Donna in Lima, Ohio, at the Faurot Theater – 6 April 1920

by Don Taylor

The “Chin Chin” Crew packed up from the show Monday night in Sandusky, Ohio, traveled overnight the 100 miles to Lima, Ohio, to set up for another one night performance.

Advertising for the “Chin Chin” performance began in the Lima Daily News on 1 April 1920 with both an ad and a short article in the Theater and Movies section of the paper.

The article reads: And the Ad shows:
FAUROT–”Chin Chin” is scheduled for appearance at the Faurot on Tuesday night with Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the leading roles, assisted by the biggest musical comedy aggregation on the road today.

The Plot of “Chin Chin” is so arranged that there is ample opportunity for many vaudeville interpolations of a nature that assures one hundred and fifty minutes of entrancing hilarity.

To relate the tricks of the pair of Chinese as they go thru their Arabian Night’s take would require much space.

“Chin Chin” is a clean and wholesome play, in seven scenes, requiring two sixty-foot baggage cars; the company comprises 65 people, mostly girls who appear in rich oriental costumes of many designs and variegated colors.


The following Sunday another an article ran in the Sunday News which included a rare photo of Donna with fellow “prima donna” Ethel Lawrence.

Photo quality is not great, however,
Donna is clearly on the right.
The Lima News, April 4, 1920,
Via Newspaperarchive.com

Also, that issue of the paper included a much more thorough advertisement about the show including the Clown Saxophone Band and the Funny Laughing Horse. Further advertising on the day before the show and the day of the showing was similar.

The show appears to have gone on without problems. We don’t know if the company played on the 7th or 8th or if they had a couple days off, but they were in Steubenville on April 9th.

Faurot Opera House

Faurot Opera House Block
Lima, OH
Source: Card Cow

Benjamin C. Faurot was a successful businessman in 1881 when he began construction on the Faurot Block. Facing Main and High streets, the building would be five stories high and include offices, stores, a music hall, the Lima National Bank, and the Faurot Opera House. The block design was in an “Americanized composition of the French Renaissance and Queen Anne.” It was a strikingly beautiful design and structure, so much so, that it is said to have so impressed New Yorkers that they used it as a model for theaters there.

The opera house opened in 1882 and was used for plays, vaudeville, and movies until June 1934.

Julius Cahn Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 reported that the Faurot Opera House seated 1,183 people; 467 on the main floor, 266 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 50 in boxes. It had a 30’ by 30’ stage with a five-foot apron.

The auditorium was used for storage for a time in the 1940s, then the Opera House was demolished in 1953 to make way for a Kresge Drug Store.

Further Research

The newspaper articles I found regarding this show were from The Lima News. However, other newspapers of the time included the Republican-Gazette, Times-Democrat, the Advertiser, and the German language Courier. These papers should also be searched for potential photos and articles.

Sources:

“Chin Chin”

Newspapers.Com; The Lima News (Lima, Ohio) · Thu, Apr 1, 1920 · Page 11
Newspaperarchives.com; The Lima News – Lima, Ohio – Apr 4 1920 – 15970948  

Faurot Opera House

Internet: The 419; “Finding Faurot: The Rise and Fall of one of Lima’s Greatest Contributors” by Kate Ellis; http://the419.com/finding-faurot/
Internet: Wikipedia; “Lima, Ohio” Leadership and growth, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lima,_Ohio
Internet: Cinema Treasures, “Faurot Opera House” 135 N. Main Street, Lima, OH 45801, Closed, Demolished, 1282 seats. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/19555
The Cahn-Leighton official theatrical guide. 1913. New York, N.Y.: Publication Office, New Amsterdam Theatre Building. Page 519; via Google Books

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Donna in Sandusky, OH, at the Sandusky Theater

“Chin Chin” plays the Sandusky Theatre, April 5, 1920

I don’t know where Donna was immediately before she played in Sandusky, Ohio. We are aware she played in Greenville, PA on March 20th, but don’t have any sightings of her or the show until “Chin Chin” plays in Sandusky on April 5th.
The first show advertising indicated that:
“Chin Chin” Sale Now On.

