The Dutch bathing girl also proved a good dancer and was generously applauded. Each number pleased the audience, a fact evidenced by the hearty applause.

The feature picture, “Cheaper to Marry,” with Lewis Stone, Conrad Nagel, Marguerite De LaMotte and other stars, was an added feature to one of the best bills that has been presented at the Pantheon for some time. The show will be given tonight and tomorrow….

From the Donna Darling Collection.

Along with the article, there is a clipping that came from the April 29th newspaper. It showed Donna and her Bathing Girl Revue. Through the articles and advertisements in the paper that I found I learned of a new venue for Donna

Key features:

  • The venue is the Pantheon Theatre.
  • The show is the “Donna Darling and her Bathing Girl Revue.”
  • Also on the bill
    • The movie “Cheaper to Marry.”
  • Played Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday, April 27-29, 1925.

The other clippings, although interesting, do not add any new information regarding the show or the venue.

New Venue added:

April 27-29, 1925 – Pantheon Theatre – Vincennes, IN – Donna Darling and her Bathing Girl Revue.