The seat sale for Charles Dillingham’s greatest of successes, “Chin Chin,” at the Sandusky next Monday night, opens at the theatre box office this morning.
This is the original Globe theatre, New York production. In its entirety, with the same cast that presented it to capacity audiences at the Euclid Opera house, Cleveland, earlier in the season.
This is without a doubt the biggest attraction ever seen on the local stage.
A cast is one the like of which was never seen in this city. It includes Walter Wills and Roy Binder, two particular stars, supported by a company consisting of some 60 odd artists, including Tom Brown’s famous clown saxaphone band.
The following day the Sandusky Star-Journal ran a more in-depth article about the show, which read[i]:
“Chin Chin”
“Chin Chin,” the fantastical musical comedy which met with such success in England and the United States, will be presented at the Sandusky Theater, next Monday night, April 5.
The production is somewhat on the lines of the old time pantomimes, having a scant plot and many musical turns, choruses, comic interludes and dances. From beginning to end it is very amusing, very light and really good fun. The scenery and costumes are elaborate in the extreme and some of the color effects are particularly pleasing and artistic.

What plot there is to “Chin Chin” has to do with Aladdin and his lamp, the magician, Abanazar, who tries to get the lamp and incidentally carries off Aladdin’s intended bride, the slaves of the lamp who do many and strange, things in their quest of the lamp, Aladdin’s step-mother, the widow Twankey and her maid, Fan Fan, who is apparently made of India rubber. The two chief characters are the slaves of the lamp and Walter Wills and Roy Binder in the parts are great laughter makers. Their parts call for acrobatic feats, comic songs, dancing and difficult actting. Irene McKay, is the Widow Twankey’s maid.

The first scene is the Toy Bazaar and in it some pretty dances by the toys fire given, the Teddy Bear dance being particularly quaint. In the next scene Aladdin sings “Goodbye Girls, I’m Through,” the very taking air of which is often repeated in the music.

Seats are now on sale at the theater box office. 

Various advertising and articles promoted the show in both English speaking papers during the week. 
Somewhat unusual for a one-night show, the Sandusky Register ran a review of the show after it left town.[ii] The review was quite positive although you can tell that the show was on its downward spiral.
Theatrical Notes
“Chin Chin,” at the Sandusky Theatre Monday night, attracted nearly a capacity house. That it merited this none who look it in win attempt to deny.
Rich in color, pretty girts, artistic setting and all of the other things that go to make up really worth-while musical comedy, it took a place high up among the best offerings that the now waning theatrical season has afforded locally.
-Sandusky got the original Globe theatre production and, consequently, saw it just about as the offering was presented in New York. The east was the same one that presented “Chin Chin” at the Opera House, Cleveland, some months back.
A better cast had probably never trod the Sandusky stage. It included Walter Wills and Roy Binder, worthy successors of the late Dave Montgomery and Fred Stone, who had the leading roles in the original production, together with some sixty odd artists, including one of the niftiest of nifty choruses and Tom Brown’s famous saxaphone band of clowns.
The chorus was composed of nearly thirty girls, some of whom, from time to time as the play progressed, assumed minor roles.
Arrangements were made by Charles Dillingham, who is presenting “Chin Chin,” with a talking machine company. Applicants for places who were unable to go to New York, had their voices recorded on discs. These discs were sent to Dillingham and, with photographs, influenced the manager’s selections.
“Chin Chin’s” music was written by Ivan Caryll, well remembered for his ingratiating melodies in “The Pink Lady” and “The Little Cafe.” The book is by Anne Caldwell and R. H. Burnside and the lyrics by James O’Dea.
Such, numbers as “Violet,” “The Gray Moon,” “The Love ‘Moon,” “Goodbye, Girls, I’m Through” and Go-Gar Slg Gong-Jue” never fail to get a hand. Sandusky enjoyed them all.
Testimony to the worth of “Chin Chin” as a theatrical offering, lies in the fact that the attraction ran for two years at the Globe theatre, New York, and that on the road it has been “packing ’em in everywhere.

Sandusky Theater

Photo Courtesy Cinema Treasures

Andres Biemiller built the Biemiller Opera House at the corner of Water Street and Jackson Street in 1877. When Biemiller first built the theater, it seated 1,500 people. However, the Donaldson Guide of 1894 indicates that it only seated 1,200[iii]. The building went through a succession name changes between 1905 and 1908. In May 1905, Carl Neilsen purchased the building, remodeled it and changed its name to the Neilsen Opera House. In 1906, John A. Himmelein acquired the building changed the name to Himmelein Opera House. Between 1907 and 1908 it was known as the Grand Theater. Finally, in 1908, the theater was leased to O. S. Hathaway, who changed its name to the Sandusky Theater.

The Julius Cahn – Gus Hill Theatrical Guide for 1913-1914 indicates that the theater held 1,164 people. Seating included 413 on the lower floor, 327 in the balcony, 400 in the gallery, and 24 in the box seats. It was a medium size stage, 34×28 but only had a 2-foot apron.[iv]

In 1913, the city of Sandusky had a population of just under 20,000 with an area population of about 25,000. The city supported three newspapers; the “Register” was the morning paper with a circulation of about 4,000. The evening paper was the “Star-Journal.” There was also a German language paper, the “Demokrat,” with a circulation of about 600. Three major railroads supported the city, The New York Central, the Baltimore & Ohio, and the Pennsylvania railroads.

The “Chin Chin” show played one night in Sandusky[v] and needed to move the 100 miles southwest to Lima, Ohio for the show the next night, so the “Chin Chin” cast would not have stayed in hotels in Sandusky.

The Seitz Amusement Co. leased the building in 1936 to show motion pictures and reduced the seating capacity to 800. They bought it in 1950 and sold it four years later. The building was demolished in 1955.[vi]

Further Research

Determine where “Chin Chin” played from March 21st until April 4th, 1920.

Endnotes:

[i] Sandusky Star-Journal, Sandusky, Ohio; April 3, 1920, Page 8; via Newspaper Archive.

[ii] Sandusky Register, Sandusky, Ohio; April 6, 1920; via Newspaper Archive.

[iii] Donaldson, William H. 1894. The Donaldson, guide containing a list of all opera-houses in the United States and Canada, together with descriptions of their stages, their seating capacity, and the names of the managers of each; in conjunction with the Showman’s encyclopedia and the International professional register to which is added the complete code of the Donaldson cipher. Cincinnati, O.: W.H. Donaldson. http://books.google.com/books?id=JPkyAQAAMAAJ.

[iv] The Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide. 1913. New York, N.Y.: Publication Office, New Amsterdam Theatre Building.

[v] Sandusky Register – Sandusky, Ohio – 4 April 1920; via Newspaper Archive.

[vi] Internet: Cinema Treasures – Sandusky Theater – Water Street and Jackson Street, Sandusky, OH 44870. Per information contributed by elmorovivo; http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/51814.

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Newspaper Research Day – 12 new venues for Donna Montran and “Chin Chin”

Newspaper Research Day

Today was a Newspaper research day.  I utilized three of my favorite newspaper sites looking for places that the show “Chin Chin” was playing during April and May of 1920. “Chin Chin” has funny search results depending on how and where you search.  I have found that instead of searching for Donna Montran and “Chin Chin,” it is better to search for Chin “Roy Binder” or Chin “Walter Wills.” Binder and Wills were the stars of the roadshow and are named in almost every article regarding the show. 

Elephind

Elephind is a free site.  It searches the Chronicling America (US Library of Congress) as well as several other newspaper sources including the California Digital Newspaper Collection, and Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.  The advanced search doesn’t give many additional search options, just years, countries, and sources. In my case, I sought only records in the United States and during the year, 1920.  
Elephind makes downloading a searchable PDF very easy. First, click on the article page.  Then I highlight the page information, for example, I highlighted the following:   The Bennington evening banner., May 13, 1920, Page PAGE TWO, Image 2.  Then click on PDF and then the download icon. When it presents the file name, I replace it with my copied title.  The metadata for the downloaded file indicates where the it came from. So between the filename and the metadata I have all of my source information.

Newspapers.Com

newspapers.com
Next, I went to Newspapers..com. Their search methodology is straightforward. It is easy to narrow the date to a particular month, in my case I searched from Apr 1 to May 30, 1920.  Once Newspapers.Com identifies your matches, it is very easy to review the option then print/save the article as either a clipping or as a full page. The good news is that if you select “Save as PDF” it auto-documents the source information for the page. The bad news is that the article is an image within the PDF and is not searchable.  It is like a JPG embedded in the PDF. 

Newspaper Archives via MyHeritage

Next, I searched Newspaper Archives. I had a subscription to Newspaper Archives a few year ago and liked it. Now my subscription is through MyHeritage where my Data Subscription allows access to Newspaper Archives.  The good news is that searching Newspaper Archives within MyHeritage resulted in many more matches than either Elephind or Newspapers.com produced. The bad news is that the date filters, even when set to “Match Exactly” don’t work. So, my search for “Chin AND Binder AND Wills” during April 1920, yielded 787,764 results.  Admittedly, the first six matches were all articles I was looking for, however, after that the matches began to be from other months within 1920.
I did run into a problem using Newspaper Archives via MyHeritage.  I often would find a match and then click on the article to see the detail, then not be presented with an option to display the actual page.  I could not view the page nor download it.  I sent their customer support an inquiry and provided them a screen shot of what I was seeing.
Upon drilling in and verifying the information was what I was looking for, sometimes the files downloaded fine, sometimes the file download errored. I was, however, able to download all the files I could zoom into and review. Like the technique I used on Elephind, I’d copy the newspaper title, examine the article, confirming it was an article I am interested in; then I’d download the file using the Document information I copied moments before.  The files downloaded are PDF files and are fully searchable.

Genealogy Bank

I used to have a subscription with Genealogy Bank.  I liked them, but I found I just couldn’t afford three premium newspaper services. Once one of my other premium newspaper services expires, I won’t renew with them and will go back to Genealogy Bank.  My plan is to continue with two premium newspaper subscriptions at a time.   

12 New Venues for “Chin Chin”

Between the three sources, I found articles indicating that “Chin Chin” played on the following dates at the following cities:

1920-04-05 – Sandusky, OH
1920-04-06 – Lima, OH
1920-04-09 – Steubenville, OH
1920-04-10 – New Philadelphia, OH
1920-04-11 – Coshocton, OH
1920-04-20 – Cumberland, MD
1920-04-22 – Frederick, MD
1920-05-04 – Wilkes Barre, PA
1920-05-13 – Bennington, VT
1920-05-18 – Oneonta, NY
1920-05-19 – Mt. Carmel, PA
1920-05-31 – Bridgeport, CT

The research didn’t fill out April and May 1920, in its entirety, but adding a dozen new places for Donna Montran’s career is a good day of research. Now I just need more time to research the particular venues.
– Don Taylor
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Play With Dolls To Banish Fatigue?

There was an amazing article in the Boston Sunday Post, regarding “Grown Women Who Play With Dolls To Banish Fatigue – Stars of Stage and Screen Enthuse Over Their New ‘Back-to-Nature’ Stunt That Gives Rest and Relaxation From Wearisome Work.”[i]
The article begins with:
All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.
Jill in this instance is the professional girl of the stage.
She works hard—a great deal harder than her public may believe.
It is not the physical exertion that makes her yearn to play; it is the never-ending strain of the artificial – the make-believe.
So that when the stage girl does play she goes to the antithesis of the artificial—the natural. And that is the reason why her trunks are so apt to contain dolls, teddy bears, stuffed doggies, piggies and monkeys and what-not of children’s playthings.
—–
The average individual, on beholding a stage girl sitting on the floor, rocking a doll to sleep or tossing a teddy bear up and down, is apt to pronounce the whole proceeding as absurd….
The article continues on with a story about Effie Hartwell and her playing with dolls as a means of relaxation. The amazing part of the article tells us about Donna’s personal life.
Newspaper Photo of Donna Montran sitting astride a wooden horse.
Now when another photographer wended his way to make pictures of Donna Montran the Boston model and Singer and found the beauty sitting a-straddle on the floor of the studio he was not all surprised.
“Taking it easy?” the photographer asked.
“Right! The very first guess,” replied the model. “This business of posing is one that tests endurance to the limit as any artist will tell you. Physically and mentally you’re exhausted at the end of the working day.
“My own idea of resting up is going back to childhood times and playing as one did when a child. I know it sounds perfectly silly to say so but the remedy sure is a cure-all. And if one can have the children at hand to play with, why its value is increased a thousand times over.  Don’t argue about it; just go ahead and try the experiment once and let me know hit it works out.”
This story of models, actresses, and singers playing with toys as a means to cope with the hectic lives they lead is great material to fill in details about the lives of the famous. Should you play with dolls or toys for rest and relaxation?  Follow Donna’s advice and give it a try.

[i] “Grown Women Who Play With Dolls To Banish Fatigue”, Boston Sunday Post, January 27, 1918, Page 29; Online Archive, Newspaperarchive.com, accessed 2015.
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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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